Jackson Yueill Faces a Crossroads Following International Break

Jackson Yueill (Photo by John Todd/ISI Photos/Getty Images)
Jackson Yueill (Photo by John Todd/ISI Photos/Getty Images) /

What was a great international break for the United States Men’s National Team was a roller coaster for Jackson Yueill. Now, with the MLS season set to resume, Yueill faces a crossroads moment for his young career,

From the high of starting against Honduras in the CONCACAF Nations League Semifinal to the low of being arguably the worst performer for the USMNT in that game (which resulted in him being dropped against Mexico), Jackson Yueill returns to the San Jose Earthquakes in desperate need of a spark and points, both of which he can provide. This is a crossroads for his club and his career, so what can we expect from him going forward?

Without Yueill, the San Jose Earthquakes resorted to a central midfield partnership of Eric Remedi and Judson which was more effective than it was riveting soccer. That was not the issue, despite Jackson Yueill certainly starting ahead of Remedi when Matías Almeyda has every Quakes player available.

The front four is more of a jigsaw puzzle, where any of Chris Wondolowski, Cade Cowell, Andy Rios, Cristian Espinoza, Chofis López, Carlos Fierro, and potentially Yueill himself (as a center attacking midfielder, or the traditional “Number 10” role) are in contention of starting in those four spots. To add to the confusion, all of them except for Wondolowski can play in multiple positions and it’s not clear which role suits each player best.

Having played mostly as a deep-lying playmaker, Yueill is integral to Almeyda’s system both offensively and defensively. Against Honduras, Yueill struggled with the pressure he was faced against, which is not unlike common MLS scenarios. Many opposing managers have figured out that the best place to counter the man-marking system is to press the Quakes when they have the ball. The objective is to force a turnover and then get in behind, forcing the Earthquakes to commit another player to cover for who was beaten and create an opening elsewhere.

So far in the 2021 Major League Soccer season, the Earthquakes have yet to keep a clean sheet. In the last four games alone, their record is four losses with seven goals conceded and just one goal scored. This is where Jackson Yueill needs to step in, and in order to get the most out of him, Almeyda needs to find the right combination once again. As much as he hates the sometimes repetitive criticism, during his tenure, San Jose have either been hot or cold.

The defense and goalkeeper have not been up to par with their MLS counterparts, JT Marcinkowski, in particular, making more mistakes at this point of the season than he made the entirety of last season (keeping in mind he won his starting position over Daniel Vega mid-season). Jackson Yueill’s focus defensively has to be to make life easier for them with smart passes and decision-making. He will be afforded the freedom to roam forward while Judson will provide cover for the center backs. Yueill’s passing and chemistry with the wingers and attacking midfielder also needs to be there. Almeyda can help him out by sticking with the same lineup and positional assignments for the next few games. The biggest selection change that should happen beginning with a visit to Austin is starting Chris Wondolowski. He may be 38 years old, but if a team is starving for goals, you turn to the MLS all-time leading goalscorer for help. Not only will Yueill have a reliable target for his passes both on the ground and aerially, but if he takes a shot, there’s a good chance he forces a goalkeeper parry or defender block that Wondolowski can instinctively pounce on.

In terms of Jackson Yueill, his United States national team prospects are murky at best, doubtful at worst at this point.

There’s no writing off a 24-year-old talented player from consideration. That being said, international ambitions, as well as the CONCACAF Nations League, must be put on the backburner right now. 94 appearances into his San Jose Earthquakes career, Earthquakes fans still believe Jackson Yueill to be one of their best players and he still has the tools to turn this season around. If he can manage that, June won’t be the last time we see him with the national team. It might not happen in September, but sometime down the road. As much as fans who saw him play against Honduras dread the thought, it’s a good thing to have a pool as deep as possible. It’s sink or swim time for club and country.