National Writer: Charles Boehm

Matias Almeyda hints at San Jose Earthquakes exit: "I have 10 months before I’m free"

After his first season in charge of the San Jose Earthquakes, Matias "Pelado" Almeyda said his contract ran another three years, "but I hope my bosses extend it to 10," adding that he was “happy here; the project is unbelievable."

The coach’s tone was different on Wednesday as he addressed media ahead of the Quakes’ 2022 home opener vs. the New York Red Bulls this Saturday at PayPal Park (6 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+).

“This is the fourth year that I’m given the chance to coach at this club and this league, which I'm thankful for,” said the Argentine on the “particular subject” of his contract situation. “I have 10 months before I’m free, and obviously whenever this happens in football, there's always interest – there’s personal interest and there’s interest from other people.

“I live day by day, I can’t avoid that there's people that try to sign us as a coaching staff. I was very clear at the end of last season with both the owner and our GM, and I was very clear with them at the beginning of this season as well. But I live day to day, and I always try to give it my max.”

Pelado has repeatedly been linked to a range of vacancies overseas during his time in San Jose, and this winter reports and rumors have suggested that he is less than fully pleased with the current state of San Jose’s roster after last year’s side finished 10th in the MLS Western Conference standings and missed the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs.

New Quakes general manager Chris Leitch brought in MLS experience in the form of midfielder Jan Gregus, defender Francisco Calvo and midfielder Jamiro Monteiro this winter, as well as a handful of SuperDraft picks and Homegrown signings. Several of Almeyda’s more familiar players departed, however, while legend Chris Wondolowski retired, adding up to more outgoings than arrivals at present.

Almeyda’s latest remarks on the matter could be interpreted in either direction, depending on your perspective.

“I’m not one to give excuses,” he said. “Coaches always want more and more players, that’s something natural and those are the ambitions that we have. To me, when a coach is satisfied with what he has, it's because he’s comfortable and doesn’t want to leave his comfort zone. It’s always going to seem like there are too few players.

“But as a coaching staff, we’re thankful to the front office for the effort that they put into getting these three players. We thought hard about it, we thought about what spots we needed to fill. I think those are three crucial spots that we had to reinforce. Hopefully the guys that came are able to adapt quickly to our way of working and hopefully we can enjoy it along with everybody including the fans. We're also going to give more confidence to the youngsters who debuted last year.”

He went on to give an implicit nod to the big spending happening elsewhere in the league.

“Obviously if you compare it with teams like Toronto, we don't have such squads like they might. But we're going to try to compete with every club, and we will work as a team,” he added. “Gregus, Calvo, Monteiro – none of them are coming to be the saviors of San Jose. They're going to come contribute their grain of sand and all of us have to contribute our grain of sand so San Jose can be a competitive team.”

With 54 goals allowed and 46 scored, the Quakes carried one of the leakiest defenses in MLS last year as opponents carved open their high-tempo pressing system, with their weak home form a particular concern. The former Chivas Guadalajara boss acknowledged that it’s been an area of focus during preseason. A knee issue hampering influential center back Nathan has complicated that effort, with the Brazilian’s availability for the season opener in doubt.

But the physically-demanding Almeyda sounded a note of optimism in addition to the blunt talk about his future, saying he was “very excited to start the new season” and pursue the “new dreams” that accompany it. Asked whether their coach’s uncertain future was an issue for the players, Quakes midfielder Jackson Yueill was even more bullish.

“This is our fourth year with Matias, and to be honest, the cohesiveness within the group, I don't think has been stronger,” said the US international, who has spent time in a deeper role almost akin to a center back’s in preseason. “We brought in some really, really good guys, guys with personality, who have been in MLS, who've been in a lot of locker rooms. Being here for a while and seeing how San Jose works, I think this is one of the stronger teams that we have.

“So we're not too focused on the outside noise and what's happening. Even the coach only speaks about day in and day out; we're getting ready for the game on Saturday.”