New Earthquakes general manager Jesse Fioranelli: 'We will send a message'

New Earthquakes general manager Jesse Fioranelli: 'We will send a message'

Little was known, among San Jose Earthquakes fans, about Jesse Fioranelli before the 37-year-old was announced as the club's eighth general manager last week.

On Tuesday at Avaya Stadium, the man who makes his way over from Italy's Serie A, didn't make any player signing guarantees or prognosticate on the number of wins for the team during the 2017 season. He did however, make one prediction.

"I will tell you this much -- in 2017, we will send a message."

What that message is will start to take shape in a couple of the weeks when the Earthquakes begin training camp looking to improve upon a less-than-stellar showing on the pitch in 2016 -- one that had them looking up at all but two teams in the western conference.

And until the first whistle is blown, Earthquakes brass and fans will use the excitement  a new general manager brings to fuel their momentum.

"We were very deliberate about getting this hire right," said Earthquakes President Dave Kaval. "This is a 5-10 year hire. We wanted someone who can set a vision, a style of play and someone who can execute in the global marketplace of soccer."

Fioranelli certainly comes armed with global pedigree, having served time in senior positions on technical staffs and club management roles for several top-flight European clubs and more than six years as a player agent.

Fioranelli was most recently a member of the "Direzione Sportiva", the Sporting Direction unit for Italy's AS Roma since July 2015, where he played an integral role in overseeing "The Roma Way" -- a comprehensive club management program. That is something Kaval hopes Fioranelli can duplicate in San Jose.

"I think that's a great advantage," Kaval said. "My job as the club president is, how do we build a technical side that has a competitive advantage over the other teams in the league? We're going to be in the top half of the league in spending. We have the green light from ownership for that. So, how do we use that money as effectively as possible to define a style of play, get the right players, hit on all our DPs (designated players) -- don't make mistakes there -- retain our young players, build an academy system for success? And I think the only way to do that is with great human capital. And I think Jesse is the right guy for the job."

"The goal is to go onto the field [and] represent a strong identity and a message," Fioranelli said. "That's what is going to be most important. ... Look, you can win a match and you can lose a match. But at the end of the day, only successful teams have an identity.

"There is no a single person here who is more important than the club. Big signings and high profile players will have to fit into the goals we set out as a club."

Currently, the Quakes are a club undergoing a lot of changes that weren't overseen by Fioranelli. And the immediate challenge for the new GM will be assimilating himself into the Earthquakes culture and helping to fill roster holes without the help of prior Major League Soccer experience or intimate knowledge of the club’s immediate on-field goals.

"If I wasn't convinced that this was the right move for me and my family, I wouldn't have taken it," Fioranelli said of that challenge. "I left an important family behind. And being able to join the Quakes gives me enough reasons to be a part of the team. And I believe if I bring this type of excitement across when I meet up with future players, they will understand it. I can tell there were more than enough reasons for me to join the Quakes.

"I don't think the looking of the team will be hugely different," said San Jose head coach Dominic Kinnear when talking about the direction of the team on the pitch. "I don't think he's going to have David Bingham playing center forward. So, there's going to be some areas we can definitely agree on. Obviously, looking at the stats from last year ... we need to score more goals. So, in this off season, we're looking to sign more attacking players to help us out. For me, it's all about acceptance. He's here. He's excited. I'm excited as well."

"Alignment (between GM and head coach) is critical," Kaval said. "Dominic is shoulder to shoulder with Jesse and [technical director] Chris (Leitch) in solving the issues we have on the technical side and competing at the highest level. But I do think one critical element that Jesse will bring is a club first mentality. The club exists before any one person. And establishing what that is, getting the fans to believe in that and support that, is the first order of business and I think he'll attack that with a lot of energy."

The Quakes have not had a winning season since 2013 and haven't made a playoff appearance since 2012.

