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San Jose Earthquakes GM Jesse Fioranelli says he’s prepared for MLS challenge

Lack of MLS experience does not deter new GM from taking on challenge

The Quakes “Dream Team”
Robert Jonas | Center Line Soccer

SAN JOSE, Calif. — With the newly installed field at Avaya Stadium as a backdrop, the San Jose Earthquakes officially introduced new general manager Jesse Fioranelli to the media and select Quakes supporters. And much as the brilliant green Kentucky bluegrass quickly gets set for the upcoming 2017 MLS season, so will Fioranelli have to adjust to his role as an international setting forth on an American soccer adventure.

“I have enormous respect for the opportunity and also the challenges that it presents,” said Fioranelli on taking on the Quakes technical leadership. “I think that is very important when you go into a job like this.”

Few coaches and executives from outside North America have had successful careers in MLS, but that did not deter team president Dave Kaval from handing the reigns of the Earthquakes GM role to an outsider. Kaval claimed to have reviewed 270 candidates to take over for John Doyle, who was fired at the end of last August, and Fioranelli had the resume to take on the challenges of a new MLS.

“When we looked at this position, we spent a fair number of months reviewing candidates and thinking about who we wanted in the role,” said Kaval. “We were looking out at the next 5-10 years at where the league is going, and we felt that to create a true world football club, we needed to invest in someone who can lead the technical side with that type of vision and could look beyond just North America.

“When we interviewed Jesse and looked at his background and all the amazing things he has accomplished at Lazio and Roma, as well as his background as an agent, we felt that he was the perfect fit for where the league is going.”

Fioranelli, who Kaval confirmed had agreed to a mulit-year contract, has never assumed a role with the responsibilities required of a general manager, but that lack of experience did not give the Italian pause in making the decision to leave Europe.

“It is a conscious decision I make to come to San Jose, and there are a number of reasons for that,” said Fioranellui. “First, I believe San Jose has a strong foundation to build on. MLS is getting more and more important, and especially in Europe there is much more awareness of the league. I want to give a new direction to a club that already has a solid foundation.”

He stated that his first goal was to listen to everyone already in the Quakes organization, as well as to reach out to stakeholders in the community. For many teams, the arrival of a new GM signals a housecleaning, but that action was not in the plans for Fioranelli. Kaval agreed that the plan was to move forward and improve on the current state of the team.

“We need a vision on the soccer side, and we need to make the necessary investments in people to make that vision a reality,” said Kaval. “With this ‘Dream Team’ that we have assembled here with Jesse, with Chris, with Dom, we can achieve that in a real way.”

Chris Leitch, who served as interim GM since the firing of Doyle and was a finalist for the job eventually offered to Fioranelli, returns to his role as Technical Director. Dominic Kinnear, entering his third season back at the head coaching position with the Quakes, retains the responsibilities he has had for the past two years. Fioranelli will rely on both of the them to ease his transition to MLS.

“He’ll need to lean on Chris a little bit more because the information for a general manager -- salary cap, payroll, TAM, GAM, all the things he probably hasn’t experienced -- are very important,” said Kinnear. “I’m sure he’s done his homework before he came here on the roster we have, so we’ll put our heads together to see what we can do to round out the roster with the start of the preseason.”

With less than two weeks until the opening of preseason camp, the job might look daunting, especially as he has not been active in any offseason recruitment efforts. But he doesn’t plan to jump in and stir things up from the onset, and he remained confident that his status as an outsider will not hamper his ability to operate successfully.

“It will take me a little time to get to know the new environment that I am in, so I ask for your patience,” said Fioranelli. “I do, however, believe that the size of the field in the U.S. is the same as it is in Italy, as it is in Germany, as it is in England. I am very curious as to the unique challenges of MLS, but I know quite a bit playing four years in Baltimore and have followed MLS for a long period of time. I am excited for the challenge.”