Quakes Academy: Mid-Season Review
The San Jose Earthquakes academy teams enter their winter break with the U18s in 6th place in the Northwestern Division, while the U16s enter the break at 5th place. The winter break marks a half-way point through the 2015-2016 USSDA academy season.
The leading goal scorers for the U18s so far are:
George Korpontinos – 5
Jonathan Navarro – 4
David Chavez – 3
Rudy Castro – 3
The leading goal scorers for the U16s so far are:
Arda Bulut – 14
Adolfo Trujillo – 4
Amado Lozano – 3
It’s been an eventful first season under Coach Paul Holocher as the teams have had many ups and downs through the first half of the season. The U18s started off the season on fire, boasting a (6-2-1) record, but are currently on a 6 game losing streak. The U16s season has been just as much of a roller-coaster ride with a (8-7-0) record.
New Coach and System
There’s no doubting that the hiring of Paul Holocher was an enormously important step in the right direction for the San Jose Earthquakes youth system, but like any head coaching change, there’s an adjustment period. The change in tactics and style of play from the Marquis White and Steve Wondolowski days to the new era of Holocher is probably one of the most drastic changes you could make stylistically. White and Wondo were your prototypical 4-4-2 kind of coaches, and they led their teams to some amazing heights for such a young academy. They have also helped develop some great talent along the way, but that kind of play (although great for winning) is not necessarily the best way to fully develop quality players that have a better chance at taking the next step to the pro level in my opinion. For me, the prototypical English 4-4-2 is a great system for keeping great defensive shape and also getting quality counter-attacking chances in the attacking third, but the issue I have with it at the youth level (beyond U12) is that it makes your game more of a team unit kind of game, rather than a system like the 4-3-3, which is less about the unit moving as one and more about dynamic creativity and movement, which in turn creates smarter and more creative players in my opinion.
Holocher is a student of the game. After a trip to Barcelona to observe Pep Guardiola and Barca’s youth teams years ago, Holocher fell in love with that Barca style of play and is working hard to change the culture of our youth system to buy into this possession based style. Of course, like with any drastic system change, it takes time and we are seeing the results of the games reflect how hard it is to make this change and win games right away. What we have to remember is that winning is not the main objective of the academy, the main objective is to develop future pros for the first team, and you don’t have to win the DA cup to do so. Yes winning is fun and can reflect a good team’s success, but it’s not the most important thing. That’s why fans should not worry too much about the results so far. That being said, with more time under Holocher and the new system, the team will adapt to it more and more. Eventually, it will be instilled in all of our teams and players throughout the entire youth system. A possession oriented game with emphases on ball movement and high soccer IQ is going to lead to much greater development of players than any other style of play and better results will come once the players are fully bought in and comfortable in the system.
I’ve been to quite a few games this year and have been very impressed with the style of play that has been hyped up so much. The ball movement is patient and effective. It’s a very visually appealing style of soccer. Not to toot my own horn or anything, but like I noted in my initial Holocher academy piece, the issue that the teams are having is when they go up against very compact teams with rigorous defensive effort/shape. Like we just saw in the NCAA College Cup championship, the possession oriented team in Clemson was completely shut down by the relentless work rate and shape of Stanford. That’s the 4-3-3’s kryptonite for me. Against weaker/average teams, the possession is more effective because it’s easier to break down weaker teams obviously, but when good teams have two lines of 4, with 10 or 11 guys behind the ball, there’s very little space in the final third and possession oriented teams find themselves just passing the ball around the back line and CDM. What makes Barca so effective, even against strong defensive teams, is that they have uber-dynamic players that can dribble through defenses with flashes of brilliance. We have those kinds of players with the academy, but sometimes they struggle to create good chances in the final third. A perfect example of this is when we played against Sacramento Republic. The game had a fun atmosphere with about 50+ San Jose Ultras taking over the stadium; the Sac team did their scouting and defended with 11 guys behind the ball, working their tails off to close off any potential chances from developing. The majority of the possession (and the game for that matter) was dominated by the Quakes, but that possession wasn’t effective/dynamic possession. There was a lot of passing around the back four and wingers. What the team needs to do in my opinion to break down good defenses is take more risks. They seem so worried about turning the ball over that they aren’t willing to take risks to create a good chance. Better off the ball runs and more risky one v one dribbling is what I believe the team needs to work on to beat the good teams and I’m sure Holocher and the rest of the staff are emphasizing this to the kids. When they go up against other teams that are looking to attack and possess, the games are really fun and open, that’s when the team thrives, but in big games when the defenses are tighter, the boys need to be more dynamic in my opinion. In the 0-1 loss the Sacramento, the Republic bunkered and looked for quick counters and long balls. That’s what they did until they eventually got a goal on their only chance of the game.
Some exciting names to remember would have to be fullback David Chavez for the U18s and forward Arda Bulut for the U16s. Chavez can play right or left fullback and looks like a man amongst boys on the field. The coaching staff has moved him to left back which is a smart move in my opinion because we have some good right-back prospects in college and in the system in general, but virtually no top left-back prospects. Anyone who follows the first team knows that that left-back is a major area of need for the club.
Bulut is a classic 9 with a nose for goal. Great hold up play and passing, but most importantly, the Stanford commit is smart around the goal area and finds himself in the right spot to score goals. His finishing is impressive.
The Quakes U14s are always a dominant force and this years team under new head coach Andre Luiz Moreira is no different. The U14s boast a (10-2-1), led by top goal scorers Mario Anaya Jr (13 goals) and Mario Rocha (11 goals).
Quakes In College
Quakes academy product Amir Bashti and Stanford men’s soccer won the NCAA College Cup this past weekend. Bashti is the first Quakes product to do so. Bashti finished his freshman season with 4 goals and 2 assists. Two of which were big goals against Santa Clara University in the 2nd round of the NCAA tournament.