SAN JOSE, Calif. – The San Jose Earthquakes today announced that the club has hired Chris Leitch as general manager, effective immediately. Leitch has held a variety of roles with the Earthquakes over the past 13 years, including player (2009-11), technical director (2012-21), interim general manager (2016), and head coach (2017).
“I couldn’t be more excited for this opportunity,” said Leitch. “This club has been my family since 2009 and I’m passionate about the project we have underway. While the 2021 season didn’t end how we wanted, we’re entering an important offseason to rebuild and put a competitive team on the field for our fans to support.”
“I’m thrilled to continue working with Chris in his new role,” said Earthquakes Chief Operating Officer Jared Shawlee. “Our objective was to find a candidate with significant MLS knowledge, a track record of player development, and thoughtful use of data to make informed decisions. In addition to checking every box, Chris has been a proven leader for our club in a variety of roles over the past 13 years.”
Leitch played in Major League Soccer for 10 years, including stints with the Columbus Crew (2002, 2006), NY/NJ MetroStars (2003-05), New York Red Bulls (2007-08) and San Jose Earthquakes (2009-11). During his 10 seasons, Leitch made 196 appearances, logged over 15,000 minutes played, and tallied 14 assists. He was named the MetroStars’ Defender of the Year in 2005 and the Quakes’ Defender of the Year in 2009. He played every minute of the Red Bulls’ postseason run in 2008, leading the team to its first MLS Cup appearance in club history. He also helped Columbus win their first and only U.S. Open Cup title in 2002.
Soon after his retirement following the 2011 season, Leitch was hired as technical director for the Earthquakes Academy. Under his guidance, the Quakes signed Tommy Thompson to the first Homegrown Player contract in club history in 2014. While retaining the same title of technical director, Leitch added responsibilities with the First Team in 2015.
In August of 2016, Leitch assumed the role of interim general manager following the departure of John Doyle. During his four months as interim general manager, Leitch hired Ian Russell as head coach of the team’s new USL Championship affiliate Reno 1868 FC and signed defender Nick Lima to a Homegrown Player contract. Russell would lead Reno to the USL Championship playoffs in each of his four seasons, earning 2020 Co-Coach of the Year honors, while Nick Lima was a finalist for MLS Rookie of the Year in 2017 and earned nine caps for the U.S. National Team. Leitch was also influential in the team’s selection of future U.S. National Team midfielder Jackson Yueill during the 2017 MLS SuperDraft. Leitch returned to his role of technical director at the time of Jesse Fioranelli’s hiring as general manager in January 2017.
In June of 2017, Leitch replaced Dominic Kinnear as the team’s head coach. His first match was a 2-1 victory over Seattle Sounders FC in the U.S. Open Cup, the Quakes’ first-ever win over an MLS team in the competition. His first MLS match was a dramatic 2-1 victory over the LA Galaxy in front of 50,617 fans at Stanford Stadium. With Leitch at the helm, San Jose went 7-0-1 in eight home matches to clinch their first postseason appearance since 2012 and also reach the semifinals of the U.S. Open Cup for the first time in team history. He also gave Yueill his first significant playing time, with the rookie midfielder making 10 starts in 13 total appearances over final 17 matches of the season. Leitch returned to his role of technical director at the conclusion of the season.
Leitch’s continued oversight of the Quakes Academy has resulted in six additional Homegrown Player signings since December of 2017, including U.S. U-23 goalkeeper JT Marcinkowski, 2021 MLS All-Star Cade Cowell, and then 14-year-old Emi Ochoa, the youngest Homegrown signing in MLS history, who has represented both the U.S. and Mexico at various youth national team levels.
Following the departure of general manager Jesse Fioranelli in June of 2021, Leitch retained his title of technical director but assumed control of the team’s soccer operations. San Jose went unbeaten in Leitch’s first 10 matches at the helm (3-0-7), conceding just nine goals during that span. Leitch also engineered the trade to acquire 24-year-old forward Jeremy Ebobisse in the biggest inter-league transfer in club history.