It is said that the only thing constant in life is change, and that certainly proved to be the case for the San Jose Earthquakes in 2017. Several new and influential faces joined the executive team throughout the course of the year. At No. 4 in our 17 in 17, we review these executive changes of 2017.
Jesse Fioranelli – Jan. 5, 2017
Jesse Fioranelli joined the Quakes on Jan. 5 as the general manager, a role in which he is responsible for overseeing the technical side of the Quakes. Coming from Italy’s AS Roma, Fioranelli brought with him extensive experience with top-flight European clubs and the James Bond-esque talent of speaking five languages: English, German, Italian, Spanish and French.
With the hire of Fioranelli, a trickle down affect took place as he constructed his technical staff and team. Several new faces joined the coaching staff and team as a result of his arrival, including Quakes’ Defender of the Year Florian Jungwirth, forward Danny Hoesen and Designated Player Vako. These three players all made a big impact at the Quakes this year in all competitions. As an example, although Vako joined in the summer transfer window and made his first appearance on July 19, he was tied for second most goals on the team by the end of the season with Hoesen and Marco Ureña.
From the moment he started with the club, Fioranelli made it clear that utilizing technology to analyze players is a top priority. In July, the Quakes announced a partnership with Second Spectrum, focusing on artificial intelligence and machine learning. The technology involves state-of-the-art tracking system, enabling the Quakes to anticipate player movement before it happens.
This investment in technology also led to a collaboration with the German Football Association, DFB, focused on knowledge exchange, game development and machine learning. Members of the DFB came to San Jose in 2017 to meet with Tech and sports leaders in the Bay Area, including Google’s Chief Innovation Evangelist Dr. Frederik G. Pferdt and Oakland Athletics’ Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Billy Beane.
While these partnerships and collaborations came into fruition this year, the Quakes will certainly see more of their impact in the years to come.
Tom Fox – June 1, 2017
The Quakes hired Tom Fox, a former Premier League executive, to replace Dave Kaval, who stepped down as the Quakes President to focus on his role as the President of the Oakland Athletics, on June 1, 2017.
Prior to joining the Quakes, Fox spent two seasons as CEO of Aston Villa following a successful stint as the Chief Commercial Officer at Arsenal. In this role, Fox oversaw Arsenal’s sponsorship, media and marketing teams. During his five years in North London, Fox and his staff transformed Arsenal’s commercial capabilities leading to greater global media and brand reach, an industry leading customer intelligence platform and the successful negotiation of two of the three largest sponsorship contracts in world football at the time with Emirates Airlines and Puma.
Fox spent the first few months in charge at the Quakes observing operations formulating a plan for the continued success of the club. Part of that plan is the Sky Lounge, located in the southeast corner of the upper concourse behind Section 122, it will be the most exclusive season pass option offered at Avaya Stadium, and newly remodeled Bench Suites that will be available for game-by-game purchase for large groups. Both of these infrastructure additions will be available for the 2018 season.
Chris Leitch – June 25, 2017
Chris Leitch has held a number of posts with the Quakes since retiring as a player following the 2011 season. He started as the club’s academy director in 2012 and was promoted to technical director for the Quakes in 2015. He served as interim general manager in 2016 following the departure of John Doyle, and on June 25, 2017, he became the ninth head coach in Quakes history, replacing Dominic Kinnear.
In his reign as head coach, Leitch managed to accomplish something that no other Quakes coach has done since 2012: qualify for the MLS Cup Playoffs. It came down to the dying moments of the season: the last minutes of the last game. With the score tied 2-2 with Minnesota United FC, the Quakes did not look like they would secure a spot. In the third minute of stoppage time, 88th minute substitute Marco Ureña scored the goal that made all the difference and saw the Quakes into the postseason.
In November, Leitch resumed his previous role of technical director. Aside from his accomplishments as head coach, Leitch has laid the foundation that will continue to impact the team for many years to come. In 2016 he played a fundamental role in establishing the USL affiliation with Reno 1868 FC. Leitch hired Reno’s general manager Andy Smith and appointed Ian Russell as the head coach.
As the technical director for the Earthquakes Youth Development Academy from 2012 to 2015, he helped transform the Quakes’ youth system into one of the premier academies in the nation.
Mikeal Stahre – Nov. 24, 2017
The most recent addition to the team, the Quakes announced on Nov. 24 that Mikael Stahre is the new head coach. While he has yet to coach a Quakes game, Stahre brings with him 11 years of coaching experience and a track record that is nothing short of impressive.
Stahre has experienced success with several clubs. He comes to the Quakes after one season at BK Hacken in the Swedish top-flight Allsvenskan. During his lone season with the club, Stahre led the team to a 14-6-10 record, a +14 goal-differential, the third-fewest goals allowed in the league (28) and a fourth-place finish. Stahre elevated Hacken from 10th place in 2016 with an 11-12-7 record to a top-four finish for the first time since 2012.
He started coaching in 2007 with FC Vasby United of the Swedish third-tier and led the team to a second place finish with a 15-5-6 record and the third-best offense in the league, earning a promotion to the second-tier Superettan in his first season. He moved to AIK in 2009, where won a league championship and secured a first place finish at the Swedish Cup, similar to the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, in his first season. He won the Swedish Cup again in 2012-13 with IFK and in the seasons that followed, he helped the mid-table club reach third and second place in the standings of the Allsvenskan, the highest division in Sweden.
All the teams that Stahre has coached have finished with a strong goal differential. After his three successful seasons with IFK, went to China to take over Dalian Aerbin (Yifang), who had just been relegated from the Chinese Super League to League One. In his first season in China in 2015, Stahre led Dalian Aerbin to a third-place finish with a 17-6-7 record and the league’s second-best goal-differential (+24). By joining the Quakes, Stahre’s coaching career now extends across four countries: China, Greece, Sweden and the United States.
As we reflect on 2017 and look at the changes that took place, we know with much anticipation that they will continue to have a lasting affect on the team for many more years to come.