Almost three years ago, Chris Leitch took over as the Quakes’ general manager. Over that time, he reformed the team’s transfer strategy, aiming to build squads that fit in the modern MLS landscape.
After only one playoff appearance in that time, despite some decent signings, how much of these issues can be attributed to him?

Assessing Leitch’s time in charge of the Quakes is difficult.

Crediting him with both the success and failures of this team relies so heavily on the context of his situation.

Beginning with his acquisition of Ebobisse, Leitch understands the needs of the modern landscape. The players he targets are either MLS veterans or those in leagues similar to MLS. For the most part, Leitch succeeded in finding the correct path for the club when it comes to transfers.

PHOTO: San Jose Earthquakes

Leitch continues to fail in figuring out who to lead the project. He waited too long to can both Almeyda and Luchi. There’s no clear strategy for the managers, and this has led to the club failing to find any sort of stability at the position.

Leitch is, perhaps, the best general manager the Quakes have had in over a decade.

At the same time, he failed to find the correct leads for his project.

With his transfer for Ebobisse, Leitch established himself as the Quakes’ new general manager. Risky transfers and unproven players were replaced by the profiles of those who succeed in MLS. 

Fioranelli’s strategy revolved around riskier bets on players that came from smaller leagues. For every Cristian Espinoza, the team netted a few Joel Qwibergs. To be fair, some of the players Fioranelli brought in work, but not necessarily for the team. Marcos López quickly became one of the best left-backs in MLS, earning a move to the Netherlands, but never really pushed the team to new heights.

It’s clear that Fioranelli’’s eye for talent pushed him to good players, but not necessarily MLS-caliber ones. Since he’s left the team, the Swiss found himself back in Europe, showing that while a good talent evaluator, he’s not fit for MLS.

PHOTO: San Jose Earthquakes

Going back to his first month in charge, Leitch picked up Ebobisse for an amazingly low price. While Ebobisse struggles to keep his place in the squad now, Leitch placed a low-risk bet that paid off for a few years. These type of moves for MLS level players became the hallmark of his time thus far.

While they aren’t MLS veterans, moves such as Akapo and Rodrigues highlight the aim of filling this team with players experienced in competitive leagues. More than his MLS moves, this is truly where he has thrived. Hernan López may just be his Mona Lisa with the way Argentina transformed this team upon arrival.

Perhaps the only area Leitch struggled with is the youth development side of priorities. The club held onto Cowell for far too long and impacted his development. Tsakiris, since last season, got thrust into a larger role than he could have ever expected. 

Over the course of his three years so far, Leitch made a name for himself with his moves.

By focusing on players who fit the modern MLS, he brought some stability to a team desperately needing it.

Finding the correct manager for the Quakes remains the holy grail. Leitch’s choice to be lenient undermined the team’s development.

Like most of his predecessors, Leitch’s inability to find the right manager for the job hamstrings his own work. Fioranelli chose the wrong manager with Mikael Stahre and the project with Almeyda. In Stahre’s case, he cut him as the damage enveloped the team.

When he became the general manager, it became clear that a divorce was needed for the Quakes and Almeyda. Rather than entering the new season with a manager of his choosing, Leitch kept Almeyda with the manager clearly wanting a way out. It took the situation to become insanely toxic for Leitch to cut the experience short.

With Luchi, it remained the same. He waited far too long to make a decision with the manager, which hurt the team.

Photo: San Jose Earthquakes

To be fair to him, it’s tough to understand how much of this choice is on him and on ownership not wanting to pay out the coach. In an ideal world, Leitch would have cut these managers before the season completely unraveled. Again, knowing who is truly in charge of moving on from a coach is tough, but Leitch needs to understand the situation before it becomes impossible to rectify.

Additionally, how many more managers can this team really go through? Only Chelsea survives this constant churn rate of managers. Perhaps Leitch’s long-term prospects need to rest on finding the team’s correct leader. 

Choosing the last great Quakes manager is tough, and part of that is due to the front office’s struggles. If the team understood how to better read situations, it’s feasible to see a path forward for this team.

Judging Leitch’s time as general manager remains a tough task for Quakes’ fans. He is undoubtedly one of the better talent evaluators employed by this team but struggles to find the correct manager.
As the team strays further and further from the rest of MLS, it falls on Leitch to find a way back to some sort of stability.

PHOTO: Quakes Epicenter

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