Soccer

Soccer

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.