Perhaps the biggest challenge for the Quakes this season is figuring out the midfield. Six games, and one win, into the season and the midfield is still an issue. Until there is consistent play from the middle, it’s tough to envision success for the Quakes.


A mess of players have all had their shot in the middle. Different tactics have been implemented by Luchi, but nothing is working.

Across his two seasons, Luchi clearly has a set vision of how he wants the midfield to line up. One deeper defensive mid, a connector who is able to chip in everywhere and a number ten to playmake in the opposing half. This should yield a balanced midfield with some flexibility.

Photo: San Jose Earthquakes

However, none of Luchi’s player selections have really gelled. Gruezo struggled to fit into the midfield and Yueill has regressed. Morales’ addition over the past few weeks added another dimension to the midfield, but it’s still not solid.

Essentially, it feels like Luchi has two choices: change the formation or the players. With the season slipping away, why not make changes?


One can imagine Luchi’s midfield vision working. It’s a tried and true idea for a midfield that allows a team to retain possession and make the most of it.

Luchi wants a 4-3-3 formation with the third midfielder playing under the striker. To be fair, it’s a formation that is safe and has had success in MLS. However, it requires nailing the midfield.  

Anchoring the backline is a midfielder who recycles the ball from a defensive stop to the attack. To push that ball forward is a six, who can either play the ball from deep or fill in space in the attack. Finally, there’s the number ten creating the final chances for the fellow attackers.

It should allow for some fluidity, but a spine remains to shield the backline. This formation is meant for teams looking to control the game via possession.

Photo: San Jose Earthquakes

The current iteration of the Quakes does have the players to run this midfield. However, Luchi has had success with different formations. As the season fell apart last year, Luchi leaned into the 5-2-3.

What was interesting about this choice was Luchi’s willingness to discard using a ten. This formation still uses the defensive midfielder and connector, but requires more work from the fullbacks. There isn’t any real compromise in the middle, because the fullbacks act as helpers in the middle.

For Luchi to truly realize his project, tweaks may have to be made. His favored formation isn’t terrible by any means, but it’s all about execution.


Going forward, the team needs to solidify this midfield. With the season slipping out of hand, it’s time to experiment until success is found.

There are plenty of issues for the Quakes, but Gruezo’s failure to live up to his fee hamstrings the midfield. Being brought in as a DP to anchor the midfield, he has failed to be anything better than Judson. His limitations as a passer negate the defensive impact he has.

To no one’s surprise, Morales’ play helped the team gain some stability as of late. He may not have Gruezo’s defensive abilities, but his passing is a much better asset. Morales can switch the field while connecting  well with both Yueill and the attack.

At the number ten, Luchi clearly prefers to play Tsakiris. Skahan can be a fine rotation piece at the position, but the youngster makes more sense as a starter.

Photo: San Jose Earthquakes

Ideally, the team would have brought in a DP level number ten, but giving Tsakiris experience will help in the long run. What hurts the club as well is not having a player like Monteiro who is more flexible in his role. If the team had kept Monteiro, his play would have benefited the team’s depth and struggles with consistency. 

Finally, that brings up the final piece to the midfield conundrum, Yueill. The Quakes captain is a slightly above average starter forced to play like a DP. In an ideal world, Yueill could play a limited role in a more creative midfield, but that speaks more to the roster issues than anything else.

While it’s not a truly terrible thing, Luchi has been too committed to his ways. Experimentation is healthy, so now is the time to build this team’s midfield.

It’s insanely tough for fans to witness this team fail so early in the season once more. However, good habits need to be built now to grab something from what’s left. A successful team is built through the midfield and the Quakes need to learn this.

 

Featured image: San Jose Earthquakes

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