In news that is not news anymore (sorry, I was on vacation), Jesse Fioranelli was fired as the San Jose Earthquakes’ general manager last week. I spoke to Jesse a few times the past couple years, and as everyone who has interacted with him in this business has said, he struck me as a kind guy who was more publicly honest than most people in his position.
But the Earthquakes have not been one of the free-spending teams in MLS, which means they have to be one of the smartest in terms of recruitment, and by and large they’ve missed in that regard. The Mikael Stahre “era” was an unmitigated disaster and arguably put the club in a hole they’re still trying to get out of.
While the fanbase seems to be souring over current head coach Matias Almeyda, in fact his appointment has been the most successful part of Fioranelli’s tenure with the Earthquakes. San Jose is not Los Angeles (you’re damn right, I hear you saying) or Miami, so recruitment of stars is tougher even if they could spend. Almeyda’s style of soccer is directly from the Marcelo Bielsa school, which always takes the challenge of making a team stronger than the sum of its parts over being the big team that crushes opponents through financial resources. Almeyda actually transformed one of Mexico’s biggest clubs, Chivas, by treating it like the scrappy underdog it was when he took over. Improbably, he fits in with a project like San Jose’s.
After promising several significant signings for 2021, the Earthquakes added Chofís Lopez, who is a reclamation project that could come good, and rotation fullback Luciano Abecasis. Eric Remedi was just the second player acquired via MLS trade in Fioranelli’s tenure, and he’s been good, honestly. Just before Fioranelli’s departure, they signed a center back, finally, in Nathan. But the team needs two or three more starting-caliber players, particularly in attack, and it’s been crickets. Meanwhile, the team is sinking down the standings on a long winless run.
So it’s fully and completely Almeyda’s team now. It’s obvious that Fioranelli’s signings have largely been players that Almeyda wants — most of them have previously played for the Argentine. With the GM gone, all the decisions from here on out are Almeyda’s, and that means the pressure is truly on him to make a few signings, get the team — however it is constituted — back on track and competing for the playoffs again, and hopefully show some improvement.
Will this be a semi-lame duck year for Almeyda, before he takes off and puts the Earthquakes back at square one? Or will he make another great escape this season with this team? This is definitely a tipping point for the club, but we don’t know what kind of tipping point it is until we get some hindsight. Hopefully, building off the credible draw at Minnesota United at the weekend, the team comes back from their mini-break back on track, but we’ll see what happens.
What do you think? Leave a comment below.