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‘I finally believe that we are doing football’: Fioranelli backs Quakes’ retrofitted model

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Jesse Fioranelli swears he hasn’t taken a week off since his arrival to San Jose in early 2017. 

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The now 40-year-old general manager is seated comfortably on a five-legged office chair, with a can of Canada Dry ginger ale in his hand. An 11×14 impressionist-style mural of Troy Dayak shouldering off an opponent with the ball tucked at his feet, gracefully hovers over his right shoulder. A pair of hardcover books on avant-garde art are open and aesthetically placed on the lower glass of a two-level glass coffee table. The Swiss is in his office, his home away from home, and its composition is telling of the person and professional he is. Ironically, telling about the Quakes’ unorthodox mantra, as well. 

It’s one of the first times Fioranelli opens the doors of his base to reporters. The same space in which most of the signings are made official – at least according to the team’s social media accounts – and where much of the brainstorming regarding the future of the Earthquakes takes place.

With a lukewarm season behind them that saw the Quakes jump from dead-last in 2018 to four points out of playoffs in 2019, he’s given the green light for all questions, pressing and convivial. After all, Fioranelli hinted that he’s entering a second contract of his stint as general manager, in sync with the tune of “five to 10 year hire” that previous President Dave Kaval declared upon Fioranelli’s arrival three years ago. 

Working closer with all facets of the team, in conjunction with head coach Matias Almeyda and his king-size staff, Fioranelli feels “closer to the pulse” of one of the nation’s most storied teams. But after missing the playoffs for a second time in three years, and the local and regional expectations spiking during Almeyda’s spell, Fioranelli has decided that it’s time to talk about the current state of his team and its future. 

“I really want this team to improve,” are some of his words in what was a near two-hour long open conversation with a trio of journalists. “I really want the fans to believe in the direction that we are headed. I would like ownership to feel confident –  as much as the fans – that we are very committed to being competitive. I would like there to be a sense that our club is striving towards a sustainable model. I’m not just speaking from a financial standpoint, but also from a roster-management standpoint. And trust the process throughout, which is part of the reason why I understand that, if the fan up until today has not received enough answers as to the answers they might have, that they look at some of the input that I am willing to share today.”

In charge of the Quakes sporting side during the franchise’s historically-worst season in 2018, Fioranelli’s reputation has been on the chopping block, painted in a bad light by some. Self-inflicted or not, he’s endured pressure and heckling – most notably on Twitter – that very few general managers in MLS endure. 

“And our thoughts about how we would like to go into 2020,” he continued. “That we’re doing this all together, because I really care not about doing everything right by everyone, but by being able to earn the trust, I think, that has been at stake in the last three years, in which we have gone through some ups and downs to be able to say, ‘You know what, I believe in the direction that we are going [in].’ I really care about seeing the fans as excited in 2020 as we were in 2019 for some stretches, and I certainly don’t want to disappoint the fan – every single kid that comes to this stadium; every supporter that has been close the club 30, 40 years – to live up to a standard that we are trying to live every single day.” 

“I believe a lot in the spirit of the club, and I finally believe that we are doing football. I really do. I’m really proud of the people that have contributed to this process, every single one…” 

According to Fioranelli, a former soccer analyst, player agent, and son of a prominent super-agent in Italy during Serie A’s golden age, the team’s cultural progress isn’t universally taken in: 60 to 70 percent of the roster are showing up for non-mandatory workouts during the offseason; players are exchanging heart-to-heart dialogue on WhatsApp groups; and academy coaches are making progress when it pertains to attending and recording all first-team practices.

“This (our organization) is like an organism,” he says, “a living being that you try to take care of and you try to reinforce. From the outside it might be difficult to see all of the dynamics, but it’s important that we believe in that and that we trust it. That’s part of the reason why I wanted to sit down with you today.”

In a rich man’s league, Quakes are banking on a develop-and-sell model

“Each owner can sign a DP and they can spend whatever they want,” Quakes coach Almeyda said recently in an interview with Argentina’s TyC Sports. “Not everyone does it, some do, and that is what marks the difference in the signings.”

