On a wet, winter morning in San Jose, die-hard fans of the San Jose Earthquakes gathered with members of the media and club staff to welcome new General Manager Jesse Fioranelli in an introductory press conference. The storm roaring in the backdrop offered an ironically damp setting for the launch of such a bright new initiative at Avaya Stadium. Nevertheless, there was an overriding sense of optimism that could not be buried by the sheets of rain as Fioranelli spoke of giving the club a renewed sense of direction.
The Italian-American joins as an executive from Italian giants AS Roma, where he helped implement “The Roma Way,” a comprehensive club management program in the areas of player scouting, match analysis, recruitment, and youth development. In San Jose, he hopes to build an identity that manifests itself in all aspects of the club – especially on the field.
“The Roma Way applies to Roma, it’s a specific identity. San Jose will represent the values which they stand for on the field,” he told reporters in his first public comments since joining the club.
Although Fioranelli left behind the comforts of European football for a club with an exponentially smaller budget, moving his family halfway across the world in the process, he is confident that it is the right move. “If I weren’t completely convinced…I wouldn’t have taken [the job],” he said.
“It is a conscious decision I made to come to San Jose, and there are a number of reasons for that. First, I believe San Jose has a strong foundation to build on. MLS is getting more and more important, and especially in Europe, there is much more awareness of the league. I want to give a new direction to a club that already has a solid foundation.”
Earthquakes president Dave Kaval also spoke with the utmost confidence in Fioranelli. “We saw the interest from all the big clubs — Manchester City and Manchester United,” said Kaval, but after a four-month job search process with many high-profile names, Fioranelli was the obvious choice.
“When we looked at this position, we spent a fair number of months reviewing candidates and thinking about who we wanted in the role,” said Kaval. “We were looking out at the next 5-10 years at where the league is going, and we felt that to create a true world football club, we needed to invest in someone who can lead the technical side with that type of vision and could look beyond just North America.
“That we have someone who just moved from Rome says a lot about where MLS and soccer in America are.”
Although it’s a formidable task to familiarize himself in such a short time frame with Major League Soccer, Fioranelli is committed to establishing long-term success in San Jose. “It will take me a little time to get to know the new environment that I am in, so I ask for your patience,” he said. “However, the size of the field is the same in the United States as it is in Italy, as it is in Germany, as it is in England. I am very curious as to the unique challenges of MLS, but I know quite a bit playing four years in Baltimore and have followed MLS for a long period of time. I am excited about the challenge.”
The Quakes are about to enter the thick of their preseason preparations, looking to the transfer market to fill out a playoff-calibre squad. Fioranelli, for his part, will take a step back and lean on technical director Chris Leitch as he learns the Byzantine machinations of MLS operations. “The goal for the next three months is to listen and to absorb,” he said. “It’s going to take a little bit of time in my new environment so I ask you for a little bit of patience.”
Although Kaval strongly emphasized the importance of establishing an attractive style of play on the pitch, head coach Dominic Kinnear downplayed fears that he will be working in opposition to Fioranelli’s vision. “I don’t think he is going to want David Bingham to play forward,” Kinnear joked.
Kaval echoed Kinnear’s statement, speaking highly of the “dream team” that the club have assembled in Fioranelli, Chris Leitch, and Kinnear.
Kinnear was also on hand to provide insights into the Quakes’ transfer market objectives. “We’re getting there,” he said. In terms of potential signings, Kinnear said they’re looking at “a ton of names” and offered praise for potential target Darwin Quintero.
He said the Quakes are trying to re-sign Alberto Quintero, but negotiations with the midfielder’s parent club BUAP are “kind of out of our hands.” They are also in ongoing talks with Marvell Wynne, while Clarence Goodson is “exploring other options” outside of San Jose after his contract option was declined in December.
Although Fioranelli’s presence might not alter the club’s transfer dealings in the very near term (nor, for that matter, immediately reverse the Quakes’ recent fortunes on the pitch), he aims to put into motion longer-lasting changes at the club. “You can win a match and lose a match, but at the end of the day, only successful teams have an identity,” he said. While he didn’t want to guarantee a playoff appearance this next season, understandably, he did promise that “in 2017, we will send a strong message” and, “for that, I am sure.”