QOBC Vol. 3 No. 12 - Sept 5, 2023
Original image source: sjearthquakes.com
Josh: So it’s been almost two months… awkward…
Matt: Well, the Quakes didn’t get anything going in the Leagues Cup, so there wasn’t that much to say. While I started to get into the Leagues Cup a little bit, thanks to some success by the Revs (despite the physical abuse they took from some of their opponents), I have to admit I was missing the regular season. I was very glad when it resumed mid-August.
Josh: Me too! So to recap: Espinoza went to the All-Star Game, got minutes, looked good, but MLS looked silly. Leagues Cup: as predicted, Quakes were outmatched in the play-in round and got a long break in August. MLS season restarts. Quakes get a strongly-fought away win in Vancouver, get blind-sided by SKC, drop a lead in round 3 of the Clasíco, and then grind out a draw at home against the Loons of Minnesota. Nothin’, then a whole lot of somethings!
Matt: I think grinding is the operative word here. A lot of teams are doing that deep into the season as they deal with the long-term impacts of injuries and the schedule, and San Jose is no exception. The Vancouver win was exciting for sure, but dropping to SKC and (of course) LAG was frustrating. A tie against the Loons isn’t an embarrassment, but the hometown setting didn’t convert the draw to a win this time.
Josh: I was sure we had dropped a quick recap of the July 19th All-Star Weekend, but I guess that was only on Social. To leverage the brevity of online posts, I’ll quote @QuakesBothCoasts: The MLS All-Star Game might be the worst of all US All-Star games. How does to the league benefit from this event? Why not just East v West? Or U25 vs 25+?
Matt: <digs up our texts from that weekend> I love the idea of having all of the top players together, but the only positive I got from watching them get demolished by Arsenal was that I watched it from my couch, where the tickets are heavily discounted. All-Star teams in baseball function fairly well because the play is so station-oriented (field positions) or solo (hitter, pitcher, catcher). Not so much for soccer, as we saw. I’d love to see youth movement vs veterans, but I’ll see your U25 vs. 25+, and raise you to U22 vs. non-U22 All-Stars.
Josh: Yeah - in a team sport, it’s a different beast. Then the 0 goals in 2 play-in matches for Leagues Cup against a strong Portland side and UANL Tigres, who got ousted by the Liga MX team that went the furthest. Quakes made some good efforts, but then the story of Leagues Cup became 1 - Messi and 2 - 3 of 4 Semifinals teams were MLS. The Revs made it further, and with no extra time, a lot of PK shoot outs - did this inaugural Cup promote the quality of MLS? I’d say yes, but year two will be more telling.
Matt: As a league, MLS definitely looked good. The criticisms being raised about most games being played in the USA, some in Canada, were legit points in regards to the amount of travel Liga MX teams had to endure, but I definitely continue to hold the opinion that the use of direct payments to players for wins didn’t promote fair play on the pitch. We’ll see what tweaks are made for next year…player feedback and financial considerations will likely be the biggest factors, of course.
Josh: Before MLS season resumed, two signings that are being touted as good, occurred: Ayo Akinola and Matthew Hoppe. Were these signings exciting for you?
Matt: All low floor high ceiling. After Akinola’s 2021 ACL injury, he hadn’t been able to find consistency within the Toronto organization. Hopefully the Quakes environment will let him reset and show his best self. Hoppe has had similar issues with injuries over the last few years, and it would be exciting to see him do some damage with the Quakes.
Josh: In the few minutes that we’ve seen Hoppe, I think there’s something there, especially if/when Cade Cowell rotates out or eventually gets a sweet, sweet deal. But then play resumes, four games in 13 days, and thanks to Daniel, the Blue & Black start with a road win, 1-0. Vancouver’s 19 shots, 8 on goal, versus San Jose’s 3 total; 7 saves for Daniel and the good guys restart with 3 points.
Matt: I’m just going to say it, Vancouver beat themselves. They were the stronger team on the pitch, but just couldn’t finish. Many of their shots were directly at Daniel, and the post did so much good work for the Quakes they might as well have put a shirt with blue and black triangles on it. San Jose was lucky to get out of there with three points.
Josh: Lucky three points is three points, haha! Not so exciting against Sporting Kansas City. I think I texted you and you said “Yeah, they’re fast.” And they were - blanking our Earthquakes 3-0, starting at the 2-minute mark. They just sliced the defense and their Keeper was strong. And why did Gruezo take the PK?
