QUAKES ON BOTH COAST, Vol. 1 No. 15
Source: @sjearthquakes Twitter
Matt: What a ride. The Quakes season has come to close with the full menu: a disheartening loss, a thrilling win, an uninspired draw, and an inspiring final goal in Wondo’s last game as a Quake. Wondo will be blue and black forever, but how is Quakes Nation (different from Quakes Nathan) doing? Just blue?
Josh: I actually chuckled at Quakes Nathan. Blue for sure - I know the players and everyone wanted to give Wondo and the 20th Anniversary season a long last run. I’d say more about #8, but I can’t say it better than Wondo’s Dad did on his blog. Even in the season finish, there were some highlights and reasons to stay (stealing from our Bay Area friends) SJ Faithful.
Matt: Let’s spare readers (and ourselves) the painful blow-by-blow and talk about what positives the team and the fans can take away. I’ll go first -- this team still had life in it in Salt Lake! With Cowell and Wondo scoring, it was a bookending of the past and future (I hope) offensive San Jose stars. And the team withstood a furious rally by Salt Lake, whose never say die attitude won them their next and final game and a spot in the postseason against none other than SKC.
Josh: I’m so glad the Quakes put on a good show against RSL. And I’m also okay with RSL bumping the SoCal teams from the Postseason. In the Quakes last game, we got a little future/past as well, where Vega was in the Keeper’s Box after a year of JT showing he earned the starting gloves. It is important to have depth back there, and to know that there is a secure and strong Keeper crew if next season demands it.
Matt: Speaking of next season, here’s how the team fared on the Quake-O-Meter this past season:
Let’s start with the back line, where, according to the Quake-O-Meter, the team needed the most help. The defense overall improved this year, though you can see the huge downward spike in September - partly due to several yellow card suspensions. Signing Nathan was a great move, and Marcos López and Tanner Beason made an impact and further established themselves as contributors. López can do good work all over the pitch, and his flexibility can help him stay on the field when the Quakes need to adjust their strategy game to game. In my mind a trio of Nathan, Remedi, and Judson solidified this year. Moving forward, I’d like to see their soccer and defensive minds continue to develop chemistry - not yellow cards - on the field.
Josh: Agreed - and the next line that seemed to scrape the bottom of our ratings was the Midfield. The regular Captain, Jackson Yeuill, had a couple great goals, and he was rock solid when supporting the Defense. He only seemed to struggle in the middle… where his most common starting position is. I think there is room for flex around midfield. Maybe Almeyda should scrimmage Remedi and Marcos López around the half line and see how the field moves.
Matt: I think Yeuill can be a good contributor, and we saw that in the last game of the season when he smartly started the sequence that led to the Wondo assist. I’m not sure of his role on the Quakes moving forward. He played many different positions in the second half of the season. Was that to let other players find their own roles? To find the best fit for Yeuill in Blue and Black moving forward? Time will tell. I wouldn’t be surprised if they don’t extend Abecasis, and they also have a decision to make with Skahan. Skahan’s obviously the bargain with greater potential upside at this point.
Josh: Strategy-wise and based on the line, I think the Quakes in 2022 need to build a two-striker offense. Yes, Benji was great, Cowell is so fast, if Salinas or Espinoza brought the ball up the wings, awesome. But so many times, the single striker got a nice lead pass and then would be all alone in the last 18 yards with no support or someone to pass to. And I would love to see that be Cowell and Ebobisse.
Matt: There is so much potential there. I think a quartet of Cowell, Ebobisse, Espinoza, and Kikanovic would keep a defense very busy. Figuring out the best offensive configurations and roles for those four is a recipe for success in my book. It’s easy to envision a sequence where Espinoza and Kikanovic bring the ball up the wing (which they seem to have the ability to do consistently), and Cowell and Ebobisse are there to finish. That could be fantastic!
Josh: In the last part of the season, the Coaches certainly showed that SJ74 has a strong offensive presence and we’ll see who fills the roster spot as Wondo leaves the field and heads into the office. We just learned that Wondo will be Special Assistant to newly-announced GM Chris Leitch. Leitch has been instrumental in the Quakes Homegrown program, which has brought in Tommy, JT, and Cade. He was part of bringing Jeremy Ebobisse to San Jose. I’m excited for an MLS insider, who isn’t afraid to recruit and spend money, in the GM role, and I’m going to guess that means we see Coach Almeyda return for 2022, maybe 2023? And Wondo by his side?! Good things for 2022.
Matt: I’ll put my money on Almeyda staying. My gut feeling as I watched the second half of the season was that there was a quiet agreement that took pressure off of Almeyda to win at all costs this season and to know that he would have a genuine partner to put a more successful team together for the 2022 campaign.
Josh: It’s true - with Leitch as interim GM, the Quakes had that hot streak in the Summer. However, because of how the season ended, for the next couple of weeks I’ll be sporting my Revolution antique R and hopefully cheering for a great postseason for your team! Defend the Fort! Bring the Fight! (How am I doing so far?)
Matt: I like it! Don’t forget “Proudly not another FC!” I’m hoping not only for the first Revs MLS Cup win, but for a chance to buy one more Crayola Flag Revs jersey...with a star on it! Go Revs, and Vamos SJ!
Josh: Nicely done! And to wrap up - my season highlight has been the conversations we have here - Thank you! And thanks to MLSNow Podcast for having us. Hopefully both of our readers will want us to continue in the off season and continue sharing our thoughts in the 2022 Season!
Rating on the Quake-o-meter Scale for Games 32-34 (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: Not happening. Maybe next year!
Twitter: @massmatt_matt @joshuaglenn