A hallmark of a serious playoff side is the ability to see their games off. It’s the ability to turn draws into wins and hold onto leads. If anything, the Quakes were the polar opposite of such teams this season.
New York City were the only team to match the Quakes’ 14 draws. Taking a look at their form across the season, it’s fair to say that the ties were what threw the season off.
Removing the ties for a second, the Quakes managed to have 10 wins and 10 losses. A deeper look shows just how much these ties derailed the season. Wins followed by draws than a defeat, only for more draws, this is the sign of an inconsistent team.
A large part of their struggles were giving up leads and not fighting back to win games. Luchi needs to better develop his game management, reading what the situation needs. However, this feels like an issue that will disappear with more experience and a deeper squad.
Look, the Quakes didn’t lose like squads of years past and that’s an improvement. Now, it’s on Luchi and the front office to get consistency from this squad.
Over 40% of Quakes’ games ended in a tie in 2023. No matter the attention focused on the tough losses down the stretch, this is where they lost the season.
Inconsistent teams are always consistent in one area. Either they will have an attack that fires at will, but a leaky defense, or a frontline that can’t put the game away despite a solid defense. Luchi’s men kept opponents away, but couldn’t score.
A season is long, but the moment you allow any sort of stagnation, all progress goes out the window. There’s an argument to be made that Hoppe’s addition saved the Quakes, but that shows just how much the team regressed. Once they began that slide, Luchi’s inexperience came to the forefront.
What may have been the most concerning this season was the way the team gave up control in games. Multiple blown leads broke the confidence of the players, leading to the team having to defend most of the game.
The game against FC Dallas in October is perhaps the best example of this. Luchi’s full vision and project were on full display in the first 30 mins. Ebobisse and Espinoza cut apart the Dallas backline while the midfield controlled the game.
However, once Dallas regained possession, the game was over. The midfield collapsed completely and forced the offense to drop back. Even if the backline held their own and did well to keep Dallas at bay, the lack of a compact midfield made it impossible to transition forward.
Was it more of a coaching or player issue? Both to be honest, which is to be expected in the first season of a new project. Luchi failed to make the proper in game adjustments and the players let go of their composure to allow opponents back in.
Fortunately for fans, the defense bailed this team out from what would have been losses. One point is better than none, but all those draws added up when it mattered most.
This season’s inconsistencies highlights two weaknesses for the squad, managerial inexperience and lack of squad depth. Fixing both of these issues is not impossible, but will require reflection from all parties.
For Luchi, this offseason has to be one of tinkering with his system. His players were more comfortable in the 4-3-3, but the offense seemingly worked better in the 4-4-2. However, this could be explained by having more offensive players in his lineup.
For almost the entire season, substitution patterns were a struggle. Incorrect subs at incorrect times stalled the team’s moves on the field. Additionally, he was often too conservative with his subs, Maire or Judson would be the first sub.
To be completely fair, this may not have been entirely his fault. The bench was one of the least productive in MLS. In total, the usual subs thrown out by Luchi combined for three goals and five assists.
Besides Judson and Marie, there was no trust placed by Luchi in anyone. Kikanović, who was the Quakes’ super sub in years past, was not trusted, thus robbing the team of a vital piece.Which in turn, should suggest that the front office needs to focus on this offseason.
Due to a combination of factors, Luchi’s system failed to fully take off. Both the manager and front office will have to use these next few months to find solutions.
For all the valid criticisms of the team, they are on a good path. Luchi’s project is bearing fruit, but needs some help to be fully realized. Nothing’s ever guaranteed in life, much less soccer, so why not go all out to try to achieve something Bay Area soccer fans haven’t seen in over a decade?
Featured image: San Jose Earthquakes