SAN JOSE, Calif. — With an influx of international signings this offseason, the San Jose Earthquakes approached the March 1 MLS roster compliance date in danger of exceeding their eight available International roster slots. But just before the deadline passed, general manager Jesse Fioranelli made sure there would be no issues ahead of the season opener.
In a decision agreed to by both parties, the Earthquakes and defender Joel Qwiberg parted ways. The Colombian born player counted as an international player, one of ten on the roster at the beginning of preseason camp, and when Valeri “Vako” Qazaishvili received his U.S. Green Card in late January, leaving the Quakes one over the limit, Qwiberg was the odd man out.
San Jose exercised its one annual buyout of a guaranteed contract as allowed by MLS rules to clear Qwiberg, who earned $167,999.96 per season according to figures released by the MLS Players Association, from the team’s 2019 roster, ensuring the club would be roster compliant to start the season.
“We were able to come to a mutual agreement with Joel that allows him to pursue a new opportunity,” Fioranelli said in a statement. “We wish him and his family nothing but the best of luck moving forward.”
Qwiberg was signed by the Earthquakes in December 2017 and made five starts for the team last season. The 26 year old defender also spent time with San Jose’s USL Championship affiliate Reno 1868 FC, but it was clear he was not the left back the Quakes needed moving forward. Qwiberg is now free to sign with another team in MLS or be loaned or transferred outside the league.
With Qwiberg gone, the Earthquakes began the season with 29 players on their roster, one below the maximum allowed, with all eight of their available international player slots accounted for. Danny Hoesen, who Pro Soccer USA reported last month was working on securing his Green Card, is still waiting for his paperwork to be completed. The Quakes leading scorer and team MVP for the 2018 season missed more than two weeks of preseason during the process and, as a result, was relegated to the bench for the opener against the Montreal Impact.
Once the delay is over and Hoesen secures his Green Card, it will open up an international player slot on the roster. Fioranelli would then have added flexibility in adding another player to the team, now or in the summer transfer window. San Jose has two Designated Players in the squad — Vako and Chris Wondolowski — leaving room for one more should the club decide to pursue that option.
Fioranelli may instead elect to sign another TAM-level player in the summer, like he did with defender Guram Kashia in 2018, using allocated money resources to lessen the hit on the team’s salary cap. The 2019 MLS salary budget limit, which applies to the top-20 earners on the roster, is $4,240,000, with Designated Players counting for $530,000 each against the cap.
Another option for the open international player slot is for the Earthquakes to sign their 2019 MLS Superdraft second round selection Sergio Rivas. The midfielder, who was born in Mexico and immigrated to the U.S. as a child, has DACA status and attended college at Seattle University. He would count as an international player if signed to an MLS contract and would require a work permit, complicating his situation. His status prevented him from joining the rest of the Quakes during their preseason training camp in Cancun.
Back in early 2011, the Quakes faced a similar situation with Rafael Baca, a Mexican-born player invited to try out with the team after going undrafted. This was before then president Barack Obama signed an executive order establishing DACA in 2012, and the midfielder had to leave the U.S. and return to Mexico to complete his Visa process, not knowing whether he would be allowed back in. It eventually worked out for Baca as he signed as an international player in July 2011 and played two-plus years in San Jose before being transferred to Cruz Azul of Mexico’s Liga MX.
Looking at the current roster, the Earthquakes count six Homegrown Players, including their latest Academy signing 15-year-old Cade Cowell, among the 29 total players on the team. For all but Nick Lima, who signed a new multi-year contract last summer that propelled him into the top-20 earners on the squad, their contracts don’t count against the $4,240,000 salary cap. The same goes for the two Generation Adidas signings on the roster, Siad Haji and Jackson Yueill.
One curiosity in the present roster is the inclusion of four goalkeepers, including newcomer and opening night starter Daniel Vega. Most MLS teams, including San Jose in past seasons, carry three goalkeepers on their rosters. The Earthquakes are expected to send one or more of their younger ‘keepers — JT Marcinkowski and Matt Bersano are likely candidates — on short-term loans to their USL affiliate Reno so they can continue to earn playing minutes. Reno’s USL regular season begins March 9.
San Jose Earthquakes 2019 Roster (as of March 1)
Senior Roster (Spots 1-20 count towards $4,240,000 salary cap)
1 Affolter, Francois
2 Bersano, Matt
3 Calvillo, Eric
4 Cummings, Harold (INTL)
5 Eriksson, Magnus (INTL)
6 Espinoza, Cristian (INTL)
7 Felipe, Luis
8 Godoy, Anibal
9 Hoesen, Danny (INTL)
10 Jungwirth, Florian
11 Kashia, Guram (INTL)
12 Lima, Nicholas (HG)
13 Lopez, Marcos (INTL)
14 Qazaishivili, Valeri (DP)
15 Salinas, Shea
16 Silva Tavares, Judson (INTL)
17 Tarbell, Andrew
18 Vega, Daniel (INTL)
19 Wondolowski, Chris (DP)
Supplemental Roster (Spots 21-24)
21 Haji, Mohamed (GA)
22 Ockford, Jimmy
23 Thompson, Thomas (HG)
24 Yueill, Jackson (GA)
Reserve Roster (Spots 25-30)
25 Akanyirige, Jacob (HG)
26 Fuentes, Gilbert (HG)
27 Marie, Paul
28 Partida, Kevin
29 Marcinkowski, JT (HG)
30 Cowell, Cade (HG)
Key: INTL = Occupies an international player slot; DP = Designated Player; HG = Homegrown Player; GA = Generation Adidas signing