SAN JOSE, Calif. — The San Jose Earthquakes announced a flurry of moves within the technical staff of the organization today, with the most significant action signing general manager Jesse Fioranelli to a new multi-year contract.
Fioranelli joined the Quakes three years ago following a successful spell as an executive with Serie A sides Lazio and Roma. He has overseen a transformation in the strategy by which San Jose operates, both in its academy and in its senior team, emphasizing a build-from-within approach that is slowly gaining traction. Fioranelli’s most important action as GM was to hire Matias Almeyda, the 2018 Concacaf Manager of the Year, as head coach.
“I’m really excited to continue being part of this storied club,” Fioranelli said in a club statement. “I’m fortunate to be surrounded by a hard-working staff that truly cares about the organization from the first team down to the academy. With Matias as a great partner on the technical side, we want to continue to build off the growth we saw in 2019, not just with the first team but across the entire technical side of the club all the way through the youth.”
The Earthquakes have had uneven results in Fioranelli’s first three years as GM, making the playoffs in 2017 but slipping to a historic low the following season. With Almeyda aboard in 2019, coaching a roster that was virtually unchanged from the year before, the Quakes were in contention for a playoff berth up until the last day of the season. The expectations will be elevated in 2020, with making the postseason a priority.
“Over these past three years, we have learned a lot about ourselves, the kind of club culture we want to cultivate and the standard we expect from ourselves,” Fioranelli said. “Together, we want to serve our fans and our community in a way that makes them proud about the club we all love.”
San Jose has invested significantly in its technical staff since Fioranelli’s arrival, and the organization moved to provide the GM some stability in his charges. Chris Leitch, one of the longest serving members of the club having featured as a player from 2009-11 and a number of other roles following his retirement, was rewarded with a new multi-year contract as technical director. Head scout Bruno Costa and director of methodology Alex Covelo have also signed new deals to remain in San Jose. All will continue to report to Fioranelli as he continues his efforts to provide the Earthquakes with a stable approach to winning at all levels.
“We are excited to keep Jesse with the club after our promising 2019 season,” Earthquakes owner John Fisher said in a club statement. “We made a lot of steps in the right direction and are looking forward to 2020.”
Fioranelli has made few moves to expand the first team roster this offseason, with the marquee signings bringing back team captain and MLS goal scoring leader Chris Wondolowski for one more season and acquiring Cristian Espinoza and Judson on permanent transfers following their successful loan spells with the Quakes in 2019. The GM did add a pair of Homegrown Players in goalkeeper Emi Ochoa and defender Casey Walls, as well as MLS SuperDraft pick defender Tanner Beason, but none of the trio is expected to be an impact player. The Earthquakes open their 2020 campaign on February 29 against Toronto FC, so there is still time for Fioranelli to make additional moves to improve the roster.
Earthquakes front office undergoes changes
While the technical staff has remaining unchanged this offseason, the Quakes front office saw a significant departure as Tom Fox stepped down from his role as team president after two and a half years in charge. Fox had previously worked with Aston Villa before joining San Jose. He told the San Jose Mercury News earlier this week that he left the club to pursue new career opportunities.
“I was getting restless and I wanted to do something else,” Fox said.
Under his guidance, the Earthquakes did see an emphasis on building the club’s infrastructure, both in support of the technical side and the front office. However, the team failed to land a new jersey sponsor following the end of its deal with Sutter Health, and the stadium, once named by Avaya under a long-term contract, is without a sponsor in 2020 following the tech company’s bankruptcy filing in 2017.
The Earthquakes will not replace Fox as team president as it continues its efforts to secure jersey and stadium sponsorship. Instead, Fox’s duties have been divided among several club executives on the business side of the organization, including Chief Operating Officer Jared Shawlee, Executive Vice President Jed Mettee and Vice President of Strategy Ian Anderson.
“We would also like to thank Tom Fox for all his work the past two and a half years with the club,” Fisher said. “With Tom’s departure, we have built out a new leadership team at the club that we are very confident in. They will work very closely with our board as we head into the 2020 season.”