San Jose Earthquakes general manager Jesse Fioranelli has been busy this offseason, scouting, signing and laying the building blocks for the 2020 MLS season. Although there is a long way to go between now and the first ball being kicked in preseason, phase one of the offseason was to keep the foundation that helped the club more than triple their win total from one season prior.
Established leaders like Chris Wondolowski and Florian Jungwirth, as well as promising young players such as Gilbert Fuentes and Eric Calvillo, were given new contracts. Judson’s buy option from Brazil’s Tombense was also triggered, keeping the 26-year-old in San Jose for the foreseeable future.
After a series of roster moves were announced two weeks ago, which included option declines on defenders Francois Affolter, Jimmy Ockford and Kevin Partida, one major domino has yet to fall: Cristian Espinoza.
The Quakes remain engaged with Espinoza’s parent club Villarreal CF of Spain’s La Liga regarding a permanent transfer. Villarreal spent ~$8 million to acquire Espinoza three and a half years ago and the Argentine hasn’t made a single appearance for The Yellow Submarine since. He was instead loaned out to clubs in Spain, Argentina and the United States each of the last few seasons.
Upon arriving in San Jose, Espinoza admitted playing under the cloud of constant one-year loans was challenging. A new home for his family, a new system of play on the field, and having to adjust to new travel schedules and climates every year all make life that much more difficult. San Jose was the first place Espinoza made more than 20 appearances in a season since 2014-15.
Espinoza, who has seemingly found a proper home here in San Jose, was critical to the team’s success. Matias Almeyda went as far as saying it was difficult to replace his characteristics and the team would have to change their tactical approach when he was unavailable. The Quakes ultimately lost all four matches he did not feature (0-3-1).