Carlos Akapo joined the Quakes last year after a career spent climbing up the Spanish soccer pyramid. He profiled as a veteran player who could solidify the team’s right flank. Over the course of this season, Akapo quickly became the most impactful player besides Espinoza.
The right back position has been an area of annoyance since Justin Morrow left in 2013. After Morrow departed, different right backs were sent out with only Nick Lima having a positive impact.
Akapo arrived in MLS with a resume that impressed fans despite the misfires the front office has had. The club was adding an experienced attacking right back who fit the team’s style. If anyone was going to help the team on both sides of the ball, it was going to be Akapo.
Even if the team fell on their face towards the end, the right back was one of four players who could hold their heads high. On the attacking side of the pitch, his presence allowed Espinoza to bomb up the field with an outlet out wide. Defensively, Akapo fit well with the backline and was rarely caught out of place.
In Akapo, the Quakes have finally found the right back they have been missing for almost a decade. Along with Daniel, Espinoza and Rodrigues, he should be untouchable this offseason.
Since Lima was sold to Austin, the Quakes have been throwing band aids at the right back position. Unsurprisingly, that lack of consistency made the right back position an area of weakness for the team.
When he joined the Quakes, the team was in a death spiral with no light at the end of their tunnel. Akapo himself was recovering from injury and would not make any appearance in the 2022 season. Trauco, his counterpart, did make his appearance and excited fans with how well he played.
Every system that the Quakes have used since Almeyda joined placed immense importance on the fullbacks. They needed to be the main outlet out wide to allow wingers to cut in and attack. Fullbacks must be the first in the attack and the first back.
Given his experience in Spain, Akapo promised to fit this philosophy even if Luchi hadn’t implemented his system yet. He was surely going to start no matter who the manager would be, but he needed to get healthy first.
Although he faced a few injuries in 2023, Akapo had a mostly healthy year which gave the team much needed consistency. Luchi leaned on him to get the team going and unlock Espinoza, even if he couldn’t finish games. With a more balanced midfield, fans can expect to see the Equatoguinean to be a key player once more.
To really appreciate the impact Akapo brought to the team, one need only to take a look at the way he set his teammates up. In these assists, all the positives he created can be seen.
For the most part, the Quakes’ match against Nashville was a snooze. The team offered very little and failed to really trouble the formidable backline. However, in the Quakes’ equalizer, Akapo’s value to the team took center stage.
Espinoza tucks in closer to Ebobisse because he knows that Akapo will be there for the overlap. So even as the Nashville backline collapses towards the Argentine, Akapo bombs down the flank to split the defenders. With one pass, Espinoza is able to take pressure off himself and create another chance.
A pinpoint pass is then able to find an open Quake who levels the game. In that one assist, Akapo’s importance to the team and Espinoza is highlighted.
There are many reasons as to why Espinoza broke out this season, but having Akapo as an outlet has to rank high. He’s truly the first player Espinoza has had that can play off him and allow the Argentine to drift in without compromising width. If the Quakes had a more consistent striker, Akapo could unlock them as well with his ability to find players in the box.
His contributions on the attack ranked amongst the best right backs in MLS. A solid passer, he connected attacks and opened up space for his forwards. Another great aspect of his game is his dribbling, and his ability to take on opponents was elite.
Additionally, his defensive metrics are quite impressive. Akapo nearly led the league in tackles won, interceptions and blocks. In a new look Quakes backline, his contributions pushed it to levels the team hadn’t really seen before.
Truly the only area of concern is his fitness. Akapo missed five crucial games through injury, but was able to stay healthy for the end of the year. Another offseason could only help him stay healthy, as he won’t be recovering like last year.
A healthy Akapo with a potent attack can truly push the Quakes over the hump next season. His impact was so great that only three other players could say had a better season.
In Akapo, the Quakes have found their answer at the right back position. It’s rare to find a player that so seamlessly fits into certain coaching philosophies, but the right back has fit Luchi like a glove. This offseason will be full of changes, but Akapo is one of the highlights of last season that has to be kept at all costs.
Featured image: USA Today