For a handful of years, there has been a correlation that reigns supreme in MLS: teams that spend lavishly on their first-team are the teams that win MLS Cup – or clinch playoffs almost at a yearly-rate. With the gap between the haves and have nots widening constantly and exponentially, a chunk of small- and mid-market teams made it clear this offseason that they’re willing to try and keep up with the league’s big spenders. 

Sporting Kansas City broke open its purse and shelled out a reported $9.5 million for Mexican striker Alan Pulido. Columbus Crew wired Tigres over $8 million for Lucas Zelarayan, while Vancouver Whitecaps set a franchise record by purchasing Canadian goal scorer Lucas Cavallini from Puebla for $5 million.

(Photo by Devin Manky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Up until a few months ago – four, to be exact – the Quakes had no official word on whether or not Cristian Espinoza’s loan contract had a buyout option. It was the 24-year-old Argentine winger, himself, who “exercised the option for them” by stating to Villarreal that he wanted to make a permanent move to San Jose. 

Espinoza, pictured at right, cost San Jose roughly $3 million amid interest from various teams in MLS and abroad. Fioranelli said the player can be worth “double or three times” the investment. 

The Quakes had a “blockbuster” signing of their own in Espinoza, but it’s unlikely they’ll top their own record signing any time soon, or replicate ambitious statements of intent done by Kansas City, Vancouver, Columbus or the New England Revolution, who came to a realization that it’s either spend or risk being left behind

San Jose has a different soccer business vision in mind to stay alive: a develop-and-sell strategy. 

Youth development and player trading is far from a new concept in the sport, with shoestring clubs all over the world sticking to the business blueprint for decades, managing to keep up with powerhouses financially and on the field. The Quakes aren’t there yet, but they’re laying the foundation for it.

“We are preparing ourselves for that, there is no doubt about it,” Fioranelli said sternly. “Luckily, we did not have to sell, which is part of the reason why we didn’t have to fill. We have been scouting very actively in South America over the last year. Just recently I came back from a trip, while we were visiting Cristian working out the contract. At one of the places, there were teams from Europe that were actually looking at Marcos Lopez, because he’s going to be a part of the pre-Olympic games in January. They said, ‘You got yourself a great, 19-year-old fullback.’”

“Now, yes, he needs his time,” he added. “Any player – be it Marcos, Jackson (Yueill), Nick (Lima), JT (Marcinkowski), the homegrowns – should have a perspective. I’ll put it in the words of Matias –  that I think he already expressed in a press conference – you have to know the time in which the player stands the weight and carry the backpack. We want to protect them. It’s a responsibility we feel with the person before the player. And with the parents as well, right? It’s the first time in three years that the Top-Five clubs (in MLS) had interest in a lot of our players. We choose to go ahead the way we are going ahead. We’re lucky to be able to do that.”

Fioranelli, who said that excessive spending isn’t “sustainable,” explains the Earthquakes’ model with fervor and precision. There are three levels for players in their first-team pyramid: development, contender and starter. The development players, composed mostly of younger players such as homegrowns and draft picks, will either train with the first-team or train and feature with USL affiliates Reno1 868 FC with a clear pathway of rising up the pecking order. Contenders, on the other hand, are stationed in San Jose and are actively fighting for minutes, while starters are awarded playing time in return for robust performance. 

The structure has a trickle-up effect, causing for the players to drive and support their and the team’s current and future value. When a younger, more marketable player has sustained himself at the top of the pyramid, the time comes in which the player “graduates from the Earthquakes,” Fioranelli said. Put bluntly, the player gets sold for a profit. 

Although that has yet to occur, there are a couple of players approaching that threshold. 

For the first time in Quakes history, players are “marketable,” says Fioranelli. Several key players on San Jose’s current roster received “interest” from winning teams in MLS last season and from clubs abroad. Instead of engaging in transfer talks, the team’s front office opted to keep their core together and continue developing the cognitive, physical, tactical, and technical attributes of each player as they go into their second season under Almeyda’s tutelage.

