New year, new San Jose Earthquakes?
Time will tell, but with the Earthquakes retaining their talismanic head coach, Matias Almeyda, and their talismanic legend, Chris Wondolowski, they aren’t completely ringing in the changes.
At the same time, after a year in which the team only made one big starter-caliber signing, of defender Oswaldo Alanís, the plan for 2021 is to better retool in a bid to build on the strong end to last season.
The first piece was put in place last week with the loan move for midfielder Eduardo “Chofis” Lopez, who played under Almeyda at Chivas de Guadalajara. While Lopez had been cast out of the Chivas squad for ill discipline in the fall, Earthquakes general manager Jesse Fioranelli says the club did their due diligence on the player and do not expect him to have disciplinary issues in San Jose.
“So, the first thing we have been following Chofis for over two years, we have been in contact with Chivas on different occasions, trying to find a window where we would have the opportunity to sign Eduardo,” Fioranelli told reporters during a conference call last week. “Knowing that he has been for I believe almost eight years but his entire pro career in Guadalajara, I do think that coming to San Jose represents an important chapter in his career and the fact that he has played under Matias and has done so successfully means a lot. That being said, we do take the disciplinary aspect and also the commitment of the player seriously and now having vetted this opportunity for two months, whether that be with Chivas with the league and also with the player, all I can tell you is that he’s very committed and excited to open this new opportunity with us.”
Lopez will be penciled to start as the Quakes’ attacking midfielder. Rather excitingly, Fioranelli hinted there are more starting-caliber players expected to join the club in the weeks ahead.
“No, we are not done with our signings,” he said. “Over the last two months we’ve been actively engaged and identifying players, and also having conversations with specific targets. So you can expect prior to the beginning of the season, that we will be announcing more signings, which we are also excited about. It is a step-by-step process. The winter window, as you know, is different, and working inside of a market that is strongly affected by COVID brings different challenges with it. But where we are today is we are very happy about the first, signings having been done inside of this team, with Eduardo joining us, and we want to add to this, prior to the beginning of the season.”
The talks the Earthquakes have been involved in appear to be still in process, however, and Fioranelli hedged when asked how many players would be added. Still, he admitted that the defense, which lost Nick Lima in a trade in the offseason and was the leakiest in the league last season, is a target to upgrade.
“I don’t want to quantify the amount of players that we’re taking into consideration to sign, but much more say that I think it is fair to assume that we will want to reinforce our defense and work ourselves up [the field] and still at the same time, give ourselves the opportunity to have flexibility from a cap perspective in the summer,” Fioranelli explained.
The team is also planning the anticipated departure of several players for international duty during the season, including midfield metronome Jackson Yueill and left back Marcos Lopez, so the new signings may need to account for those absences.
“That’s another factor that we ask the fact that we have to also consider, given that, you know, there’s as you mentioned, international competitions where we will be losing some players,” Fioranelli said.
Still, given the indications from the GM, it looks like the Earthquakes could get the squad refresh they’ve needed to make the next step up in their progression. We’ll see how it shakes out.
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