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San Jose Quakes Late in Atlanta, But Wears Down the Whitecaps

QOBC Vol. 3 No. 3 - March 7, 2023


Josh: I’m actually excited and intrigued to see where this Leagues Cup event goes. However, bumping New England, and even, turns out, Bay Area soccer back into the end of February means that a lot of soccer fans are watching from home.

Matt: 28 degrees here in New England. Add the everpresent breeze in Gillette that makes it 10ish degrees cooler on any given day and it was downright cold. Twitter is a great place to be called a bad fan, but soccer isn’t a winter sport here. I was impressed that there were a little over 13,000 tickets sold – and I’m sure more were exchanged for a later game – but I’m not 100% sure every ticket holder was in their seat. Was it below 65 degrees in San Jose, sending the whole region into shock?

Josh: Matt. I had hail.

Matt: OK, my bad. Continue.

Josh: For the Season Opener, I was in my car and Cal Basketball took over the radio waves until exactly 7:30, so I got nervous. Then the Home Opener was a day of intermittent rain paired with 40 degree temps after sunset, so it kept me away from PayPal Park. I’m glad I was able to watch both games without worry or stress about where to find them. First two weekends of the new MLS Season Pass - what’re your 60-second thoughts on the new streaming home?

Matt: The most important thing was that it worked. I wanted the field view to be a little closer on the season opener, so by the second game I was either used to it or someone in Cupertino has read my mind. What do I want now? A team or match-specific pregame show to take over the wraparound 30 minutes before kickoff.

Josh: Yeah, we’ll see how it develops! As to the matches themselves, the first two are in the records. Quakes had split result, but overall great start, and I think the 408 Faithful should be happy. The season started with 93 minutes of holding their own in a stadium of 67,000 fans, and then stunned by two amazing shots by a reigning World Cup holder.

Matt: Until the final minutes the Quakes were getting it done. They looked great in the first half, and from then on were holding on to the draw. To go into Atlanta for the season opener and walk away with a draw is a win for almost any team. And then the Quakes did it again…they conceded 2 goals in 6 minutes to walk away pointsless.

Josh: Then flip the script at home: a tappy-tappy goal by the opponents and then two goals for the good guys which could be summarized by “teamwork”.

Matt: I was in almost as much shock as Daniel when Gruezo turned it over and the defense chased that Vancouver goal in. When halftime arrived, it was a relief to not have to worry about being down two at that point. The Quakes were a goal behind, but not for a lack of effort. Espinoza’s tee up to Cowell was beautiful, but NO NET. Espinoza to Monteiro to Trauco’s header was beautiful, but NO NET. Cowell showed his ongoing development by carving up the defense with a series of sharp turns in the box and shooting, but NO NET. Espinoza to Ebobisse header, NO NET. Lots of great teamwork, but they couldn’t get the cover off the goal.

Josh: At this point, I’m up off my couch. “More of this, guys, keep it up, but get it done!”

Matt: Then twenty minutes into the second half, all of their preparation paid off with a beautiful service and header Monteiro → Ebobisse header → NET in the 68’ right in front of the Ultras. A few minutes later Whitecap Alexander Schöpf was booked and got injured for his troubles. As he limped off, it seemed like Vancouver’s resolve went with him. Five minutes later the Quakes played pinball around the Vancouver defenders and Akapo sent on a high sharp angle against GK Takaoka to go ahead. Vancouver tried to be scrappy with their remaining minutes, but to no avail. Benji almost scored in the 91’, but he’ll have to wait until next time.

Josh: You went into that one - it’s fun to see! It’s kinda early to forecast, so how about we play a quick two down-two up? Which two players were you less-than-impressed by and their stock went down in your eyes, and who surprised you, or validated your confidence in what they bring to the pitch? How about you pick your two down first?

Matt: Okay, for these two games, I feel like Daniel and Gruezo are still finding their way. I can be patient (and have no choice from my couch), but the team has invested quite a bit in them and I want to see them be successful.

Josh: I agree - the commentators paid Gruezo a lot of credit for the game and for how he’s going to shape up my first down: Jackson Yeuill. The expectation is that Gruezo will partner with Yeuill to become a playmaker - but it’s not obviously starting yet. My other might be Monteiro, and that’s probably because I had high hopes of seeing him coordinate the front line all season, and either the lineup or the strategy isn’t supporting that effort. You have two easy ups?

Matt: Espinoza, Espinoza, Espinoza - this MVP candidate involved in almost every scoring or near-scoring play. In Second Place I’ve got a tie between Ebobisse and Monteiro. Monteiro’s work is allowing Espinoza the space to be his best, and Ebobisse’s field awareness and energy is helping the team pressure the goal. Their focus and energy is a huge driver for a team that never says die!

Josh: Well then the Goonies award for these games goes to Carlos Akapo who finished the 2-extra-passes game winner with a decisive strike to the near post. He and the guy he subbed for, Miguel Trauco, really shined for me. Trauco had some brilliant passes, setups, and real hustle from the defensive line. My honorable mention that I feel really hasn’t had the chance is Cade Cowell. I feel like he gets the ball, does some amazing work, but more often than not, the team leaves him with nobody to pass to.

Matt: Cowell definitely deserves credit. Especially in Game 2, he was drawing a lot of attention from the defense, was involved in crossing plays and set plays, and generally pulling coverage away from Espinoza’s area whenever possible. You can see him starting to develop some synergy and timing with Monteiro on the left, and I won’t be surprised if that results in a goal in the next two matches.

Josh: Fingers crossed! I was surprised that we saw only two substitutions against Vancouver - Benji and Akapo - and our lead striker played all 90’ both games. I imagine Coach Luchi is trying to give his version of Starting XI plenty of game time to tighten up and then we’ll see some more regular substitutions and some more names on the pitch.

Matt: I think you’re right. I’m sure Luchi wanted to get this first win in the books, but with full ownership and buy-in with the Starting XI – and avoiding subbing someone in who could potentially break down and concede. With the Quakes conceded 8 goals after the 85’ last season, I’m sure one of Luchi’s “to do’s” has been to have the team play the full 90 with focus and intensity and not concede in the fading minutes.

Josh: And this year there is a full set of defenders who can come off the bench to replenish any fatigue or distraction from the back line. Coming up, in conference and at home against Colorado, followed by the new kids who are stunning the League to start.

Matt: So…Colorado. This should be another opportunity for the Boys in Blue Triangles. Colorado looked like a team still finding the pieces and developing their teamwork, and San Jose is farther ahead in that process. Local soccer expert A. predicts a 1-1 tie, and I will be optimistic and say Quakes win 2-1. Right now I would say that San Jose and St. Louis are closely matched, with a tie 2-2 or St. Louis squeaks one out at home.

Josh: Colorado hasn’t scored a goal yet this season, and I’m sure is eager to turn the start of their season around. We’ll see who is in goal to hopefully keep that number the same. And you know me - I’m counting on 6 points! Another week, another opportunity to cheer on the Blue & Black! Vamos SJ!

Quake-o-meter for Games 1 & 2 (Richter goes to 9, OURS goes to 10)

Final Score on the Quake-o-meter Richter Scale: 6.5 /10

Current % chance of a San Jose/New England MLS Cup Final: 65% - If they started today, we’re in the Playoffs!

Twitter and Instagram: @QuakesCoasts


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