Over a year ago, the storm clouds hovering over San Jose seemed on the verge of disappearing. After beating LAFC, Luchi’s Quakes found themselves on the verge of being actual threats in the West.
Now, the team returns to the position they constantly find themselves in, rock bottom.

On paper, Luchi fit the Quakes’ vision almost perfectly. A coach with plenty of experience with youth development and a resume that saw him be surrounded with talent.

For that brief moment, everything worked; the team played fun, exciting soccer and won. However, the moment the league figured the system out, the entire house collapsed. With no confidence from the manager, the team spiraled down the table.

PHOTO: ISI Photos

To be honest, the Quakes’ job might be the worst in MLS. You need to deal with a team robbed of confidence as its youth revolution continues to dry up—however, Ian Russell profiles like the manager to rescue this side.


At the moment, Luchi brought joy back to a fanbase that desperately needed it.

Even if he didn’t succeed, he gave his successor a blueprint for this side.


When Luchi stepped into the role, he inherited a club in total disarray. While the team possessed quality players, they were seen as cannon fodder for the league.

After a rough first match, Luchi’s vision for the team became clear. Using Espinoza as the team’s hub, the entire team revolved around the mercurial talent. The team played with plenty of possession and imposed their will on opponents. 

Once they beat a great LAFC side, fans dreamed of the Bay’s team returning to the top of MLS. However, issues began to creep in slowly. By July, the issues overwhelmed the team and sent them into a death spiral that they still are in. 

The adherence to his system ultimately became his downfall. Unable to figure out how to adapt his system, teams hammered them on the counter, killing the system.

Teams realized that punishing the Quakes in transition exposed the weak backline the team trodded out. Additionally, teams let Ebobisse drop back and be more of a playmaker rather than a goal threat. This, combined with the midfield failing to find any sort of anchor, ensured that the system Luchi built would collapse.

Another issue that deeply plagued the manager was his issues reading the game. Substitutions came at the wrong time, often way too late during the game. His patterns were too safe and obvious, leaning towards defensive veterans rather than exciting prospects.

By August last year, it became clear that Luchi’s time was running out. López offered a brief respite for the team, but Luchi failed to fully figure out how to flesh the team out around him.


Since before Almeyda, Ian Russell always appeared near the front of the list of potential Quakes coaches.

Now he will have that chance and an audition for next season.


Unlike other previous managers, Russell is not an unknown factor to the team. During his time as coach of the now-defunct Reno 1868 side, Russell managed some of these Quakes players. From Kikanović to Yueill, this is the first time that the team will have a manager who truly knows them. 

Russell’s side constantly found themselves near the top of the table and in deep playoff runs in the USL Championship. It shouldn’t be surprising that Greg Vanney saw him as a trusted confidant in Toronto.

Fortunately for this side, they likely won’t need to relearn a new system. He relies on a 4-2-3-1, similar to Luchi. Fans shouldn’t get their hopes too high that the team will look drastically different.

PHOTO: Fox Reno

Perhaps more interesting will be the decisions on who starts. Given that Russell helped develop Kikanović, the striker may make more sense to start over the struggling Ebobisse. Given that Kikanović is better at spreading the pitch, he would give more room for the more creative wingers and López to operate.

Another interesting thread will be who makes up the midfield. Yueill began his career under Russell and may renew a connection with the manager. However, to balance the middle, perhaps he’d start Morales over Tsakiris until Gruezo comes back.

One thing that my free Russell that Luchi never had was the absence of pressure. There are no expectations left, so the manager will be able to model this team in his image.


In an ideal world, Luchi’s reign would have sparked a Quakes renaissance. Like the best-laid plans of mice and men, however, that promise turned to ash.
Now, fans must once more face the prospect of another rebuild with no end in sight.

PHOTO: San Jose Earthquakes

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