The San Jose Earthquakes continued to make history this week when they announced that midfielder Gilbert Fuentes was signed to a multi-year Homegrown Player contract. At 15 years old, Fuentes becomes the youngest-ever signing by San Jose, besting 16-year-old defender Jacob Akanyirige, who signed with the Quakes last month, for that honor.
“Signing Gilbert to a Homegrown contract was a priority for us and I would like to thank the Fuentes family, agent Rob Moore, MLS, and our entire staff in the youth development area for their commitment to get this done,” said Earthquakes general manager Jesse Fioranelli in a club statement. “At just 15 years old, he has quickly separated himself from his peers thanks to a strong technical ability and high soccer IQ, which has garnered the attention of the U.S. Soccer Federation.”
Both Fuentes and Akanyirige were standouts in the Earthquakes Academy system, playing above their age level in that time, and mark the fourth and fifth Homegrown Player signings in the club’s history.
”We wanted to create a support system and mentoring program around him and Jacob that allows them to be welcomed and challenged for years to come,” added Fioranelli, “whether it be socially, scholastically, physically or mentally by having them join the First Team squad. We are confident that the more veteran players and staff in our locker room will provide the ideal environment for them to grow to their full potential.”
Fuentes joined the Earthquakes as part of their preseason training camp earlier in the day, while Akanyirige has been practicing with group since the start of the year. Both players held their own against teammates nearly twice their age in scrimmage drills throughout the session.
Fuentes, like Akanyirige before him, joins the first team directly from the Quakes U-19 Academy team. The Tracy, California native has amassed 3 goals in 8 games so far this season in his role playing primarily as a central box-to-box midfielder. Last November, Fuentes was among 24 players called to the U.S. U-17 men’s national team for the 2017 Men’s Nike International Friendlies. Earlier in the year, he represented the U.S. at the CONCACAF U-15 Championship, where they reached the final.
Fioranelli indicated earlier this week that the bulk of the first-team roster had been assembled ahead of the 2018 MLS season, but he did promise a “small little surprise” while on The Soccer Hour, the club’s weekly radio show. That surprise roster addition turned out to be Fuentes, who website TopDrawerSoccer.com rates as the top midfielder in the nation in his age group. The effort to sign the teenager has been months in the making, as the Quakes and agent Rob Moore, who also represents U.S. players Christian Pulisic and Haji Wright, finalized the details over the last few months.
In addition to signing Fuentes and Akanyirige as Homegrown Players this off-season, San Jose also added U.S. U-20 men’s national team goalkeeper JT Marcinkowski via the same mechanism. The trio joins current first-team Homegrowns Tommy Thompson and Nick Lima as the five member class of Earthquakes players that took the Academy pathway to turning professional.
Weight: 140 lbs.
Born: Feb. 21, 2002
Hometown: Tracy, Calif.
Last Club: Quakes Academy U-19
Roster Designation: Domestic (Homegrown)