With Fioranelli on staff, Roma finished third in Serie A during the 2015-16 season with a 23-4-11 record, earning a spot in the 2016-17 UEFA Champions League Playoff round. That season, the club scored the most goals (83) and suffered the fewest defeats (4) of any team in Italy's top division. Roma sits in second place in Serie A so far during the 2016-17 season with a 12-4-2 record at the time of his departure from the club.

Shocker: US Men's National Team eliminated from World Cup contention


Shocker: US Men's National Team eliminated from World Cup contention

COUVA, Trinidad — Twenty-eight years after one of the United States' most important victories came in stunning fashion at Trinidad to end a four-decade World Cup absence, the Americans' chances for the 2018 tournament in Russia ended on this island nation off the coast of Venezuela.

The U.S. was eliminated from World Cup contention Tuesday night, a shocking 2-1 loss to Trinidad and Tobago ending a run of seven straight American appearances at soccer's showcase.

The Soca Warriors scored a pair of first-half goals, getting one off U.S. defender Omar Gonzalez, and the United States made too many other mistakes to recover. The Americans are out of the World Cup for the first time since 1986.

"We let down an entire nation today," Gonzalez said.

Shocked American players slumped on the bench, and Matt Besler sat on the field after the final whistle as Panama's game ended and then Costa Rica's. At the end, dejected U.S. players filed into their locker rooms with blank looks.

"We foolishly brought Trinidad into the game with the own goal," coach Bruce Arena said. "That was a big goal for Trinidad psychologically. That got them motivated."

The U.S. entered its final qualifier with a berth uncertain for the first time since 1989. Home losses to Mexico last November and Costa Rica left the Americans little margin for error.

The 28th-ranked Americans needed merely a tie against 99th-ranked Trinidad, which lost its sixth straight qualifier last week. But the defeat — coupled with Honduras' come-from-behind 3-2 win over Mexico and Panama's 2-1 victory over Costa Rica on Ramon Torres' 88th-minute goal — dropped the Americans from third place into fifth in the six-nation final round of the North and Central American and Caribbean region.

Mexico and Costa Rica already had clinched berths, and Panama claimed the third and final automatic spot and will go the World Cup for the first time. Honduras will meet Australia in a two-game playoff next month for another spot at next year's 32-nation tournament.

Missing the World Cup is a devastating blow to the U.S. Soccer Federation, which has steadily built the sport in the last quarter-century with the help of sponsors and television partners. It also is a trauma for Fox, which broadcasts the next three World Cups after taking the U.S. rights from ESPN. The USSF hopes to co-host the 2026 tournament with Mexico and Canada, and Morocco is the only other bidder.

After an 0-2 start in the hexagonal last fall under Jurgen Klinsmann, the USSF replaced him last November with Arena, the American coach from 1998-2006. The team revived with home wins over Honduras and Trinidad last spring and draws at Panama and Mexico. But the 2-0 defeat to Costa Rica in New Jersey at the start of Labor Day weekend proved one hurdle too many to overcome.

The Americans fell behind in the 17th minute when Gonzalez made a casual attempt with his left foot to clear Alvin Jones' cross and sent the ball looping over the outstretched right arm of goalkeeper Tim Howard from 18 yards.

Jones doubled the lead in the 37th with a 35-yard strike, again to Howard's upper right corner, and nearly scored another in the 44th when his swerving shot bounced off Howard's chest and spilled into the penalty area.

Christian Pulisic, the Americans' 19-year-old star midfielder, scored in the 47th minute from the arc with a right-footed shot. He played a role in 12 of the 17 American goals in the hexagonal.

One minute later, Howard made a kick save on Shahdon Winchester's short-range shot, and DeAndre Yedlin blocked Levi Garcia's follow-up attempt.

The U.S. bench was tense, as Honduras scored twice early in the second half to take the lead over visiting Mexico in the 60th minute and Panama tied the score against visiting Costa Rica in the 52nd.

Clint Dempsey, who entered at the start of the second half, was denied by goalkeeper Adrian Foncette's leaping save in the 69th and hit a post from 22 yards in the 77th. Pulisic's shot in the 87th was saved by Foncette.

