Decision day is the ultimate experience for MLS fans. Great soccer mixed with nerves for every fanbase waiting to see where their teams will be at. Memories of the 2017 finale will surely be in the minds of every Quakes fan come next Saturday.
A season that held such promise will be made or broken on decision day. All could be forgiven if the Quakes win on Saturday, but the team has to follow through.
Austin has nothing to play for, they’ve already been eliminated, but could enjoy playing spoiler. This matchup has produced some incredible moments in the short span the two clubs have played. Neither side has beaten the other since 2021, making this game even more interesting.
Luchi’s formation and player choices will be vital to the team’s chances, be it the 4-4-2 that fans saw last game or the commonly used 4-2-1-3. In terms of players, Espinoza will be the most important player on the pitch, but Ebobisse has to make his chances count. The indecisiveness that has marked this team of late can’t appear.
Before the team can start worrying about playoff matchups, they have to get their ticket to the dance secured. Austin will do their best to spoil the day, but the Quakes should like their chances at punching their ticket.
One year ago, the Quakes were once more the laughing stock of MLS while Austin were one of the best sides in the league. The roles aren’t totally reversed, as both sides are just somewhat disappointing.
Austin has struggled with injuries and regression from key players from the start of the season. Wolff has had to find ways to keep them alive, but the team’s backline has been disappointing. The attack is still humming, but otherwise they’re leaking too many goals.
Sebastián Driussi has struggled to get himself going, as teams have started to figure him out. With a lack of a threatening striker, it makes the offense completely one dimensional. It’s hoping for one of Driussi or Rigoni to magically save them.
Wolff has tried a few different formations but the Quakes will likely face a 4-2-3-1 with Will Bruin flanked by Finlay and Rigoni. Old friend Nick Lima will start at the right back position and he will have to deal with Hoppe. This is potentially where the Quakes will have the most success, neither fullback is great defensively so Espinoza and Hoppe will have their chances.
The best strategy for the Quakes could be to just use the creativity of Espinoza and Hoppe to cut in rather than lob crosses. It’s a very weak defensive side, so it’d be easier for them to just pick them apart. Akapo and Trauco would be able to help here as well and really exploit the space that would be given to them.
As weak as they are defensively, Austin is still a scary team on the other side of the ball. Gruezo will have to keep a solid grasp on Driussi. The Quakes can’t let Driussi decide the game or they’ll be in for a long night.
While they’re not the juggernaut they were last year, Austin can still be a problem for Luchi. A through game plan will be required for this game.
PayPal Park will play home to one of the most important games in recent Quakes’ history. A win redeems the season while a loss adds a blotch to Luchi’s project.
Last game, Luchi decided to go with a formation that he hadn’t yet tried this season.Moving to a 4-4-2 was mostly done to keep Hoppe and Marie in the side given their good form. For the first 10 or so minutes, the formation really worked.
However, the 4-4-2 lacks the midfield presence that the 4-3-3 offers. Monteiro’s addition gives another valve to the offense and lets Yueill sit back deeper. In turn, a greater amount of space allows the offense to be more fluid.
Given the strength of this Austin midfield, a three man midfield would be better at containing the threat. Gruezo will have to be at his best while Monteiro and Yueill will have to track back.
Hoppe has to be given the green light this game, especially with how he’s been performing as of late. There can’t be any doubts that he’s going to lead the Quakes forward. Perhaps, he will have to play in the shadow of Ebobisse.
Ebobisse and Espinoza each will have their own role to play. The striker will need to be the third option in the front three and only drop back when necessary. Espinoza, who’s carried the Quakes so far, needs to just be himself and force the game his way.
Luchi will also need to feel the game and make the correct subs. Marie will have to come off the bench at the right time and Cowell’s appearance will need to be calculated. Above all, he needs to instill confidence in his side.
It’s a bit unfair for fans to have a whole season come down to this moment. As it has in the past, decision day will be nerve wrecking for Quakes’ fans.
Fans have seen everything this season, from a Quakes team that looked to hang with LAFC to a team that couldn’t beat DC. A roller coaster ride for all will either end on Saturday or continue into the playoffs. Either way, Luchi’s first season has been anything but boring.
Featured image: San Jose Earthquakes