It’s been just under 48 hours since the Earthquakes ground-shaking announcement of the signing of former River Plate and Chivas savior Matias Almeyda as their new manager and I’m still feeling the aftershocks. After 3 managers in the last year and so far only 4 wins in the 2018 MLS campaign, it has been a tough season on Coleman Ave. Tough is about the most polite word I can come up for this season.
The rumors had been flying all weekend about who the Quakes had just signed to take over for the newly fired Mikael Stahre and understandably most were skeptical. As the weekend went along the rumors persisted and actually, became louder and more credible. They continued until Monday morning when the team sent out a hastily written email announcing a “major announcement” set for noon at Avaya Stadium (big shoutout to soccer journalist Joel Soria for getting the scoop of the year on this one). As a long-time Quakes supporter, I was skeptical about what this announcement could be and what made it so major. This email combined with the rumors over the weekend was enough for me to charge my Chromebook and audio recorder and head north to San Jose.
As I made the sunny drive up 101 I wondered if I let myself get my hopes up just to be let down by this organization yet again. After all, this is a team that loves to declare obscure technical partnerships as major news. To this day I don’t know what a cloud-enabled stadium is, I assume it is some kind of 21st-century weather protection system.
Those doubts quickly went away and turned into something I don’t remember feeling as a Quakes supporter, I think most people call it optimism. First I thought the feeling was the fact that I got dressed so quickly without eating breakfast but as I stood in the elevator going up to the Sky Lounge, where the press conference was to be held, I knew this moment was different.
A side note, the Sky Lounge is one of the new pockets of Avaya designed to squeeze as many Silicon Valley dollars as possible but this place is really breathtaking. The airport noise might not make the most ideal situation for a press conference but the backdrop more than makes up for it. For those unfortunate enough to have never visited Avaya let me paint a picture.
This area not only has an excellent view of the pitch being at one of the highest corners of the stadium but beyond this is are the runways of bustling San Jose International Airport followed by the golden hills of Mt. Hamilton towering about it all. A true Northern Calfornia spectacle.
Now back to the announcement.
The dream became a reality as I waited along with a throng of other reporters. This was actually a major announcement and by now we all knew what it as and all that was needed was the formality of bringing out “El Pelado” and having him talk to the arranged media.
As the latest plane came in to land at SJC the group we were all waiting for made their way to a fold-out table on the Sky Lounge. Out came team Executive Vice President Jed Mettee flanked by GM Jesse Fioranelli with Almeyda between the two. After an introduction, in excellent Spanish, by Jesse Fioranelli, the microphone was handed over to Almeyda.
Cue the shutter clicks.
Almeyda came out talking about how excited he was to be in San Jose but his calm demeanor hardly showed that emotion. When he was questioned about his move to MLS Almeyda did mention offers from places like China and Qatar but he stated that his desire to try something new was one of the things that drew him to the United States. Specifically, it was a pre-season trip to Orlando 5 years ago that intrigued Almeyda. That trip had Almeyda with an eye on MLS with no team in particular but a mysterious walk-by conversation between Fioranelli and Almeyda seems to have set the pieces in motion for this eventual signing with San Jose.
And that was it. No talk about a roster overhaul or a trainer shake-up. Almeyda talked with the humble confidence of a manager that has only known success. When asked about his philosophy on the pitch he wondered whether a truck driver or a groundskeeper had a philosophy to their craft.
He told the gathered that he followed a code called Bushido, derived from the ancient Japanese Samurai, and if they wanted to know him more they would have to learn its teachings.
I think I need to find a bookstore.