QOBC Vol. 3 No. 1
Josh: Wow, Matt! It’s been an exciting month or so - The Bay had more rain than we were ready for, most people have broken their New Year’s Resolution, and since we last shared our thoughts, the Earthquakes have now started formal Preseason Training!
Matt: I’m psyched for the 2023 campaign, despite the fact that they haven’t released the new kit yet. All I know about it is blue, black, and triangles. You?
Josh: Has anyone announced their 2023 rotation? So weird! There are preseason tournaments in like three weeks - what will they be wearing?! I’m hopeful for plenty of blue. Fingers crossed!
Matt: Let’s get at it. The Quakes had clear needs last year, so let’s focus on those rather than the revolving door that is the postseason. Serious Quakes fans want to know: what will this first full season after Almeyda bring?
Josh: I love that idea. Time to grab your water, coffee, and get comfy Quakes on Both Coasts Readers. Why don’t you start at the top with Big Boss Luchi and team?
Matt: Considering the previous project Luchi Gonzalez worked on, aka the USMNT, he may be just the right kind of coach to help these talented players gel and maximize their potential. Early reports from training are encouraging, as players are positive about the fresh approach to the preseason. I’m positive on this one - it’s a more thoughtful choice for a team tightly gripping the wooden spoon than bringing in a coach that will be just a change up. This team needs to develop in many ways, not just something like “fix the set pieces” or “play the ball out of the back faster.”
Josh: I saw the quote from Cade Cowell about how Almeyda focused so hard on overall fitness for a while before getting into skills-based training. I can see a benefit to that, but also, they are professional athletes, either fresh out of academy and college or many years in, so maybe they're comfortable and confident in managing their conditioning. BUT, last year more than one player was called “The fastest in MLS,” so maybe not. Then again, each season started with key injuries - overtraining? Could go either way! And I’m glad Shea and Wondo will be supporting in minor coaching and front office support roles - keep the good guys around!
Matt: The defense had the most immediate and solvable needs last season, and they added reinforcements around Nathan and the injured Judson accordingly. I hope that the non-signing of Remedi to a new contract means the FO has evidence for faith in the defensive line they’ve assembled to avoid conceding late goals. Remedi was a great swiss army knife kind of player, and a clear part of his worth IMHO was giving the other team a hard stop late in games.
Josh: Right? I’m excited that JT was one of the top shot blockers in MLS, but what if fewer shots made it to him? Marie & Beason were strong, and the late season additions of Akapo, Rodrigues and Trauco should absolutely strengthen the backfield.
Matt: For me this is the most difficult part of the team to predict. Without question, the Leitch Quakes 2.0 need to move the ball quickly and successfully through the midfield. Way too many times last year opposing teams knew they had time to collapse into a defensive block, and fans had to watch the Quakes get stonewalled outside the 18 yard box and stare at the distant netting. I think we’ll have to see them in action before really knowing the approach for this campaign. Gregus is gone..so what’s the plan now?
Josh: For me, Gregus is the biggest loss of the non-renewals. I thought he was a tall, calm presence in midfield who could get a set piece ball into the right place every time. Maybe that’s not the energy the new Coaching Staff want in midfield. He probably got displaced because Monteiro joined the Quakes and took over coordinating the front line, looking forward. Will many SJ Fans and I get our wish and see Tommy Thompson moved up to midfield?
Matt: My biggest hope, selfishly for the offensive Quakes unit, is that Benji will be in blue triangles for another season, speeding and maneuvering his way past the defense. Of course, if he gets a great contract opportunity I won’t begrudge him that. Otherwise, I’m looking forward to watching Espinoza give his all, Cade “Kraken” Cowell (freshly called up to the USMNT!) attack the goal, and Ebobisse be ready to pounce.
Josh: Per the roster, SJ has four up front. Another record-setting year for Ebobisse? A bigger presence from Cowell? Benji's back? Richmond gets more minutes? Yes, yes, hopefully, maybe? Looks like they’re counting on potential Captain Espinoza, Monteiro, and Baldisimo to be significant contributors to the goal tally.
Matt: The GK situation is evolving rapidly with the new coach and reports of signing Daniel from Brazil. What are their plans for JT, who saved the team numerous times last season? Will the Quakes be able to be more successful moving the ball more quickly from JT’s gloves to an offensive situation? I’m disappointed Matt Bersano won’t be in San Jose, but I hope he gets some new experience and more minutes in Austin. I think working alongside Brad Stuver will have benefits. He’s been a bit of a journeyman who found his place with Austin, and Matt Bersano more than deserves to find his place as well. I am looking forward to seeing him in Foxborough in September!
Josh: I’m stunned to see Ochoa still listed as Unavailable on the online Quakes Roster. Hopefully that’s a web editor error, because I think he showed he’s ready to stop up into the number two spot. But we’ll see if the rumors are true and a tall Senior GK joins the lineup.
QUAKES ACADEMY SYSTEM
Matt: I’m totes psyched about the homegrowns and Quakes IIers moving up onto the senior team. I look for them to accumulate minutes and experience early in the season so they can become contributors as quickly as possible. This needs to happen not only to help the team improve, but to help build the business model of developing players that other teams might want to sign. This is also good for young players in the San Jose system - you want to keep as many doors open as possible, especially early in your career.
Josh: One way for San Jose (and MLS in general) to become more visible to local fans is to sign a bunch of homegrowns and Stanford graduates. That interview in Columbus after the USMNT game still haunts me. So, I can follow that strategy and am excited to support it!
Josh: When I read the resume for the three players recruited from the Big Ten and I see “National Championship” at least once under each name, I’m excited. Of course I’ll be watching George the most closely (Go Terps!), but Luchi & Lietch are very excited for Munie.
Matt: Yes, loving the championship experience on all three, and as a proud Penn State alum I’m excited to see forward Liam Butts in the mix. Along with winger Hunter George, we could be seeing the seeds of a young offensive pairing that knows how to push all the way to the championship. Considering there haven’t been any big signings this offseason, no splash, no “OMG, this will drastically improve this club….” Did I miss it, Josh?
Josh: Nope. Definitely a different strategy than a lot of MLS Clubs right now. Let’s hope it plays out! Looking at “seats” and not budget, the Quakes could add one more player into their Senior lineup, and it would/could be a Designated Player (read $$$), so I suppose there’s potential for a big move between now and February 25th, when all teams are supposed to be locked in.
Matt: Considering we’re still waiting for the next big roster addition, this young Big Ten trio is something I think Quakes fans should notice and track their progress on the team.
Josh: I’m hoping to make it down to Monterey to see the Quakes stretch their legs against one of the three local USL clubs for their first friendly. I don’t think I’ll spend Valentine’s down at the Coachella Invitational, but it will be great for the team to work out their roles for the competitive season in an East/West MLS matchup. DC, Minnesota, and Red Bulls are teams they’ll see again, so it should be a great start. And maybe with the MLS Season Pass, we’ll be able to catch some low-stakes soccer on TV!
Matt: Absolutely. Soccer is different from a lot of sports - you can’t add a pitcher to automatically assume you’re winning more games or a point guard to make those pesky free throws as the clock is ticking down. Until we’ve seen the team on the field in game situations for a month, no one really knows anything. I can’t wait to take in this new and improved version of the Quakes and write about what I missed in our next post!
Likelihood of a San Jose / New England MLS Championship game? 50% either it will or it won’t… so many questions right now!