Since MLS returned, the Quakes have seen their playoff odds dwindle. A once-promising side has begun to sputter at the finish.
A lot has gone wrong for the Quakes down the stretch, but there’s still hope that they can find a way out.
Luchi had the Quakes playing incredibly fun soccer for most of the season. The team that is finishing the season is the complete opposite of the team that started this season.
When the season first started, the team was scoring for fun. Espinoza was an MVP candidate who was creating at will. Now, just about every aspect of the frontline and midfield is devoid of any sort of clinical touch.
Fortunately, despite some blips, it has held up well even as the team has slowed down. This has been due in large part to the excellent work of Daniel and Rodrigues. Additionally, Luchi seems to have found cold with the Beason and Rodrigues partnership.
If the Quakes hope to make the postseason, they need to find a way to get the offense going again.
There is a platform that the team can build on, their defense, but time is almost up.
In the span of a few months, a once potent attack has gone silent. Multiple players have gone on goalscoring droughts, and Luchi is having a hard time finding solutions.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the recent slide is that the Quakes haven’t been totally underperforming in regard to their expected goals. While it’s not a perfect metric, it’s still a good marker of how an offense is expected to perform. For the most part, the Quakes are not totally missing their expectations.
The more concerning aspect has to be how the expected goal stat has fallen as the season has gone on. Regression is to be expected from this team; after all, they aren’t LAFC, but now they’re expected to score around a goal a game. At their best form this season, the team was expected to average close to two goals a game but are now struggling to find one.
There are a multitude of excuses as to why the offense has gone silent.
From players struggling to Luchi failing to find any real solutions, the blame belongs to all.
In a way, it all begins with Ebobisse’s nine-game goal drought, as his lack of a clinical touch was truly tough to replace. Espinoza has done his best, but he’s not a natural goalscorer despite his ten goals. Finally, Cowell has had a somewhat disappointing season for the club, with his offensive production being nearly nonexistent.
Luchi also deserves some flack, as he has continued to run out with the same formation and tactic despite struggles. His inability to be flexible and shake up either the players or the formation has allowed this rut to continue. Hopefully, these next weeks will see the manager willing to adapt his system.
As the season nears its end, the Quakes need their offense to find their earlier season form. If they can, the team should like their chances at reaching the postseason.
Fortunately for the team, the defense has been the rock it’s been all year during this slide. If there’s anything that Luchi and the front office should be applauded for, it’s for the way they’ve rebuilt this team defensively.
Despite some recent struggles, the Quakes have been a force in the back. They rank around the middle of the Western Conference in terms of goals allowed with few blowout losses. This stretch has, at times, seen them blow their expected goals, but it’s not incredibly concerning.
The next few weeks will be incredibly trying for the backline with tough matches down this stretch. However, their performance against D.C. United shows that they can still figure out how to stop just about any offense.
With Rodrigues being the best defender in the squad and Nathan out for the season, Luchi has needed to find the best partner for the Brazilian. Beason has turned out to be the perfect foil for the Brazilian, and the Stanford grad looks more and more at home each passing game. With Beason suspended for next week’s action, Luchi will have to either get creative and start Munie or bring back Mensah.
It’d truly be a shame if Daniel isn’t in the running for the Golden Glove Award. He has single-handedly kept the Quakes alive at various points of the season and will be vital now. The Brazilian’s performance on Saturday is further proof of just how much of a game-changer he is.
For the first time in ages, the Quakes have a defense that doesn’t leak goals at a historic rate. If the offense can match the defensive output, the team will be safe.
Despite the doom and gloom over the past few weeks, there is still plenty of the season left to be played in terms of the playoff race. Luchi will need to find a way to get the forward line firing again because that will be key to any chance they have at making the playoffs.
Each match will be do or die, but for a fanbase that has seen their team achieve so little, the stakes feel higher than ever.
Photo: San Jose Earthquakes