San Jose Earthquakes and Oakland A’s President Dave Kaval confirmed that the Quakes are actively looking for a Designated Player to sign over the summer while speaking to reporters in a halftime huddle during the club’s season opener victory over the Montreal Impact. With an update on all things Quakes, Kaval takes it from here:
Do you already have plans going on for the summer in regards to the club’s open Designated Player spot or are you waiting to see how the chips fall?
We’re actively looking right now for players in that window. We have the spot available, we have funds available. Jesse is to be going back to Europe in about a month to actually see players first hand, so we have a list and we’re looking at it very seriously. You have to be opportunistic, but we feel very strongly, and Jesse had this view, that the best players are available in the summer window because that’s the longer transfer window. So if we want to get a really high quality DP that can make a lasting impact on the club, that is the better time to do it. And I think that’s a really smart and more thoughtful way to approach it.
Do you have a certain area you’re looking to fill with that DP position, or just a talented player in general?
The key thing for DP players is that you just want an attacking player, whether it’s a creative No10 midfielder or whether it’s a forward, we need to score more goals. We need to be more exciting to watch, so that’s the general profile. But there’s a lot that could fit within.
It’s been a long time for a Quakes fan to see a first half like [tonight], and to have that happen with a new lineup on opening day. Was that forty-five minutes a dream?
This is exactly what we were hoping for when we brought Jesse in as our General Manager: a team with an attacking identity that’s fun to watch. [A team] that’s exciting with players that have courage and are willing to take chances all over the field. You saw that in the first half and I think you’ll see a lot more of that this season.
What are your first impressions of Jessie Fioranelli as general manager?
He’s been tremendous. He’s very thoughtful. I think he has a clear vision of where he wants to take the technical side of the organization. He’s working hand-in-hand with Chris Leach and with Dominic Kinnear. I think they’re working well as a team and you’re seeing some of the results tonight.
Any update on the national team fixture here in a few weeks? How involved are the Quakes in the buildup?
We’re very involved, obviously it’s a huge match for the United States and it’s a must win. I think Avaya Stadium is going to be rocking. This is going to be a fortress for the United States and I think U.S. Soccer is excited to come here and really take a chance on a stadium on this community to play a game of that significance. This area has such a great history of great qualifiers and games, and we built this stadium to host matches of that caliber.
What does it mean for the Quakes? Does it help to attract new players?
There’s a couple different things. One, I think it grows the soccer community in the Bay Area, which is only good for the Earthquakes. So you have more fans of the beautiful game and they get attracted to some of these other events. These are international soccer matches and international teams, and then they can actually come here to appreciate it week in and week out at Avaya Stadium. So that’s one thing. Secondly, I think it does help us attract world class players because they see this community as a major and integral part of the soccer landscape and those events bring that forward, which is very important.
Is elevating the club’s profile important to getting into the conversation when it comes to big name players like Chicharito and Wayne Rooney that you hear in the news?
I think it does. I think it started with building the stadium and then, adding on top of that all, these world-class soccer events that are happening in the Bay Area. That gives you the opportunity to bring in a player of that caliber. It’s not just like you to the grocery store, you want that player and then bring him here. You really have to tell a story and build a whole kind of strategy for that person to climb to climatize to this location. And so these are all the necessary steps that are going to lead us to success and would enable us to bring in a big player like that.
What is Jesse [Fioranelli]’s background and how does it aid him as the Quakes general manager?
He has a background as an agent in Switzerland and that gave him tremendous connections. When he came in here, he actually wasn’t in the job very long before he started bringing in all these players like [Florian] Jungwirth, who had a great half. He has relationships that started back ten or twelve years ago when he did that. Then, on the same token, you build on top of that his time at Lazio and Roma working first on the analytic side and then in a more broad role of sporting director. Those relationships, the contacts, the ability to attract big-time players and sell them on coming here and playing for us, these are tremendous skills. You can see that the players he signed and players that will come in the future are all part of that success.
How special is it to see two homegrown players, Nick Lima and Tommy Thompson, in the starting lineup?
We’re finally seeing some of the initial work we did to develop the academy, to bring Chris Leach in to originally run the academy and to put a curriculum in place to attract players, especially after I started here in 2010. You’re finally seeing those results, they have a long tail. And we’re seeing guys like Tommy Thompson and Nick Lima, or JT [Marcinkowski], who is doing amazing with the U-20s as a goalie.
The players are there and the talent in this region is very strong. We just need to make sure we attract it to the Quakes, our academy system, our coaches, our players and the infrastructure behind that so we can not just have two starting players from our Academy in three or four years, but four or five, because that’s going to be our competitive advantage as a club.
Can you elaborate on reports regarding the club’s plan to develop an academy complex?
We’re trying to get as many fields in the South Bay as possible. There’s a shortage [of space], which is forcing kids off of their playing style [and schedule]. We’re obviously looking at the Guadalupe location, which I think can probably have seven fields maximum, and we’re also looking at other locations that could have more, maybe ten or fourteen. Whether it’s farther South more towards Morgan Hill or at the county fairgrounds, those are all really important pieces of the puzzle to make sure we build a viable youth system.
Do you see that as an addition to the Guadalupe project?
Oh yeah. We’re trying to add as many as we can because these projects might take ten years, maybe four years for one and eight years for another one, but we’re hopeful that over a generation will have more and more people playing soccer and having success.