An incredible draft and great transfer strategy have been the two hallmarks of the Quakes’ offseason so far. With an uncertain future at the managerial level, moves have been made to bring in the foundational pieces for the next era of Quakes’ soccer. Chris Leitch’s first full transfer window as general manager has been incredibly insightful on what the team’s future will look like.
Last season, Chris Leitch was made the permanent general manager after Jesse Fioranelli’s departure from the front office. In that period of time, Leitch has made key pieces to help get the most out of Matías Almeyda’s final contract year and prepare the team for the future.
Leitch’s appointment marked a departure from the previous strategy of various general managers who opted to bring in talented players from other leagues rather than MLS proven ones. For the most part, this strategy was a failure as for every Cristian Espinoza, there were 5 Yeferson Quintanas. Especially with the budget of the Quakes, it was always going to be difficult to find success with these moves.
In a way, this has been a breath of fresh air, as Leitch’s familiarity with the MLS gives him a better insight on what brings success in the MLS. Looking at his draft and transfers, it’s clear that the front office believes that their path towards success goes through MLS proven talents. This has meant finding MLS veterans who can help the young players on the roster grow.
As the Almeyda era begins its end, Leitch and the front office have tried to give him the best roster to win in the present and future. Of course, there is no guarantee that this will work, but the team finally has a coherent plan that fits into the reality of how their ownership operates.
So far, all of Leitch’s moves in the transfer market, since his appointment, have been within the MLS and specifically players who have been contributors on good teams. In addition to those moves, the draft picks and contract extensions seen this offseason further highlight the new approach.
Jeremy Ebobisse was Leitch’s first real move as general manager and it was a great one, as it helped secure the Quakes’ future in the striker position following Wondo’s retirement. Although he was limited by injuries, he should offer the Quakes a more dynamic forward. Getting a young MLS proven striker for relatively little was a great sign of things to come.
The next two moves were to shore up depth with Ján Greguš and Francisco Calvo being signed to relatively small contracts to add depth in the midfield and defense that they have lacked for years. However, the biggest move of the current offseason has been the trade for Jamiro Monteiro, who will become the team’s third designated player. Monteiro had been a key piece to the success of the Philadelphia Union these past few seasons and should add another dimension to the midfield.
Not only has this current iteration of the Quakes’ front office reinvigorated a team that has never had a coherent transfer policy, but they have shown a dedication to the youth movement. The Quakes came away from the MLS draft as big winners and were able to secure the future of promising talents.
Not many people hype up the MLS SuperDraft, but the Quakes struck gold with their moves and picked players with impressive potential. The player who seems likely to break out in the MLS next season is Ousseni Bouda who will add necessary depth on the wings, as he continues to grow. Bouda has already put in some good performances in preseason and should excite fans with his talents.
Cade Cowell’s extension is the talk of the MLS, as the mercurial youngster signed a massive new contract as he is now the star of the team. Paul Marie was also signed to a new team friendly deal, but the more interesting contract extensions were to academy players. From Niko Tsakiris to Will Richmond, the contracts doled out to academy players represents the front office’s trust in their academy as a source of talent.
With a new front office given little time to prepare, many would have expected them to struggle, but they have thrived by sticking to their strategy. It may be too early to congratulate Lietch and his team, but it’s been a nice change to some of the chaotic moves of transfer windows past.
A cloud of doubt hovering over the team will be the future of Almeyda and some of the players that had signed on to play under him. Again, it does seem like the front office is preparing for this future.
Starting with Almeyda, his contract runs out at the end of this upcoming season and there has been no real news on what will happen when it ends. It does seem unlikely that he will return given the amount of interest he has garnered from other teams since his tenure at the Quakes started. In addition, his clashing with ownership may make them unwilling to commit to Almeyda long term.
It would be wrong, and distract the team, if the front office were to start their search for a new manager now. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have a contingency plan where they have some targets in mind for their next manager. Entering the next offseason without a plan would derail all the positive moment built by the front office.
The other interesting dimension to Almeyda’s potential departure will be whether the players who joined to play under him will stay. Espinoza’s move to the Quakes was partly due to the influence that Almeyda had, but he has become one of the best wingers in the MLS and may stay past Almeyda. Plenty of players have developed well under Almeyda and may choose to follow him, but with the depth the Quakes now have, it seems like they are prepared for that.
Chofis’ situation is more interesting given that his loan ends in four months and while the Quakes could sign him after the loan ends, the team has backup plans ready. The trade for Monteiro is a clear message that the team has a plan should Chofis not stay past his loan. Monteiro could outplay Chofis and the Quakes could refrain from signing him long term or the price for Chofis may be too much for the team.
With Almeyda’s future up in the air, the Quakes are entering a pivotal time for the franchise with little guarantees on what will happen in less than a year. To combat this uncertainty, the front office has had to prepare for all cases and keep their eyes on the future.
Leitch’s first offseason may not have been the flashy one that many hoped for, but they nailed the strategy that they came in with and have set themselves up well. Time will tell whether this was the correct path, but it’s much better to prepare adequately than to wildly swing for the fences. Predicting the future is a fool’s errand, but there’s nothing wrong with preparing for it.
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