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State of the Quakes 2022 - A Season Preview

February 20, 2022, Vol. 2 No. 2

source: @sjearthquakes Instagram

Josh: Wow, Matt! Record-setting 24-hour snow storms in the greater Boston area, literal snowshoes to get outside your house, 72-degree days in San Francisco, record-setting contracts around The League - looks like 2022 is starting with a bang before the early start of MLS’22!

Matt: I have to say, if you were waiting for off-season fireworks - or earthquakes - to happen after the Superdraft on January 11th, you were not disappointed. A lot of money flew around the league, and in terms of the 408 crew greater clarity was achieved. Maybe I’m still getting acquainted with San Jose, but the approach to assembling a team seems much more intentional for this campaign. Fresh contracts for JT and Beason are done, and the roster has filled out just in time for the beginning of the season. You mentioned our record-setting snowfall - we’re also finishing out a weekend when a 60 degrees and sunny Saturday was followed by a Sunday when it literally snowed ALL day with a high of 30. I’m seriously ready for soccer season and tired of people quoting Mark Twain.

Josh: So funny how everyone reclaims that quote “…just wait a few minutes.” Even though this year starts early, soccer is a true harbinger of Spring and thawing out. For the news, we could start with the newest and work our way backward, if you like? Shawlee’s promotion into the President’s office, Monteiro is here from Philly, and 4 More Years! 4 More Years! - the Cade Cowell contract is a big deal. Like I said in December, I have a hard time following the ongoing, international, cross-league loans and contracts, but seeing a Homegrown, All-Star, 18-year-old spending their first five years in pro soccer with the Quakes is exciting!

Matt: I was definitely glad to see the Quakes invest in him. I’m hoping the offseason and his time with the USMNT has been fruitful as well. And on the clarity front, signing Ousseni Bouda is a decisive move on the same level. It looks like Leitch’s approach is to develop an exciting offensive young core to complement a more complete defense, solid striker and attacking midfield. You have to include Monteiro in that picture - a great late offseason move. I think the Quakes just might have a team. And if they’re not careful, they could end up with a good one.

Josh: Okay, my turn for a roster overview. Here’s where the team stands as of this posting, per the Quakes’ website:

  • Keepers: JT, obviously, Matt Bersano’s back…

Matt: You called that one, we’ve got the receipts!

Josh: Woohoo! …and Emi Ochoa is still listed as unavailable.

  • Defenders: Nathan, Marcus López, Casey Walls, Beason, we know; plus Calvo, John Martin, and Oskar Aegren.

  • Midfield: 17 of the Roster spots, including Jackson and Remedi, obviously; familiar faces, but maybe new spots for Chofis, Cowell, Espinoza, Judson, Shea, Marie, Haji, Jack Skahan, George Asomani, Tommy Thompson; as well as new-to-SJ Gregus and Monteiro, Homegrown Will Richmond, and Nick Tsarkis (and Fuentes is still loaned out).

  • Up Front: Ebobisse’s first full season in blue & black, with Benji, and Generation Adidas Bouda.

Phew. What catches your eye on this list?

Matt: The goal is an easy place to start. I’ll be noticing how in sync the GK and defense (and midfield, for that matter) are in Game 1. The effect this has on resetting the offense is hard to overstate, and I’d love to see the Quakes give opposing teams less time to stand still for a moment and catch their collective breath. An early issue in 2021 that continued to plague the team was adequate play on the ends of the field, but not enough connected play forward through the middle.

Josh: Excellent call-back. Having another year of our Goalkeeper squad locked in to build on the consistency of 2021, and engaging with many of the same Fullbacks, should prove to be smart.

Matt: I’m also going to pay attention to Ochoa. He’s only 16 and the club doesn’t have a particular incentive to move him too quickly, and this year could be a year of major growth for him. I’m curious where he will log minutes, whether it’s in practice, on Quakes II, or on a U17/U18 team. Overall, my take on this year’s roster is that while there was a lot of player movement and adjustment to new teams and scenarios last year, the continuity from last year should allow for more players to have a clearer sense of their roles and potential from Day 1. We’ll know by mid-March if this is happening or not.

Josh: Agreed - the players who were key to the success that San Jose did have last season are back to build on and grow from what worked well. And in the business/recruiting side, we’ve got fresh legs and faces who are excited to be a part of a team that’s working together, as well as strong players with some experience who can challenge the process as appropriate to kick it up a notch or two.

