Sunday’s brutal loss to the Galaxy only pushed the team further to the bottom of MLS. Despite a valiant effort from all players, the team failed to leave Carson with anything.
However, the second half gave fans a glimpse into how the team should be lining up.

Among all the losses this season, there are more reasons to feel optimistic after the game following Sunday. Especially in the second half, they looked like a fun attacking side.

A large part of the positives came from Luchi gambling with the formation and personnel. For the first time this season, he was quick to change things around. It was, perhaps, his best-managed game of the season. Unfortunately, it came way too late.

Photo: San Jose Earthquakes

Changing the team’s spine benefitted the team. The midfield changes lifted this side up and made them more competitive. Additionally, while Pellegrino had a good game, Kikanović fits this team much better.

As positive as some of these aspects are, the team is still bottom of the league with little hope of anything else. Making these changes is just changing the paint on a sinking ship, but at least it’s a new look.


There are very few ways that the Quakes could have started this game worse. Three goals were given up too easily, and the team was overrun.

Luchi started this game with a lineup and formation that he believes in. Barring Wilson, this was a healthy lineup. It also struggled almost immediately.

To be fair to Luchi, the goals came from individual mistakes rather than the system. Yarbrough gave up the first goal, and the others came from miscues.

As it has all season, the midfield struggled the entire first half, thus stunting the attack. Any counter the Quakes sprung failed with either a bad pass or read. Also, outside Gruezo, the midfielders constantly got exposed the moment the Galaxy countered.

Photo: San Jose Earthquakes

For his part, Gruezo played well and cleaned up attacks, but he contributed little else, which isn’t his exact role. Tsakiris looked lost, and many attacks died with him as the moment seemingly got to him. In a vacuum, neither of these players is at fault for the bad start, and they could be great starters in different systems. 

Espinoza and Pellegrino attacked well, with Espinoza his usual productive self and Pellegrino showing improvement. While Judd has had a good season thus far, Sunday showed his limitations. At his best, Judd should be the first player off the bench; he’s too technically limited to be a starter.

Sunday’s loss wasn’t a one-off event; it’s been a pattern for the team since August of last year. Luchi’s system has taken too many hits, and other managers have him completely figured out.


Looking at this situation objectively, this season is more or less cooked for the Quakes. However, if they want to give fans something in a cup competition, there are some necessary changes.

In the middle, Morales deserves the starting nod over Gruezo for the time being. While Gruezo is perhaps the better player, Morales moves the ball forward and provides leadership. Gruezo is still a better defender, but he will always be judged by his DP spot.

Tsakiris is correctly seen as the club’s future, but the team is struggling. Unfortunately, the lack of other options kills the team here. Skahan is a good rotation piece and has had his moments, but he isn’t an MLS starter.

Photo: Alfredo Morales

This is where a DP-level midfielder would make a world of difference. However, that’s not likely to happen, so the team has to hope that either Skahan or Tsakiris is the fix.

Up top, keeping Pellegrino and Espinoza feels like a good choice, even if Kikanović brings more grit to the table. It’s totally possible to rotate Kikanović and Pellegrino, depending on the matchup, though. Ebobisse is the option to go with from here, given that there is still a double-digit scorer there.

Unless Luchi leaves tomorrow, next week’s game will likely feature a 4-3-1 with only Wilson potentially returning as the change. The Quakes briefly used a 3-4-3 last season and it’s yet to make a reappearance. However, this team doesn’t possess the depth to play that formation defensively.

Making changes right now feels Sisyphean, but it’s not like things are going to result in this being a playoff team. As sad as it is to say, perhaps this is how you build for next season.


Sunday’s loss is yet another reminder of how far the Quakes are from the rest of MLS.
They’re a team in a death spiral that started years ago. Even if these lineup changes can help in the moment, hope is fleeting.

PHOTO: Getty Images

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