Despite an effort in which the Quakes demonstrated a high degree of commitment, a 2-1 loss to Montreal Impact served as an indication that further improvements are required in order to compete for a playoff spot this season.
- The initial goal from Eriksson showed the possibilities that exist in Almeyda’s system. Vako’s strength and determination to beat defenders in combination with a quick decision by Eriksson on receiving the ball to go to goal was a solid payback from the first 10 minutes of work.
- The man-marking system resulted in some odd visuals during the match – Cummings playing high up the pitch at times, Lima almost reprising his USMNT role by tracking into the central midfield, and the hole in the central midfield that led to Impact’s second goal.
- The movement of Lima forced Espinoza into 1v1 defending in the deep wing at times with the first goal resulting from a poor marking decision on Piatti that left Espinoza buckled. On the 74 Till Infinity podcast, the claim was made that Piatti was just too good in this situation – I disagree. Defending prioritizes delaying the attacker – a failure by Espinoza resulted in Piatti driving into the 6 yard box and hammering an unstoppable shot.
- The second goal appeared to be a misunderstanding between Eriksson and Wondo regarding responsibility for the center back coming forward. It appeared that Eriksson was pulled out of position by his attacker leaving Wondo responsible for the space. It was a great pass to beat the back line – but a defect of the man-marking system is that everyone needs to recognize who is marking whom and where.
- With the lead, Impact played compactly and looked for their chances on the break. The Quakes did a lot of good work in front of the opponent but never really solved the problem.
- On the Reddit board, some commenters noted an attempt by Eriksson to backheel a ball into a space that failed miserably. My take is that something special needed to happen in order for the Quakes to equalize – I’d rather see some ideas in front of goal than simply continuing to bomb crosses or barge through. A backheel – even a poor one – showed the kind of risk-taking that was necessary in the situation.
- The aggressive subs by Almeyda were welcome – especially compared to last season’s “sit on the one-zero loss” mentality. The sub of Thompson for Lima is always going to be controversial but it did create a new problem for Impact. I thought the combination of Salinas/Thompson on the right side in the pre-season game looked better but it is still too early to evaluate intent versus results.
Hypothetically, a strict man-marking system should be straightforward to break down – run players diagonally to carry defenders and create space, then exploit the space to run attackers in behind and gain a numerical advantage. Both goals occurred due to “cover” errors.
However, this is game 1 of a lengthy season. The players are still learning the roles and the coaches are learning the players and the league.
As an opponent, the style is unusual to play against and requires a continuous stream of decisions, all while under time pressure.
It will take a month or two to see how this all sorts out. For now, the players appear to be excited and willing to provide the energy required to make the system work. Talent remains a question – particularly in the final third – but this feels like the kind of team that can play the underdog card and surprise some people.