Needing a win with Nashville visiting, PayPal Park was going to be the place for MLS action this weekend. An underwhelming first half was followed by one of the best second halves of the season. Even though the Quakes got a good draw, it feels more like a loss.
Saturday’s game was the quintessential Quakes’ game of late. A slow start with the defense bailing the team out, with the offense waking up but not finishing their chances in the second half.
Luchi’s formation change with Monteiro playing almost alongside Ebobisse has really helped the offense. The midfielder is able to connect the whole team and act as a pivot for the team. Additionally, the duo of Gruezo and Yueill looks good, even if Tsakiris makes more sense there.
With all the chances they left hanging, the Quakes should have won this game. So many players missed clear cut chances that should have been converted. Some of those players also seemed to be confused in their roles in the team.
Despite an entertaining and good game, playoff hopes are barely still alive. The team is starting to figure things out, but it may be too late.
Over the past few weeks, Luchi has dabbled with changing the formation to compensate for the stagnant offense. It has worked for the most part, even if the team isn’t scoring as much.
By placing Monterio higher, the hope was that he could be the connecting tissue on the counter. Saturday was his best game in that role, he was popping up all over the field and was more threatening than Espinoza. Almost every counter came from Monteiro finding the fullbacks or wingers in space.
Using some truly exquisite back heel passes, every counter was launched by him. As great as he was in transition, his final touch did let him down. Monteiro struggled to get quality shots off, outside a good free kick.
Additionally, the midfield looks better now with Yueill sandwiched between the more creative Monteiro and the anchor, Gruezo. Gruezo’s presence allowed Yueill to roam behind Monteiro and play in the space vacated on the wings. No one truly notices Gruezo, but that’s what makes his presence great, as he takes care of the dirty work.
Both Akapo and Tracuo had great games on both sides of the pitch. Defensively, Trauco was a nuisance who was hyper aggressive. Akapo’s combination play with Espinoza has been great all season, but his assist on the opener was a great representation of it.
A point that should be touched upon is how much Luchi has improved with his substitutions. On Saturday, he showed an ability to read what was needed in the minute. Luchi introduced Hoppe early and threw on Marie and Tsakiris when the game was in the balance.
Every passing game sees Tsakiris show just how much of a force he could become. His control in tight areas is beyond his years. Against Nashville, he was vital to all the chances the Quakes got down the stretch.
Finally, Hoppe was the man of the match, with his introduction single handedly changing the game. He was clearly given the freedom to roam the pitch and was popping up everywhere. Besides his goal, Hoppe made some great passes and showed just how well he meshes with Luchi’s plans.
It also begs the question, with Cowell struggling to make an impact, why not start Hoppe from now? He’s in good form right now and is a more dynamic player than Cowell. If Luchi really wants to have an attack that is fluid, Hoppe is just better for it.
This was a prototypical Cowell game. From the stunning shot that could have opened the game for the Quakes to his disappointing control, Cowell’s season was summed up in this game.
Ebobisse had a disappointing game by his standards. With Monteiro pushing forward, he felt the need to drop back and play deeper. This nullifies his best traits and removes another threat from the box.
If Luchi is still willing to make changes at this stage, one has to be moving Hoppe into the starting lineup. Having a winger who is a better playmaker could help unlock Ebobisse. Further, it could help relieve pressure from Espinoza.
For the Quakes, the next three games aren’t any easier. Out of their remaining foes, all of them are quality sides with chances to reach the playoffs. The team has to now treat every game as decision day, as their fate is more or less out of their hands.
Saturday was not all doom and gloom for the Quakes, but the chances for playoffs is dim. Perhaps this is a team that is a year away from being a force, but the foundations are there. With Hoppe exploding onto the scene, Luchi is going to have some big choices to make in the coming weeks.
Player and Manager Ratings:
GK– Daniel- 6
DF– Akapo- 7
DF– Mensah- 7
DF– Rodrigues- 7
DF– Trauco- 6
MD– Gruezo- 6
MD– Yueill- 7
MD– Monteiro- 8
FW– Cowell- 6
FW– Ebobisse- 6
FW– Espinoza- 6
Featured image: Antoine Tamagno