To hear general manager Jesse Fioranelli tell it, it didn’t take much convincing for the San Jose Earthquakes to fly in the face of most pre-draft punditry on Friday morning.
Florida International defender Paul Marie didn’t appear in the first round of many mock drafts or media depth charts, but Fioranelli, coach Mikael Stahre and the other members of the Quakes’ brain trust were “unanimous,” according to the GM, when the French-born right back was still available as San Jose prepared to make the No. 12 overall selection in the 2018 MLS SuperDraft.
“He was actually the fullback that we rated the highest from the very beginning,” Fioranelli told reporters via conference call Friday after the Quakes selected Marie and forwards Danny Musovski and Mohamed Thiaw on Friday. “Every player needs work, but to be frank, looking at the qualities that he has displayed over the Combine and also the information that we have gathered through Bruno [Costa, the Quakes’ scouting chief], he is going to help us on both ends of the field.”
The 22-year-old Marie will give San Jose options at right back, a spot that was looking bare behind incumbent Nick Lima; the Quakes let Kip Colvey go to Colorado via the waiver draft this winter, and the contract of veteran Kofi Sarkodie ran out at the conclusion of 2017.
It also increases the European influence at Avaya Stadium. San Jose have brought in Stahre and new Designated Player Magnus Eriksson from Sweden this winter, and secured the transfer of formerly on-loan Dutch forward Danny Hoesen.
Marie put up impressive offensive numbers as a senior at FIU – eight goals and six assists – after being moved into a more attacking role for the Panthers. That versatility and passing ability should translate well into Stahre’s new system, which is expected to feature more possession than San Jose had under Dominic Kinnear.
“We believe that Paul is the most intelligent fullback that was here at the Combine,” Fioranelli said. “He reads the game like a midfielder, but plays the game in several positions, and that includes being fullback.”
Marie impressed Fioranelli on the final day of the MLS Combine, when he sprinted the length of the field to catch up with his team’s counterattack, picking up possession in stride and delivering a perfect near-post cross for Mamadou Guirassy to head home.
“In the third game of the Combine, he not only made the difference, but he was a player that throughout the season, in the last three seasons, he actually grew as a fullback, even with the French [youth] national team,” Fioranelli said. “So we are really excited about having him join us.”
In addition to the draft moves, Fioranelli also cleared some space on his roster, sending defensive midfielder Darwin Cerén to Houston for at least $175,000 in combined allocation monies, with another potential $50,000 if the Salvadoran international meets unspecified benchmarks in 2018.
The trade had been under consideration for a couple of weeks, Fioranelli said, and it appears the arrival of defender Yeferson Quintana might have tipped the scales for San Jose. With the young Uruguayan in the fold, the Quakes now have enough depth to look at moving savvy veteran Florian Jungwirth to his preferred role as a defensive midfielder after spending 2017 pressed into duty as a center back.
“Once we had considered the overall package that was offered to us by Houston, we were satisfied with this trade,” Fioranelli said. “Also bearing in mind that we have a midfield that is highly talented, that also brings experience and also with the addition of Quintana, it allows us to have more variation, more flexibility on the defensive line and potentially also in the midfield line.”
Oversubscribed as they are by three international players and one DP, San Jose still has work to do this offseason, but Fioranelli is confident the Quakes will be in roster compliance before the season begins on March 3.
“I can tell you as it stands right now, we’re very confident with the structure of the roster, in all its facets and all its aspects,” Fioranelli said.