As the All-Star game approaches, so does the summer transfer window. It allows teams to either make those final moves for the playoffs or start a rebuild.
For the Quakes, they need more of the former in the coming months.
With the season preparing to enter its final stages, it’s clear that the Quakes need to be active in the summer. They can’t afford to stand pat and watch.
To be clear, the Quakes are in a remarkable place. Many critics predicted that they would need a season under Luchi to become a playoff side. Luchi, instead, is getting his side to play playoff-caliber soccer as they remain near the top of the west.
These past few weeks have made it clear that reinforcements are badly needed. Despite Daniel putting historical performances together, the defense has yet to find a partner for Rodrigues. After starting the season blazing hot, the offense is struggling, with a lack of depth being a key reason why.
Last season, Leitch put together a heck of a window that saw the foundations of this side be built. The pressure is now back squarely on him to find a way to push the Quakes over the line.
Rodrigues is one of the best defenders in MLS. The Brazilian each week shows why any sort of defense has to have him as the cornerstone.
A revolving door of partners has found the Brazilian this season. Mensah started the season well, but recent weeks have seen his stock fall. There just have been too many mistakes as of late, with his being at fault for the game-deciding penalty at the weekend.
Meanwhile, Beason is a fine defender, but he may not be an MLS caliber center back in a two-man center-back pairing. A back three would be perfect for Beason, where he could stretch the field by playing further to the left while having cover for himself. Luchi’s system doesn’t really offer him that, forcing him to play more traditionally.
Quakes should keep their eyes out for potential trades with teams whose seasons have completely fallen apart. Take, for example, Rafael Czichos from the Fire, who could be the missing left-side back to partner with Rodrigues. An in-league trade gives the team less of a need to ease the player into life in MLS, which is what had the Brazilian look so badly last season.
It has been refreshing to see a Quakes side with a fearsome defense, but they still need help. Finding the correct partner for Rodrigues may be the difference between a first-round exit and a nice run.
In the first few months, the Quakes attack was all that anyone could talk about. The smoking-hot combination of Cowell, Ebobisse, and Espinoza had the league terrified.
Due to a variety of reasons, the attack has spent the past few weeks struggling to score. In no way his fault, Cowell’s absences have forced Espinoza to be overworked, as defenses can fully focus on him. The lack of another real threat dampens the threat of the side, no matter if Cowell is there or not.
There are two options for the Quakes, a summer move or in-house development.
Similar to the option for the Quakes with Rodrigues, trade with an MLS basement team could help. Poaching a player like Corentin Jean from Inter Miami would give the Quakes another player in the mold of Monteiro.
In-house development seems the likelier of the two options for the Quakes. Luchi seemed to have tipped his hand this weekend, with Bouda being introduced earlier than usual. If Luchi continues to place trust in Bouda, the youngster could become that super sub the team desperately needs.
These past few weeks show that the team desperately needs an injection of depth for the frontline. When games start to get more and more tense, a team needs an option off the bench to be a threat to score.
Similar to their issues up top, there is a clear lack of a difference-maker off the bench in the midfield. This team is overflowing with defensive-minded players but is sorely lacking in creative options off the bench.
When Luchi goes to his bench when one of Monteiro or Yueill needs a change, the options are lacking. Outside of Tsakiris, the only players that he can bring off the bench are defensively minded that play too similar to Gruezo. Judson still can be one of the better closers in MLS, but he can’t be the game-changing sub in the middle.
Honestly, again like the forward problem, the best solution may be in-house. Tsakiris has been given more responsibilities as of late, which is a good sign for him. He’s the only player who can come close to giving the team what Monteiro does.
For both his development and the team’s, having him come off the bench will be best for both sides. Slowly integrating him into Monteiro’s role will allow him to develop at his own rate while helping the team. There may be more flashy options, but Tsakiris is the club’s next project, and it’s only fair to give him this chance.
Luchi and his front office are clearly operating with a plan in mind. To be fair, they’ve built a fine midfield, but it still needs that added firepower to push them to contention.
The Quake’s season isn’t spiraling out of control, but it’s better to correct course now.
Leitch has an opportunity to strengthen this team for any sort of playoff push. It’d be a shame for this great season to come apart now.
Photo: San Jose Earthquakes