Matt: This is definitely promising. Having 2 and 3 active options in motion is much better than single players taking their shots. Moments in 2021 where Remedi would cue up the potential assist to Chofis or Espinoza, or Cowell would have breakaway through the defense were great, but teams adjusted quickly, making the offense have to work much harder from that point on.

Josh: I don’t have all the historical data, but I think this is the first in a few years where all three Designated Player spots are full, and could be on the field at the same time. Espinoza and Chofis have proven to be an amazing combo in 2021 - Lead Goal Scorer and Lead Assist Maker. Adding major talent to the San Jose midfield is exciting! Fun fact: If you go looking for information about Jan Gregus, you’ll find videos of his time at MNUFC where he was part of the clobbering of San Jose in 2020 - I’m glad he’s on our side now!

Matt: Yes, If Gregus and Monteiro can spread out the defense and help the offense attack, quickly reset, and reload without leaving the final third, Leitch’s team building skills will rightfully be lauded.

Josh: At this point, new GM Leitch has to sit in his suite and hopefully watch the big moves he championed in the off season unfold! Does the GM also manage the away kit update that just went live? I’m stunned that the alternate jersey lacks so much color - big change from the 408 Flag of San Jose. I do appreciate the accents, the signoff, and definitely the recycled materials. The “matte silver/charcoal” or “pavement/asphalt” is growing on me. I look forward to your thoughts. Your Revolution will have both jerseys updated at least a little, thanks to the anniversary rebranding - and I’m personally on board with the tweaks for the home jersey. Sorry to hear the all-white Fort kit will be with you until ‘23.

Matt: Thank you for bringing up kits! While I think I like the blue of the Revs new “Liberty” kit, I need to see it in person. Just like with last year’s Americana jerseys, I probably don’t have a true sense of the coloring. It could be the use of the red accents that is making the blue look different to me, or maybe just a different color filter. Or my screen settings. IMHO, the Creator jersey, which may grow on me, was a strong start but about 4 yards of silver thread short. The silver shield and stars are great, but not quite enough. Silver Intermedia rectangles and/or shoulder stripes would immediately push it onto my “Purchase This Jersey” list. Right now the Pacific Northwest is winning the 2022 Best New Jersey Contest. Have you seen the new Portland secondary and Seattle home jerseys? They’re creative and striking! We need more of that in the Atlantic Northeast!

Josh: And down here in Cali too! The Carson team “unveiled” unexciting jerseys, but I bet your not-so-little ones like the LAFC 5th Season kit. NYCFC isn’t far from you and went hard on the away shirt, even though it looks like a Mets soccer jersey.

Matt: I’m not ready to talk about New York teams yet - maybe in another month. On the topic of color-free jerseys, I read somewhere that all-white or all-black jerseys are flying off the racks right now, and if that’s the case I’m not going to hold it against anyone. At least last year’s Quakes First Star kit was a strong follow up to the 2019 home jersey, and I’m looking forward to seeing that as they take on the Red Bulls on February 26/Saturday.

Josh: I know PayPal Park will be Blue & Black and energized to make sure the Red Bulls do not feel at home! I feel like all of the player movement just confirms for me that it’s anyone’s season - and that this year, we’ll see some PostSeason soccer in San Jose!

Matt: The Quakes kick off an hour and a half earlier than Revs vs Portland, so I’ll be cheering on the boys in blue come Saturday. My Opening Day Starting XI prediction: Marcinkowksi (GK), Nathan, Judson, Remedi, Salinas, López, Gregus, Chofis, Espinoza, Ebobisse, Kikanovic. On the bench: Cowell, Marie, Skahan, Bersano, Beason, Haji, Monteiro. For the opener I see Cowell as an early sub and Monteiro not starting due to a lack of practice time with the team at this point. I think they should start with a 3-4-2-1 or 4-3-2-1 formation, depending on how things looked during their closed to the public preseason games.

Josh: They finished the season with six in the midfield, and Ebobisse grabbing a hat trick against Sacramento - so I’m banking on JT in the box, JEbo up front, maybe Shea has the Captain’s armband, and the rest will be a surprise. I’d love to start the season with 3 points, wherever the formation falls. And for the first time in 2022 - out to the field at PayPal Park: VAMOS SJ!!

Likelihood of a New England - San Jose Championship Game? Both 0% and 100% all at once! It’s Schrödinger’s Soccer!

Quakes on Both Coasts twitter: @QuakesCoasts

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