Breaking down #SJvSEA: The fullback debate, Simon Dawkins, and a new CB duo?

Check out our player ratings to see how each player fared last Saturday night against Seattle.

The Shaun Francis Debate

Francis is not quite as bad as most Quakes fans make him out to be. He is very quick, his tackling is decent, and he can dribble a defender one-on-one every once in a while. His weaknesses however, often overshadow these strengths. He commits fouls often and gets caught out of position on occasion, but more importantly his poor passing and inability to keep the ball holds back the team. When Francis wins the ball in the defensive third, the ball usually either ends up out of bounds or at the feet of the opposing defense. As @SJEarthquakesBR pointed out on twitter, the fullback plays an important role in the build up of the attack. Francis had the most touches on the team against Seattle, but also the second worst pass completion percentage of 67.4%. Almost all of his completed passes are either backwards or sideways to one of the center backs. His missed passes are all long passes going forward, which really hurts the Quakes’ ability to keep possession, build up the attack, and start the counter.

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Nick Lima, on the other hand, was much better with a pass completion of 85.7%. This video demonstrates how important it is to have a better fullback. Lima’s pass leads to a counter attack that creates multiple chances for the Quakes. Francis is rarely able to complete those initial break out passes like that.

Additionally, he rarely pumps a good cross into the box. This is troubling because Chris Wondolowski is especially effective when the ball is crossed in on the counter attack. Wondolowski has a knack for finding space in the box, and having a more effective player at the left back position would certainly be beneficial, like in 2012 when the Quakes had Justin Morrow and Steven Beitashour. (Sorry for bringing that up again.)

Simon Dawkins had a poor outing

I spent most of last year defending Dawkins, saying that he was one of the Quakes’ best players on the pitch. He was on the team’s top 3 for key passes per game, and in reality was the only other player to contribute to score sheet other than Chris Wondolowski. He tallied 5 goals, and each one of those goals were game-changers for the Quakes. Dawkins earned the team a lot of points last year, even though the team as a whole was very below average.

Dawkins usually plays on the left wing, but on Saturday he played on the right side in the first half, and then switched back to the left in the second half. He played 65 minutes and had one golden opportunity on goal in the 15th minute, but could only manage a week shot that rolled wide left as the ball got caught up behind him. He had no key passes, none of his three shots were on goal, and he was dispossessed a team-high 4 times.

Where was Tommy Thompson?

Tommyy Thompson had a very good preseason, and has visibly improved his play from last year. However, against Seattle, Thompson did not see the pitch for the first time this season. Instead, Cordell Cato and Shea Salinas were subbed on when the Quakes needed a goal. Thompson has still yet to find the back of the net at the MLS level, and still has not recorded an assist either. He is averaging 1 key pass and 1 successful dribble per game this year. In 2016 he averaged 1.1 key passes and 0.6 successful dribbles per game. There is a lot of competition in the Quakes midfield this year, so I would expect Kinneaer to do a lot of rotation like this throughout the year.

Fatai Alashe’s new role at CB?

Overall, Alashe had a very good night. He did have a foul outside the box that led to the Seattle goal, but one could argue that he made the right call in fouling Lodeiro. Alashe may be a better CB partner for Bernardez than Jungwirth, and this would also allow Jungwirth to play his natural position at CM. A Jungwirth/Godoy midfield would also be a much better passing midfield than Alashe/Godoy. Alashe is tall, athletic, and a very good defender. Jungwirth, on the other hand, is not as tall and athletic, but a much better passer of the ball. This change would improve the Quakes’ possession, and also improve their ability to string passes together on the counter attack.

Summary

Overall, a 1-1 draw is probably a fair result for the match. The Quakes definitely had the better of the chances, but their finishing was not quite there today. Marcos Urena had his best game in a Quakes shirt, but fell short of the mark when it came to finishing the chances. He was definitely my Man of the Match, and I think his partnership with Wondo is developing nicely. He is not your prototypical #9, but his work rate is excellent and he does a great job of closing down and pressuring defenders. The Earthquakes have a rough stretch of games coming up – Friday at home against undefeated FC Dallas, and then three straight road games.

Anay Patel

I have been a lifelong Quakes fan, and founded Quakes Epicenter in November of 2014. I have been credentialed to cover the Quakes since the 2015 season, and currently serves as the lead editor of the website. Outside of the Quakes, I am currently a student at the University of Southern California studying Computer Science and Business Administration.

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