SAN JOSE, Calif. — The 2019 season is in the San Jose Earthquakes’ rearview mirror. But as always, just before the lights go off at Earthquakes Way, the players came forward to speak about the long season and what comes next.
On Thursday, there was plenty of talk to go around, especially about the future of some of the team’s pillars: Chris Wondolowski, Florian Jungwirth and Cristian Espinoza. Wondolowski and Jungwirth are out of contract this offseason, while the 24-year-old frenetic winger’s season-long loan in the Bay Area is also set to come to a close, and he is expected to head back to La Liga side Villarreal.
As expected, the Quakes will do their part to make sure Matias Almeyda counts on three players who, during instances this season, proved to be difference makers. The operation has started with the 35-year-old captain.
“Yeah, it’s just about ironed out,” Wondolowski said on his future with the Black-and-Blue. “I do want to come back for one more [year]. That’s the plan right now, and then move on to another position off the field. I am having so much fun right now, so much joy out there. I’ve talked to the family, I’ve talked to the wife, and I really, really want just one more year.”
In his last press conference of the season, Almeyda made it clear that Wondo was offered a contract that would allow him to “retire” with the Quakes. By now, it’s increasingly likely that the 2020 campaign will be the league’s all-time goalscorer’s farewell tour.
As far as for Jungwirth, who is also out of contract after joining the San Jose in 2017, his situation isn’t as straightforward, but the German midfielder/defender remains optimistic that a deal will get sorted out sooner rather than later.
“As you may know, my contract is expiring, but I’m pretty sure that there will be an announcement soon,” Jungwirth told MLSsoccer.com midweek regarding his future. “I don’t want to say more about it but for sure you will see the same Florian Jungwirth from 2019. [In] 2020, a bit more emotional maybe. Maybe a bigger chest or something. We have a hard offseason plan, I heard. So, maybe some more muscles, yes.”
The obvious daunting task for general manager Jesse Fioranelli will be retaining Espinoza, whether on another season-long loan or on a permanent deal.
Luckily, Espinoza, who led the team with 13 assists, is on board with staying permanently in San Jose. One of the main reasons? The fact the team allowed him to work after two years of playing sparingly while bouncing around on loan.
“Very much,” Espinoza responded when asked if his 2019 season was what he needed at this stage of his career. “I think it was a very good year for me. Being able to be playing every weekend, which was what I needed. I came from two very complicated years during which I hadn't played much, where perhaps the frustration takes a bit of your head and it's hard to get it out.”
But as the business side of the sport calls for, the final say rests on the negotiations between the potential buyer and seller.
“First of all, I hope that I can continue here [with the Earthquakes],” the Argentine told MLSsoccer.com. “It’s something that is not in my hands; the club is in charge of that. I hope everything comes to a good agreement so that I can continue here for many years.”