SAN JOSE, Calif. — When Jesse Fioranelli was named as general manager of the San Jose Earthquakes he outlined a vision for improving a team that had not tasted the MLS playoffs since 2012. Step one was to bring in reinforcements using Targeted Allocation Money to bolster the roster to start the season. Step two was to wait until the summer to bring in a significant Designated Player signing.
The first part of that plan has worked out well for the Quakes, as January signings Jahmir Hyka, Florian Jungwirth, Marco Urena, and Danny Hoesen have made significant contributions over the season’s first 15 games. But there is still work to be done, as the team is sitting in the middle of the pack in a congested Western Conference, tied for sixth with the Seattle Sounders, and needing a boost in the standings.
To take the team forward and achieve its goal of making the postseason, Fioranelli moved ahead with the second part of the plan even before the start of the season, taking full advantage of his connections within the soccer scouting community to find the difference maker the Quakes desperately need, not just now, but for seasons to come.
“We’re in a very good spot right now,” Fioranelli told reporters on Tuesday. “We have spent the last four months looking at hundreds of players across many positions on the field. We identified already a couple of months ago the profile of the type of player we wanted to find. No we are at the point that we are excited because we are not far from announcing the acquisition by the end of June.”
The MLS secondary transfer window for adding new players to the roster will open on July 10, so the Quakes will need to wait until then to see their new player take the field. However, he is eligible to train with the club as soon as the signing is completed, giving him plenty of time to build chemistry with the current Quakes and be ready for San Jose’s away game at the New York Red Bulls on July 19.
“He is a player that really wants to come here,” said Fioranelli. He is under 28 [years of age], a players that will be able to excite the people and carry the weight connecting the midfield to the attack.
“For us, it is not really about the name, it is about the quality of the player that will come. We have come down to the point, we have a good gut feeling about that player.”
Given that the new player is part of Fioranelli’s master plan, he is not expected to bring a skill set that is not already compatible with what the Earthquakes are already building. The GM said, even during preseason, that he was not interested in overpaying for a big-name soccer star. He has stated that his priority is to infuse talent into the roster, not blow it up completely.
“It is aligned with where we want to go as a team,” said Fioranelli. “It is going to be a breath of fresh air because the player we are looking at is versatile and exciting. We want to build a strong team, and that’s why it takes quality players, not just big names.”
The somewhat anonymous January signings have certainly made an impact, with Hyka netting important goals and Jungwirth anchoring the defensive back four. Fioranelli is seeking another signing that will fit in with those newcomers, as well as stalwarts like Chris Wondolowski, Anibal Godoy, and Victor Bernardez, as his summer splash.
“No, I don’t think that any player will make or break a season,” Fioranelli reiterated. “All I can tell you is that this player will raise the bar inside our attacking game. He will be a valuable part in the collective because, at the end of the day, it is really about the 14 players that play.
“We need to have an even stronger game on the collective basis, so this player has to fit in. And not only fit in, he has to elevate the game and raise the bar without being the only difference maker on the field.
“Just like Hyka and Florian did. Hoesen is coming around and Urna is there through thick and thin for the team. From an approach point of view, nobody has disappointed, and I feel good about it. We wanted guys to come in here and fight for the jersey, to fight for the playoffs.
“The player that comes should have the same type of impact as the the players we signed in January. Yes, he might be able to bring excitement and excite the people in the this stadium — that’s what we are about as well — but we want to outnumber our opponents by the way that we think on the field.”
Fioranelli made it clear that the newest impact player signing will be younger, but he did loosen the criteria that he must speak English. All four January signings found the transition to playing in MLS and the United States was made smooth by not having a language barrier. Communication can be built among players, especially through the common language of soccer, and the Quakes summer signing will lead through his inclusive play.
“It’s not about that one player that makes a difference,” said Fioranelli. “It’s really about making sure that our team goes out there and brings the courage to take this to the end. Our goal is the playoffs.
“So we looked at players that are hungry to want to take this opportunity. The primary concern was to see that sparkle in the face and the eyes, and the players we are looking at right now are sparkling.”