The Black-and-Blue, too, have placed great emphasis on their academy, despite not having an academy facility. 

During the offseason, the team announced the arrivals of Emmanuel “Emi” Ochoa, 14, and Casey Walls, 16, respectively, as Homegrown players, joining the likes of Tommy Thompson, Nick Lima, Gilbert Fuentes, JT Marcinkowski, Jacob Akanyirige, and Cade Cowell. 

Fioranelli said that their boy’s academy teams – ranging from U12 to U19 – are competing for top-five spots within MLS in all age groups. In efforts to set a top-to-bottom system, Almeyda has all academy sides playing a near-identical system to the first-team’s – intentionally pressuring for the ball, encouraging one-on-ones, and playing out of tough situations from the back – similar to what he ushered in at Chivas.

In three to five years, Fioranelli hopes to have all of the youth “under one roof, in the same city.” But for now, the focus is simple: tapping into the talent hotbed that is Northern California and doubling down on the develop-and-sell model that will keep his team afloat – and potentially within reach of the league’s ever-growing list of big spenders. 

“I do believe that that’s how we can become sustainable,” he said. “And this is not just about young player formation. This is not about how do we save money. This is about how can you create value. That’s how some top clubs in South America and Europe have done it. We’re doing it our own way, and we don’t have to compare with any other markets. I believe in it, the coaches, the scouts.” 

2020: A similar roster with higher hopes

With a low turnover rate following the 2019 season, the San Jose Earthquakes are set to begin MLS’ 25th season with an identical roster. The same team that fell five points short of clinching playoffs after losing their last six games. 

San Jose began building for 2020 over the second half of the season, initiating negotiations with Espinoza, Judson, Florian Jungwirth and Chris Wondowloski – all of whom eventually signed contract extensions. Younger players such as Eric Calvillo and Gilbert Fuentes, who will likely be featuring with Reno permanently next season with other homegrowns, also put pen to paper over the offseason.

A considerable revamp of the roster will have to wait an additional season, with Fioranelli indicating that there will be a “certain turnover heading into 2021.” 

From now until then, minimal transfer activity from the Quakes is expected. Fioranelli and Almeyda will, however, add a center-back this winter, presumably to fill in one of the three spots that opened following the departures of Harold Cummings, Francois Affolter and Jimmy Ockford. 

Either in the summer or during next winter’s transfer window, they’ll sign a young DP from a top-five “important market” in South America. 

During the aforementioned interview with TyC Sports, Almeyda foreshadowed a possible significant change in the league’s Designated Player rule that incentivizes teams to sign DPs under the age of 23. The rule that is reportedly being pushed by small-market owners is certainly influencing the Quakes’ next “big” move. 

San Jose identified “five, six” starting-profile players in MLS that they were willing to bid for, but as Fioranellli notes the teams were uncooperative as they were unwilling to unload their players. In summation, the league’s market has proven to be too limited for the franchise.

So, as the season nears, the Quakes are heading into one of their most important seasons with two DPs in Vako and Espinoza and with an identical supporting cast.

The buzz surrounding the arrival of Almeyda still lingers, safeguarding the high expectations for the team to clinch a first playoff berth in two years. 

Fioranelli might have opened the doors to one of the most intimate spaces in his life and for the first time shared a behind-the-scenes look into his San Jose Earthquakes. But even then, he’s unwilling to reveal his rubric for a successful 2020 season. 

Perhaps that has everything to do with his unorthodox mantra. 

“The way I look at it is what I believe in,” Fioranelli said. “And I do believe that we can have a better start than what we have had in 2019, because we know each other. I do believe that some of the difficulties that we had towards the end of the season – I wouldn’t say that they were self-inflicted – but I do believe that halfway into the season, while there was so much hype around the San Jose Earthquakes, that for us it presented a completely new scenario in which we weren’t accustomed to being in.” 

