When the Quakes’ season last summer fell apart, the front office and ownership decided to make a long needed change. It wasn’t a change in coach, rather it was a change of general manager with Jesse Fioranelli being replaced by Chris Leitch. As the one year anniversary of his appointment nears, now is the perfect time to reflect on his reign.
It should come as no surprise to Quakes fans that for years, the Quakes’ front office was miles behind the rest of the league. However, it’s clear that Leitch has changed the mindset of his office and made them more in touch with the modern MLS.
To say that Leitch’s transfers have been a success would be an understatement, as his moves have largely elevated the Quakes. By far his two best moves have been the signings of Jeremy Ebobisse and Jamiro Monteiro, who have changed the Quakes offense for the better. At the same time, Leitch has continued Fioranelli’s excellent youth development.
Taking a look at the way that he has dealt with departures is also crucial, as he has done good business there as well. Getting a good fee for Franciscco Calvo who joined the club on a free was a master class in being a great GM. In addition, Leitch has made some interesting choices, such as letting Chofis walk, that clearly stamp his authority on these matters.
For years, Quakes fans have begged for a front office that was relevant in the current MLS and Leitch has made this his goal. So much of the Quakes’ fortunes in the coming seasons will fall on the shoulders of Leitch and so far, he seems up to the task.
Previous Quakes’ front offices have aimed for players that never made an impact in the MLS or tried to fit in whatever trend the rest of the league was aiming for. Leitch’s reign is a clear departure from this, as his dealings have been both surprising and rewarding.
Although it has been rumored that the Ebobisse deal was in the works before Leitch’s appointment, his trust in the talented striker has paid dividends. Ebobisse has been the striker that the Quakes have been looking for since Lenhart and Gordon departed. He is now a favorite for the golden boot race and will carry this Quakes time for years to come.
Not only is getting him impressive, but the process of identifying him and making a bargain deal with the Timbers showcases Leitch’s talent as a GM. Ebobisse was being treated as a winger with the Timbers and relegated to a supporting player in a talented side. Identifying that he was being misused, it has allowed for him to flourish as the sole striker for the Quakes.
The interleague transfers have also been excellent, as the front office has identified some excellent MLS talents for relatively low costs. Calvo, Greguš and Monteiro have all played important roles so far this season and were all added to the side through avenues in MLS. Monteiro’s transfer deserves a lot of praise, as the mercurial midfielder has been key to the Quakes’ success.
During the winter transfer window, many fans were wary of the team’s lack of big moves with only youth players being added from the academy or draft. These moves now seem like a clear indication of the front office’s desire to build a side from the ground up.
With one of the most talented academies, this is a perfect strategy, allowing the Quakes to tap into the Bay Area’s rich talent pool to build a team. It also makes sense financially, as Quakes’ ownership doesn’t spend as much as other MLS sides. With Cade Cowell and Niko Tsakiris becoming exciting prospects after coming through the academy, it’s safe to say the team likes their chances with academy products.
While transfers are only one aspect of being a general manager, it’s fair to say that Leitch’s moves have made the team more competitive in the current MLS. For fans, his willingness to break from previous front offices has made his regime a breath of fresh air.
Judging departures or sales is always a difficult task, as it can be hard to discern what moves are more due to a player’s desire or a general manager’s decision. With that said, Leitch has done some good business in this area.
Any analysis has to start with the sale of Calvo to Konyaspor for an undisclosed fee, as any money being made from a free agent signing is a win. While Calvo did have some good moments with the Quakes, this move made sense for all parties. For Calvo, this will give him a chance to play in Europe and for the Quakes, they were able to get a fee for a player they snapped up for free.
Calvo was signed as a depth piece to ensure safety for both Beason and Nathan, but ended up playing a larger role than expected. He showed why he is still a starting caliber center back and earned this move. Being able to recover a fee for an asset you got for free is the sign of any good GM, no matter the sport.
Chofis will be missed by some fans, as the joy he brought last season was unique, but letting his loan expire may have been the best thing for the club. Monteiro has already outperformed Chofis and he is too talented to come off the bench for the wages he was making.
At the end of last season, much to Almeyda’s chagrin, Leitch disassembled the squad that Almeyda had built for the most part. Andy Rios, Carlos Fierro and Oswaldo Alanis were all let go, taking away the players Almeyda had wanted to use. While this may have helped push Almeyda out the door, it was necessary, as none of those players were of MLS quality.
Leitch’s business with sales has been a surprise, as he has overhauled the squad with some moves while getting some form of reimbursement for other assets has been great. This is often an underlooked part of being a general manager, but he has so far done an interesting job with it.
When the Quakes decided to appoint Lietch as general manager, fans didn’t know what to expect given the mess that the Quakes have been since 2012. However, Leitch has proven to be a man with a plan. At the end of the day, that is something that Quakes fans haven’t seen in a good bit of time.
Featured image: MLS