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San Jose Earthquakes extend affiliation partnership with Reno 1868 FC

The two organizations will work together through at least 2019

Midfielder Chris Wehan, the 2017 USL Rookie of the Year for Reno 1868 FC last year, signed a contract with the San Jose Earthquakes ahead of the 2018 MLS season
Lyndsay Radnedge | Center Line Soccer

SAN JOSE, Calif. — In a move that may have more impact on the organization than those on display by Magnus Eriksson in the San Jose Earthquakes 4-0 victory over Reno 1868 FC Saturday afternoon at Avaya Stadium, the two clubs agreed to extend their current affiliate partnership through at least the year 2019, and maybe to the end of 2020.

The deal, which originated back in 2016 as the Reno group was being assembled to join the USL, keeps intact the relationship between the Quakes and the Nevada side that has helped with player development in both teams.

“We are very excited to announce the extension of our partnership with Reno,” said Earthquakes general manager Jesse Fioranelli in a statement released by the club. “We would like to give each player the opportunity to have his own pathway. By working together on the technical and commercial sides, led by Ian Russell, Eric Edelstein, Andy Smith and the whole team, we are thrilled to announce that we will be extending this partnership together.”

The affiliation gives the Quakes control of the technical side of operation, while the Reno-based partners control the business aspects of the organization. Russell, who was named the team’s first head coach following a long tenure as an assistant in San Jose, works closely with Earthquakes technical director Chris Leitch on building the roster. Other shared resources are used within the soccer operations to ensure the training standards remain consistent.

“This extension emboldens our partnership,” Edelstein said in a statement released by the club. “And it continues to be the benchmark for successful MLS and USL affiliations.”

Crossover of players between the two teams has also been a feature of the partnership. In 2017, numerous San Jose first team members spent time on loan with Reno. Jackson Yueill, a roster draft pick last season, and Andrew Tarbell, then the understudy to incumbent goalkeeper David Bingham, started last season with the Nevada club before returning to the Quakes and playing significant minutes with the first team.

Another draft pick from last year, Lindo Mfeka, spent the entire season on loan with Reno. When his MLS contract option wasn’t picked up by the Quakes, he was immediately signed to a USL contract. A fellow member of San Jose’s 2017 MLS SuperDraft class, midfielder Christian Thierjung, was also signed ahead of this season after failing to make the MLS roster last year.

For the Earthquakes, the partnership has yielded three players signed in the off-season to the 2018 roster. Defender Jimmy Ockford, who started his professional career with the Seattle Sounders and was the starting center back in Reno last year, will be a valuable depth piece for San Jose. Midfielders Luis Felipe and Chris Wehan, both who have been seeing minutes this preseason with the second team, provide some versatility as well. All three took the field for the Earthquakes against their former team in a 4-0 preseason victory.

“Watching those guys out there was a special moment for me,” Russell said following the game. “One of the main reasons I took this job was to help develop players to get into the Earthquakes, and for them to sign three players bodes really well for the future, and, actually, helped me recruit some players into Reno that have a chance later on.”

Russell also gave a sneak-peak into some future player sharing relationships during his talk, mentioning that he hoped the Earthquakes two teenage Homegrown signings, Jacob Akanyirige and Gilbert Fuentes, as well as young goalkeeper JT Marcinkowski, would spend time on loan with Reno this season.

“The two young boys that they just signed, I think they may appear up there,” said Russell. “You’ll some Academy boys and some of the younger Earthquakes coming up. I would expect we will see JT, or whoever the second ‘keeper is, maybe [Matt] Bersano. Most of the time we will see a Quakes ‘keeper in Reno.”

Such loans would benefit both clubs, especially the players as they look to build on their already promising futures.