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San Jose Quakes Offseason Recap: 2024 - Right People, Right Place, Right Time!

QOBC Vol 4, No 1 - Feb 4, 2024

Josh: It’s been a long time since our hopes were dashed in the MLS playoffs. Are you ready to start striking the match that is hope for our 2024 San Jose Earthquakes?

Matt: This is full year number 2 for Gonzales at the helm. I’m thinking about calling it Quakes 3.0 Or 2.2. Well, I kind of like 3.0. Like a triangle has three sides…like the triangles on the 2023 home shirts….whoa! But, unlike all of those triangles on the 2023-2024 home jersey, my theme for this season is CLARITY. This team is ready for clarity on their approach and execution, and with the roster control and time that Gonzalez has had, I’m ready too.

Josh: You were ready! Coming in with the CLARITY heat! Nicely done. The Boys in Blue start their preseason in the Coachella Valley Tournament for the second year, meeting up with NYCFC Feb 7, Charlotte Feb 10, and Portland on Valentine’s Day, Feb 14. Let’s figure out who we might see stretch their legs and what chemistry we might see build.

We started the business pre-season with hearing about the Quakes who will definitely be returning: Daniel, JT, and Emi in the box. Beason, Marie, Verhoven, Walls, Akapo, and Munie in the back line. Gruezo, Cruz Medina, Mendoza, Tsakiris, Baldisimo and Yeuill in the midfield. Bouda, Richmond, Cowell & Cowell, Benji, Ebobisse, and Espinoza in the front. Any surprises, disappointments, “thank goodness”es on that list for you?

Matt: As of December there weren’t really any surprises. Honestly, by last August my expectations were pretty low. I’m just going to jump right to the “thank goodness” category, which includes Gruezo, Espinoza (obvi), and Tsakiris. Maybe when April 1 rolls around we’ll see how many folks on that list are clearly on the long-term starting lineup plan, and who is moveable or going to be subbing in for the season. I’ve lost the thread on the Quakes 3.0 at this point, but maybe that’s on me. 

Josh: But you picked an excellent trio of talent. I agree and will add Marie, Bouda, and Ebobisse. Once again, I’m confused and wondering about what Jackson Yueill brings and why he wears the armband, but I don’t pretend to know everything. And I’m bummed they didn’t exercise on Trauco - even after nominating him for goal of the year and promoting his goal as a reason to come back to PayPal Park in 2024!

Matt: It’s easier to envision the Quakes front line and midfield, but the defense has continued to give the team short and long term fits. You know I’ll definitely miss Nathan, and wish him well in Seattle. I’ll be curious to see if he thrives or starts writing checks his body can’t cash as he gets back into form after the knee injury. Judson’s steady presence will be missed as well, and I hope he has a few healthy years left in him. And Mensah’s coming to Foxborough…will we see a repeat of his time in San Jose? I hope Friendly Foxborough will level that out.

Josh: Agreed - half the names in the Defensive Line were new additions in 2023 or people that have been mostly practice squad. But before we clink in the new year, San Jose welcomes Preston Judd from Carson, up front and with, well, middling response from the community. But he did well in the Galaxy II and Coach Lucho loves developing talent, so maybe he and the Front Office see the potential. Oh right - and we get to finish, start, and hopefully finish a season with the same GM and Head Coach - big year!

Matt: I get the middling response - fans are ready for this team to make a leap forward rather than last year’s inching back and forth. With only 3 goals in 17 appearances last year for Galaxy, this is a situation of continued development for the 24 year-old with potential that I hope will pay off…but we’ll have to see. They brought in some very young players in the Superdraft, which I’m all for, and we’ll  have to see whether they turn into projects or trade chips. One defender, one midfielder, one forward - either trade chips or just giving good people a chance to develop. Hard to know.

Josh: Honestly, after the two previous seasons where we’ve seen only one SuperDraft player turn into a number to cheer for, I don’t get watching it that closely. In January, we get Jack and Tommy officially back on the roster, and the Bay welcomes MLS-Cup-winning Alfredo Morales from NYCFC to the midfield. All three of these decisions gave me a little boost. Anything catch your eye?

Matt: I know you’re psyched about Tommy, and I want to see him keep developing his ability to lock down his end of the pitch. Skahan seemed to find some fire last season, and I hope we see more. As for Morales, NYCFC had good things to say about what his leadership did for the team in the locker room. Given the fact that he dissed New York pizza while living in New York and playing for NYCFC (“For me, it’s not that great”), I’m going to put two and two together and expect a teammate who speaks his mind and can bring some clarity to the Quakes in moments of stress or paralysis.

On the theme of clarity, the team made a decision about Cade Cowell, who is now down in Guadalajara playing for Chivas. It was a move that was a long time coming. Cade wasn’t unlocking the next level with the Quakes and needed the next challenge. I wish him well and a long and healthy multi-goal scoring career, hopefully scoring many of them for the USMNT. And that should end some of the stasis the Quakes, who were trying to give Cowell time and experience to hit the next level, were in. I say give Kikanovic, Hoppe, and Judd time while giving the younger Bouda and Richmond minutes to develop. OR, rely more on the midfield to create and finish their chances.

Josh: Then I was so confused to hear that there was one more signing, veteran Goalkeeper William Yarborough… until I saw the short video on social of the team entering the practice field annnnnnd JT is still in full leg brace and on crutches. So I’m assuming that Yarborough will compete with Daniel, or maybe plan to be backup, because we’re not going to see JT in 2024. Maybe with Earthquakes II?

Matt: Daniel seems to be Lucho’s guy, so Yarborough will back up while they're still waiting for JT to recover, hopefully by August. Yarborough’s rights were available for a song (2025 Superdraft 3rd round pick), so this gap was easy to fill. 

Josh: So with all that, I bet we’re going to see a lot of switching off in the striker position, and a lot of mix-and-match in midfield. What do you hope to see before the Earthquakes’ season kicks off in Dallas, Feb 24?

Matt: You have a good memory, so you remember how hyped about Espinoza I was during our first year of Quakes on Both Coasts. With the right help this guy could win the Golden Boot. Right now I see a core midfield of Espinoza, Gruezo, Taskiris, Yueill, and jackknife Paul Marie, with important minutes going to Skahan, Medina, Baldisimo. Like a lot of teams, I unfortunately don’t know if I’ll get to see ANYTHING before the home opener, so apart from a mind-blowing signing like #MbappeToTheBay, I just hope I’ll see a Quakes team kick off the season on Feb 24th with a lockdown defense and clear solutions in the final third. Too much to ask?

Josh: Not too much to ask and if I knew how to manifest a hashtag, I would. I also won’t be able to drive down to Coachella Valley, but I’m excited that #HotOffThePresses - you’ll be able to tune in to some preseason matchups from Coachella on! The home season in PayPal Park will start with the first Clasíco of 2024, and soon after, PayPal Park will be inaugurated as the home stand of the soon-to-be-NWSL Champions, Bay FC! I think we saw a lot of good last season from the Quakes - I’m just hopeful for more great.

Matt: This team and organization have some good opportunities for more growth this year, and we’ll soon be able to see Gonzalez’s vision more and more clearly in this Quakes 3.0. And yes, I am sure PayPal Park will be full of fans and hoodies when they face off against Galaxy on March 2. And, hopefully, CLARITY.

Josh: Josh goes online to find a soccer scarf vendor who will make a CLARITY scarf Oh, and as always: Vamos San Jose!

Twitter and Instagram: @QuakesCoasts


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