At the half, the Quakes were holding onto a lead that would have given them a playoff spot. In a repeat of previous weeks, the team completely collapsed and were fortunate to leave with a point. Now, the team is pinning all hopes on decision day when they’ve allowed this slide to happen.
Until the MLS break in August, the Quakes looked poised to have a good seed for the playoffs. Luchi’s men were an efficient attacking side that punished opponents.
Since the end of Leagues Cup, it’s been a brutal collapse for the team. A once potent offense continues to go through dry spells. Most worrying though has to be the inability to see off games, either by holding onto a lead or going after opponents.
Saturday’s game was more of the same for a team that has won two out of their last ten games. Starting the game on fire only to allow Dallas back into the game and barely escape with a point. Even if the Quakes make the playoffs, how can anyone expect them to make any noise.
Decision day will have to once again have to be the ultimate decider for this team. Either way, the team has allowed this to happen and there’s no signs of improvement.
Since the MLS restart, the Quakes have been one of a multitude of disappointing teams. Most of these other teams are just continuing disastrous seasons, like Colorado or Toronto, but the Quakes are different.
From the start of the season, Luchi’s revolution had the team playing the best soccer the Bay had seen in years. A fun and sexy attack that was led by MVP candidate Espinoza and backed up by a solid midfield. By June, the Quakes were on the verge of competing for a top four spot.
Looking back, July was the start of the decline, but the restart is where true disaster began for Luchi. While it’s a bit harsh, it’s fair to say that the Quakes have looked like the worst team in every match since the restart.
Perhaps what is really hurting this team is the total inability to stay in games. There is no plan B whenever the Quakes get hit first or if the other team equalizes. They’re too quick to just retreat back into a defensive shell and hope they can escape.
It’s just so polar opposite to what the team had been for most the season. There’s no confidence in anything once they are forced to react.
Outside of Espinoza, there is no one on this roster that is really able to improvise once the tide shifts. He’s constantly been the only player able to try to carve open opponents while the rest of his team retreats. It’s why on almost every counter, he’s alone and has to wait for teammates to catch up.
Interestingly, it’s not that the players themselves have been that bad, rather it’s just an issue with the mentality of this team. Players across the pitch are still playing to their level even as the team collapses. What’s concerning is how they collapse.
The game against Dallas is the epitome of why the Quakes are on the verge of the playoffs rather than in. Everything that has plagued the team since August reared its ugly head.
Ebobisse’s opener so early had fans dreaming that maybe the pain was starting to leave. A result of a risky, but good, change of formation by Luchi which aimed to get the most of his attackers. In the opening 15 minutes, the 4-4-2 was opening play beautifully for the team.
However, the moment Dallas started winning the midfield battle, it was all but over for this team. Dallas’ midfield imposed their will and overran both Gruezo and Yueill, forcing Ebobisse to drop back. Additionally, both center defenders kept having to step up which gave Dallas ample room in the back to expose, which is how they scored their equalizer.
Even as they showed they could tear this team apart, the Quakes refused to and were just shellshocked. Dallas should have won this game given the way they were allowed to attack with no resistance. Luchi was frozen too and his changes did nothing, given the way they failed to find a way back into the game.
Austin FC, who the Quakes face on decision day, are eliminated from the playoffs and have nothing to play for. But given how the Quakes have played, there is no confidence in this team getting the job done.
The game is at PayPal Park, so the odds will be in their favor. Luchi will probably go with the 4-4-2 used, as it worked well against Dallas. However, the game will be won in the midfield, so Yueill and Gruezo must have their best games of the season.
Everything the Quakes have done this season will come to an end against Austin. Either they’ll scrape into the playoffs or be known for one of the worst collapses of late. So much has gone well for this season, but if they fail at the finish line like this, it’ll leave a sour taste.
Featured image: San Jose Earthquakes