SAN JOSE, Calif. – As he sifted through some 270 candidates for the position of general manager of the San Jose Earthquakes, team president David Kaval was searching less for someone who could recreate the alchemy of the club’s magical 2012 season and more for a person with the vision to avoid the four-year playoff drought that has followed that record-setting campaign.
San Jose have gone 41-52-43 since 2012, with a cumulative goal differential of minus-28. So Kaval’s eventual choice for GM – former AS Roma and Lazio executive Jesse Fioranelli – was made with an eye not just on 2017, but five, or even 10 years down the line.
“We feel that in bringing in Jesse, a very experienced sporting director/general manager, that we’re putting the pieces in place to have lasting success, to build a system as opposed to having just fleeting glory in one season,” Kaval told MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday after the team officially introduced the 37-year-old Fioranelli at a chilly press conference on the Avaya Stadium concourse. “If you look at the best-run sporting organizations, they build a system and a culture around winning. That’s something that this is a step towards doing.”
Fioranelli, who signed a multi-year pact with the club to come from Rome with his wife and 12-year-old son, is just the second GM for the reborn Quakes, replacing former franchise star John Doyle, who filled that role from the expansion season of 2008 until being let go in August.
Fioranelli said he hoped to “give renewed direction to a club that already has a very solid foundation” and would be spending the next three months trying to absorb as much information as possible from all different corners of the Quakes’ world to determine the club’s future vision.
“You can win a match and you can lose a match, but at the end of the day, only successful teams have an identity,” Fioranelli told reporters. “And that’s what we want to build.”
There were no concrete details of how the tactical preferences of Fioranelli will mesh with those of holdover coach Dominic Kinnear, who is third all-time in MLS victories but hasn’t had a winning season since 2013 with the Houston Dynamo. Fioranelli served as head of analysis for Lazio for three years, while Kinnear is seen by some as being more old-school in his coaching style.
In the short term, Fioranelli will likely lean a little more heavily on Kinnear and technical director Chris Leitch – who served as interim GM after Doyle’s departure – to help finish construction of San Jose’s roster for the 2017 season.
With 24-year-old Panamanian international Harold Cummings brought in to partner veteran Victor Bernardez at center back and negotiations with Marvell Wynne continuing, the Quakes seem somewhat settled on the back line – which means San Jose can focus their attention on attacking positions. Over the past four seasons, San Jose have averaged just 35.8 goals per season, lowest of any MLS team in that timeframe (excluding Chivas USA, which disbanded after the 2014 campaign).
Dovetailing with those needs is maybe the biggest item on Fioranelli’s to-do list: finding Designated Players who make a DP-sized impact. San Jose’s previous forays into big-ticket player acquisitions, most notably former Swiss international Innocent, often ended poorly – misses that are punished in today’s MLS.
“One thing we’ve done in the past with big player signings is we’ve been too reactive and not proactive, and we’ve made mistakes that way,” Kaval said. “I think there’s a great opportunity here, with the new leadership and the full [front-office] team and complement of resources, to make sure we’re attacking player acquisition and recruitment with a new focus, and one that will lead to lasting success.”
On Twitter: @quakesbeat