Four points from a two-game road trip is never a bad return. On their recent road trip, the Quakes were able to take down the fearsome Sounders but drew against a weak Rapids side.
While the team did well to leave with four points, there are a few cracks starting to appear.
After a rough past month, the Quakes have found a way to stabilize themselves. That being said, a few issues still have begun to hamper the team.
One of the most positive aspects of this team since their match against Dallas has been their defense. Rodrigues is playing like one of the best center-backs in the league, and Gruezo is excellent at disrupting the opponents’ attacks. Additionally, Daniel has won the keeper battle with a string of man-of-the-match performances.
A big reason why the Quakes started so hot was their electric offense. However, over the past month, the attack has started to go silent. There are many reasons why this has happened, but Luchi has to find a way to resurrect this offense.
Despite some of the negatives, this is still a positive result for the Quakes on the road. The concerns are part of a larger trend rather than one that appeared during these games.
For the first time since last season, the Quakes left a road trip with a win.
It’s crazy to think that this win came against one of the league’s best sides, the Sounders.
Against both the Rapids and Sounders, the stars of the game were the defense and goalkeeper. In the West, only five teams have allowed fewer goals than the Quakes.
It’s a testament to how much the backline has changed from the historic lows under Almeyda.
Rodrigues’ acclimation to MLS play is a big reason this defense has excelled. The Brazilian is confident in every tackle and can cover the spaces left by his fullbacks. There’s also an argument to be made that he is one of the best one on one defenders in the league.
Another key to the defense has been the addition of Gruezo, who may be the most underrated transfer of the season across MLS. He offers the Quakes an elite defensive mind that is able to act like a safety. Luchi allows him to roam in between the midfield and defense to disrupt any attack.
It might be safe to say that Daniel is now the Quakes’ undisputed number one. Another great summer move; Daniel is a better shot-stopper than Marcinkowski. While he lacks the aggression of Marcinkowski, he brings calm to the backline and is clearly trusted by the backline.
For Quakes fans that have had to witness some of the worst defenses in league history, this recent stretch is a breath of fresh air. It’s also clear that the front office did an excellent job at building this team defensively.
When the Quakes were the talk of the league early on, it was due to their exciting offense led by Espinoza. Unfortunately for the team, they’ve started to stall up top.
While he hasn’t scored in almost a month, Espinoza has still been able to be creative and get assists. Teams are clearly focusing on stopping him from getting more involved, and it forces him to play further from the box. Opponents are letting anyone else from the team beat them besides Espinoza.
Ebobisse has also suffered due to the more intense focus on him and Espinoza. With no other threats, the striker is hounded wherever he drops.
A lot of these struggles started to appear when Cowell left for the U20 World Cup. Even if he hadn’t had the best start to the season, his presence still forced opponents to gameplan for him. Just his presence opens up space for the other forwards.
Furthermore, Luchi has failed to find an adequate replacement for Cowell during his absence. Kikanović is much better suited to play as a striker than as a winger. He’s not truly threatening on the wing, as he lacks the ability to assist or score from there.
Potentially this should have been the moment to place more trust in Bouda. In terms of like-for-like replacements, Bouda is the only other player on the roster that brings that fear on the wing. Yes, he is still raw, but these are the game reps that would let him get more MLS experience and learn how to play within Luchi’s system.
Just to reiterate, this road trip was still largely positive, given that they brought back four points. However they should have won in Colorado, but their stagnant offense really let them down.
Having already gone through one of the rougher stretches of their schedule, the Quakes are in a good place.
This recent road trip just shows how much they’ve improved under Luchi, but there is still room to grow. A positive road record goes a long way to securing a playoff spot.
Photo: San Jose Earthquakes