Ian Russell will have the chance to mold the Quakes in his image. However, if Saturday’s game proved one thing, a change in defensive tactics is needed.
Throughout this season, the team constantly finds themselves torn apart on the counter.

Stanford played the stage for another edition of this season from hell. Ian Russell inherited a team in a downward spiral, and the work to fix it has barely started.

Watching the Galaxy’s second goal allows fans to understand the broken defensive setup for this team. With no defensive presence in the middle, opposing midfielders cruise through with no pressure. Center backs can’t step up either, or passing lanes just remain open.

Any attempt at fixing this requires a retooling of Luchi’s system, which still appeared on Saturday. To be blunt, this team’s midfield lacks the talent to be a possession-heavy side. By trying to force themselves on opponents, they play into their own weaknesses.

With the season over, the time for experimenting is now.

Ian Russell needs to truly feel free to tinker with this team and figure something out for next season.

By the time the Galaxy scored their second goal, the game was close to slipping from the Quakes’ grasp. When Puig came on, it felt all but certain that the Galaxy would leave Stanford with three points. 


When Puig gets the ball after beating Tsakiris’ marking, it’s an open field for him. Neither of the two center mids tries to at least pressure him to release the ball. Marie ends up being more willing to pressure but understands that he needs to mark his own man.

As Puig faces no opposition and makes his way towards the net, Munie tries one last ditch effort to impede the run. While he does enough to force the shot rather than the pass, it still ends in a goal. Once the midfield failed to get the ball off the Spaniard, a goal became the likeliest of outcomes.

In order to truly balance a midfield, balance needs to be the top priority. Leaning heavily in either direction strips a team of the ability to control a game. 

Theoretically, this is the role the front office brought in Gruezo for. To be the holding piece that would allow the team to go forward while providing defensive cover. Seeing the open space abandoned by them, it’s clear that this team needs a true defensive midfielder.


While the Quakes center back pairings, outside of Rodrigues and Wilson, continue to underperform, it’s tough to defend when the opposing midfield comes barreling at you. Munie made the only logical choice to stop Puig, but it meant leaving his man open for the goal. It’s a situation that is difficult to truly pin on him. 

Puig exposed one thing that Quakes have known all season. So many of this team’s issues stem from the midfield.

With Luchi gone, Ian Russell needs to feel empowered to make changes to the team’s system.

No more can they trod out the same 4-2-3-1 expecting a different outcome.

Russell’s changes must begin with a mindset. It’s not a side with the talent to fancy itself possession-driven. Perhaps this is the only way to make the favored lineup work.

By being a counter-attacking side, the team can finally form a defensive identity. There is no need to constantly aim to break down defenses, sit back, and dare teams to break you down. Yes, this team doesn’t currently have the defensive personnel for this, but instill this in the team now and build from there.

Additionally, this team’s offense, besides Ebobisse, performs better in a more fast-paced, free-flowing system. Countering teams gives the freedom for López to find Espinoza or Pellegrino on the flanks while opponents are caught lacking.

PHOTO: San Jose Earthquakes

Again, any potential change will result from the lack of balance in the midfield. Russell may be forced to choose between Tsakiris or Yueill until Gruezo returns. Even then, Gruezo continues to fail to live up to the contract.

Baldisimo profiles as the only other truly defensive player, but he’s too limited. Morales fits better as a Yueill replacement and could offer more on both sides. A midfield of Morales and Tsakiris certainly makes more sense than any combination of Yueill.

Russell doesn’t have to worry about the results anymore, so he needs to be empowered to figure something out for whoever is next. It’s beyond time to move on from Luchi’s system, and staying married to it can only hurt the development of this team.

It’s far too early for Russell to truly mold this team, and time will need to be given to see his vision. Saturday’s game brought more of the same issues that plagued this team under Luchi, but it’s hard to fault Russell.
Having hit rock bottom, there’s no way things can get worse, right?

PHOTO: San Jose Earthquakes

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