Matt: On the topic of finishing, Cowell should have had a goal in the 20’, but ultimately couldn’t handle the moving ball. SKC simply ate up the defense, either sending it in as if they weren’t there, or dribbling past defenders like, well, they weren’t there. The SJ defense did not look very strong in this match. I don’t know why Gruezo took the PK…maybe the team decided to just give him the experience because they knew they weren’t going to get the win. If so, that hurt a few MLS Fantasy teams with Espinoza on the roster!
Josh: Like yours, perchance? I almost never say this name with a positive twist, but Yeuill was on the field and I have to imagine would’ve had a better effort to break the shutout. Heartbreak at home in the Clasíco, including a stoppage time, almost Goonies moment. We can watch the in-play goals from the Galaxy and see no one stepping to the runner for yard 45-18, and when one of those runners is Puig, that’s gonna be points for the other team. The two from our Quakes were fantastic - a deflection on Espinoza’s corner shot, or well-placed cross, and a great running play by the playmaker Monteiro. Unfortunately, in the 57th minute, SJ tied the lead for most PKs given in MLS and LA took the lead. A crossbar, a put back, another attempt, and half a step offside later, and final whistle blows.
Matt: I must confess I lost a bit of heart early on in this game, but I guess if there’s one scenario where the Quakes have no quit, it’s the Clasíco.
Josh: That’s right! And don’t quit on this marathon of a column - almost there! Last but not least, Cowell finally scores his first goal for San Jose’s 2023 campaign, and The Active Fault Jersey and PayPal Park walk away with a point.
Matt: This game against Minnesota could prove to be where the team finally found some rhythm after the long Leagues Cup break. They measured up well against the Loons, incredibly equal except for San Jose leading slightly in shots and corners, and Minnesota leading slightly in fouls. This is the version of the team that has the ability to stay in the playoff picture and make some noise.
Josh: Let’s hope they stay in this version. Real quick two up, two down? Up: Monteiro can be the playmaker and he’s showing it. Hopefully Coach Luchi will agree and build some more strategy other than Espinoza’s crosses. Second, I have hopes for Hoppe & Skahan stepping up during the International Break. Down - most of the Gruezo footage is him rushing back from playing too far forward or drawing yellows. Second, Mensah. I’m not sure why this guy hasn’t been consistently in rotation, but his absence and then slow returns have been liabilities. When he’s on & in, he’s great!
Matt: Two up - 1. Ebobisse and Espinoza are relentless attackers up front, and 2. The Never Say Die spirit is alive and well. Two down: 1. The defense simply has to do better, strategically and technically, especially in one-on-one situations, and 2. The pace of the Quakes game, except for breakaways, is slow. Opposing teams usually have plenty of time to get their defensive pieces in play, and this really limits the Quakes.
Josh: Forward thinking has to be focused on the Postseason. Seven games left, currently sitting in eighth place, all five in-conference games are against teams also toeing the line… do the Goonies finish it out? Don’t forget, Cowell got the USMNT nod and some of those crucial matches will be without our treasured left wing.
Matt: In terms of staying in the playoff picture, the 2 out-of-conference games are a wash against the inconsistent DC United and the powerful Nashville SC. Three of their remaining five games are against teams just inside or on the bubble, with Minnesota directly above, Dallas and Austin directly below, and the weakening Portland a little lower sitting in 12th. Probably just the way the league wants it with slightly more than a handful of games left and the insanity of tracking the standings on Decision Day. If the Quakes can beat Portland and Austin and go halvesies on the rest of the points, they should be able to get into the postseason, likely to face *cue ominous bass notes* St. Louis or Seattle.
Josh: Yeah, I’m nervous. And we’ll see how the new playoff format helps or hurts our squad. Coming up, away at DC United, who just doused the Chicago Fire, and Gruezo will be out on Yellow Card accumulation. Then the Blue & Black welcome a surging RSL into PayPal Park - that should be a fun one! Whatever happens, Vamos SJ!
Quake-o-meter for Games… well a whole lot (Richter goes to 9, OURS goes to 10)
Final Score on the Quake-o-meter Richter Scale: 6.2 /10 - Rough time and all eyes on the Quakes!
Current % chance of a San Jose/New England MLS Cup Final: 42% - Not saying it won’t happen, but it will be a journey…
Twitter and Instagram: @QuakesCoasts