For sixty minutes on Friday night, I felt like a pretty smart soccer writer. I, like other MLS teams this season, foolishly thought I had the Quakes figured out and like those teams before me I was left confused and humbled.
When the Quakes signed Matias Almeyda last year, everyone knew the Argentine was going to have a multi-year project in front of him but when the season started people were questioning whether “El Pelado’s” magic had run out or were the Quakes too far gone that they needed a complete overhaul from the top down.
Those early results were troubling, but anyone that had been paying attention the Quakes for several years would immediately recognize that the style of soccer the team was playing was unlike anything they had ever done. The team was being creative and having fun, and it was only a matter of time before they figured out how to play within Almeyda’s system and found success on the pitch. Still, I had a major concern.
In Almeyda’s style of “todos corren, todos juegan” did the Quakes players have the fitness to keep up all the way to October. If everybody is running and playing week after week at some point someone is going to need a break and would this break any momentum or chemistry the team had built? I personally didn’t think this roster could physically keep up all season in this new system and figured this international break was going to big a test of the roster depth. It looked like the Quakes were going to prove me wrong until last nights Clasico in Carson.
For an hour, the Quakes looked like the more dangerous team, but they also looked tired. Beautiful runs turned into half-hearted shots on goal or were blocked before David Bingham had to make a play on the ball. I was sure this was the wall I had predicted.
After a stellar couple of months, it was time for the Quakes to come back to Earth I thought. No way that this roster that is almost identical to last seasons could win back-to-back Clasicos and think about competing for a playoff spot. The Quakes were playing the better game but were still losing, and shot-after-shot seemed always to find a Galaxy defender or Binghams gloves, but they never got frustrated. They just kept the pressure on both sides of the ball, and when they were on offense, they just keep shooting at Bingham’s goal eventually racking up a total of thirty-two shots, three of them goals.
In thirty minutes the Quakes showed the rest of the league and me that they are capable of going toe-to-toe with anybody no matter what lineup is on the pitch. Vako got his fifth goal of the season and is finally looking like the Designated Player Quakes fans were expecting. Danny Hoesen came on in the 62nd minute and two minutes later scored a goal of his own to keep up with Vako at five goals apiece.
The question now becomes, how high can this Quakes team go? They already look like a playoff squad and have beat some of the best teams in the league. I, for one, am done trying to predict their demise and just taking a seat to enjoy the ride while it lasts.