SAN JOSE, Calif. – The San Jose Earthquakes hired new coach Mikael Stahre to deliver wins. His sideline gig as a yogi might just come as a bonus.
Stahre wasn’t actually seen leading his new club in yoga stretches on Wednesday, but he talked up his tactical adaptability in his first meeting with Bay Area media since being officially hired just after Thanksgiving. The 42-year-old is known as a 4-3-3 adherent based on past work in his native Sweden, Greece and China, but mentioned three other possibilities in the space of one answer.
“In the past, I used the 4-4-2 formation, but in my previous job in Hacken, we’d start in a 4-5-1 formation and we’d end up in some sort of 3-4-3,” Stahre said. “So formation-wise, I’m really flexible.”
Given the Quakes’ recent acquisitions, Stahre has the ability to go in a multitude of directions. Dutch striker Danny Hoesen, a permanent addition after a 2017 loan stint filled with promising glimpses, could offer a fulcrum up top. Designated Players Magnus Eriksson and Valeri “Vako” Qazaishvili have experience on the wing as well as more centrally. And club icon Chris Wondolowski, while serving most of the time as a second forward, has also popped up elsewhere during his near decade with the team.
San Jose utilized a wide range of styles in 2017, oscillating wildly from the pragmatic 4-4-2 of Dominic Kinnear to the freewheeling, three-at-the-back look of Chris Leitch after a midseason coaching change. Stahre will likely look to be somewhere in the middle, even if it’s easier to say that than to put it successfully into practice: “You have to defend and you have to attack and you must find a mix of that. For me, that’s quite easy, right?”
Stahre made his move to MLS from Swedish side BK Hacken sound like an easy choice as well.
“It’s a great chance for me, great opportunity, also a huge, huge challenge,” Stahre said. “It’s always a challenge to manage a new team, in a new country, with a new language and so on, but I’m super-excited. I’m confident to be a coach, but I’m also a little bit afraid – in a positive way.”
Stahre is expected to provide stability after a turbulent 2017, when the Quakes installed new faces as team president, general manager and coach (twice).
“He’s very organized,” Wondolowski said. “I love his attitude, his energy about it, just everything about it so far.”
The Quakes laughed their way through training Wednesday, offering an ovation to late-arriving winger Jahmir Hyka and plenty of chatter during variations of 5-v-2 drills.
“I think it’s important to put a smile on the players’ faces,” Stahre said. “They’ll work hard in the preseason, for sure.”
That work begins in earnest Saturday with an open training session at Avaya Stadium, then a pair of matches against Portland and Real Salt Lake in Tucson, Arizona. San Jose can use those games to stretch themselves.
“It’s really important for me to be in the field with the players,” Stahre said. “Then I can start to act, for real. … For me, it’s like an empty paper. I watched a lot of games, now I’m here [as] the head coach. It will be really interesting to follow them in the preseason and I’m looking forward to being in charge.”