All American reserves were standing for much of the final minutes, and Arena had repeated exasperated looks.

"No excuses for us not getting the second goal and at least a point," Arena said. "It's a blemish for us."

Just a few hundred fans were in the stands at 10,000-capacity Ato Boldon Stadium, located 24 miles south of the capital, Port-of-Spain. Paul Caligiuri's famous goal at the National Stadium in 1989 put the U.S. in the World Cup for the first time since 1950.

Among the spectators were a few dozen American Outlaws, the U.S. supporters group.

Water that had flooded the track surrounding the field ahead of the U.S. training session Monday was gone.

USMNT back on track with 4-0 pounding of Panama


USMNT back on track with 4-0 pounding of Panama

ORLANDO, Fla. — Teenage star Christian Pulisic scored with a brilliant touch to complete a field-length attack just eight minutes in, then split the defense with a pass that set up Jozy Altidore for the first of the forward's two goals and put the United States back on track for next year's World Cup with a 4-0 rout of Panama on Friday night.

Pulisic fed Altidore for a 2-0 lead in the 19th. Altidore converted a penalty kick with a chip in the 43rd after Bobby Wood was fouled, and Wood added a goal in the 63rd.

The U.S. ended a three-match winless streak in qualifying and with 12 points and moved two points ahead of Panama into third place — the last automatic berth — in the North and Central American and Caribbean region. Honduras has nine points going into its match Saturday at Costa Rica, which is second with 15.

Goal difference means the Americans put themselves in great shape to reach an eighth straight World Cup, almost certainly with a win Tuesday at Trinidad and Tobago and likely with a draw if Honduras fails to win Saturday. The U.S. is plus-five to minus-two for Panama and minus-seven for Honduras.

The region's fourth-place team advances to a playoff next month against Australia or Syria.

"We could have finished better on the day and scored more goals," U.S. coach Bruce Arena said.

Playing his first international match since he turned 19 last month, Pulisic was moved to central midfield from the flanks by coach Bruce Arena and sparked the attack from the opening whistle with pace and ball control seldom seen from Americans.

After Gabriel Gomez broke free from Omar Gonzalez and shot over the crossbar, Tim Howard's goal kick was headed forward by Bobby Wood about 10 yards past midfield.

Altidore one-timed the ball ahead to on a sprinting Pulisic, and the midfielder reached back with his left leg to flick the ball ahead. Pulisic jumped to avoid Roman Torres' challenge and used the outside of his right foot to play the ball forward. As goalkeeper Jaime Penedo came off his line, Pulisic used the outside of his right foot again to play the ball wide and jumped over Pinedo's outstretched arm. At the edge of the 6-yard box and just 2 yards from the endline, Pulisic reached with his right foot to slot the ball in, completing a 112-yard U.S. move. Pulisic tumbled over as the ball rolled in for his eighth goal in 19 international appearances, his fourth in the hex.

Pulisic created the second goal when he played the ball between his feet and faked Michael Murillo on the left flank Pulisic broke ahead and fed Altidore, who split the center backs and redirected the ball in from 5 yards for his first goal of the hexagonal. At that point, Pulisic had played a part in 11 of the Americans' 14 goals in the hex.

After Wood and Altidore failed to convert good chances, Wood drew the penalty kick when he exchanged passes with Paul Arriola along a flank, broke past Felipe Baloy, spurted diagonally into the penalty area and was pushed down by Armando Cooper. As Pinedo dived to his left, Altidore chipped the ball down the center for his 41st international game.

Hacked down several times by Panamanians, Pulisic was removed in the 57th minute and walked out to a standing ovation from the sellout crowd of 25,303 at Orlando City Stadium, which opened in February,

Wood added his 10th international goal off a pass from Arriola.

Panama was trying to move into position to qualify for its first World Cup. The Panamanians were 90 seconds from advancing to a playoff against New Zealand four years ago, when Graham Zusi and Aron Johannsson scored late goals at Honduras, which dropped Panama behind Mexico and into fifth place.