“There were people giving us the possibilities of winning MLS Cup and we had just came off of a very, very challenging season…,” he added. “And so, that’s part of the reason why as we’re heading into 2020, conscious decisions [have been] taken with regards towards the roster because if you were to speak with Matias, Wondo, Flo, even with Shea, Daniel Vega, to any of the players that were showing up here during the offseason, we know we can do better than that, we feel that. I can tell you it’s the first time in three years that we’ve had as much interest in our players by other clubs in MLS than what we’ve had this year, and there were conscious decisions on why we are still together. Partially, because the club wanted it that way. Partially, because the players wanted it that way. I’m not going to set one, single benchmark. I just want to remind ourselves what we lived through in 2019, and why I believe in why we can have a better start, why we can also finish the season better than we did in 2019. That’s how I look at things right now.”

Wondolowski: ‘I want to play for one more year’

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2019 was a once-in-a-lifetime season for Chris Wondolowski – both on a personal and collective level.

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After enduring a 2018 season that took a toll on the San Jose Earthquakes captain “physically” and “mentally,” the 36-year-old etched his name in the history books, becoming the league’s all-time leading goal scorer.

His 15 goals in 32 games played made him the Quakes’ leading goalscorer and tied fifth in the league.

Wondolowski credits coach Matias Almeyda – who described the forward as a true “goalscorer” and a player “who has made history” – and his staff for “reigniting the passion and the love” he feels for the game.

With a memorable season behind him, ProSoccerTalk spoke to “Wondo” to discuss where his future lies, the ebbs and flows at Earthquakes Way over the past two years, the future of the Black-and-Blue and much more in a two-part series.

Editor’s Note: This interview was conducted prior to the San Jose Earthquakes final regular-season game against the Portland Timbers, and was edited for clarity.


ProSoccerTalk: Is Chris Wondolowski returning for a 17th season?

Chris Wondolowski: I hope so. I’m going to re-evaluate, talk with family, talk with the ownership about a contract. But I’ve had so much fun this year. Matias [Almeyda] has helped reignite my love and passion for the game and I would like to do one more year.


Has there been any talks between you and team officials? You haven’t really gotten to the bottom of it?

Yeah, no, we’ve been in talks. We’ve been discussing some things and working out some details. But yeah, I love this organization and I want to represent it. Hopefully, I can get renewed for one more year.


How do you describe this season? Coming into the season, you guys had those first four losses, and at a point in time also, you weren’t racking up any goals. Many were maybe asking if this was the decline of Chris. But then you have that game against the Chicago [Fire], and everything just turns around. How do you describe the season? 

Emotionally, it’s been a little bit of a rollercoaster. Maybe a little anxious coming into preseason, not knowing if my energy, you know, could still hang. I was getting off to a rough start. I wasn’t playing really well. I was playing really poorly and the results were showing that as well. But then I finally just got my footing. The coaching staff have just helped me so much. They’ve pushed me at the right times, they’ve motivated me. But they’ve also helped me relax, helped me just play the game and reminded me that it’s a game and to just enjoy that. And I think that was kind of just the turning point this year: being able to enjoy the game and not being able to just press for goals, press for wins. If you go and execute this game plan, things will happen, and they have.

SAN JOSE, CA – MAY 18: Chris Wondolowski #8 of the San Jose Earthquakes holds the ball that he scored his 146th career goal with during a press conference after a Major League Soccer (MLS) match between the San Jose Earthquakes and the Chicago Fire on May 18, 2019 at Avaya Stadium in San Jose, California. (Photo by Maciek Gudrymowicz/isiphotos/Getty Images)

In all fairness, your numbers have been at an elite level for ten years. How long do you think you can play and how long do you think you’ll actually play (two different things)? 

My body feels good. This is pretty cool with all the technology and data that you can collect and this is probably the fastest and some of the strongest times I’ve had. This year I’ve taken a lot more interest in my health and going to the gym, whereas in years past I was just winging it. Going back to that, I think I could play for a couple more years. I think I want to play for one more [year].


Does that keep you up at night: that your mind and your body is probably thinking of the future, but in actuality – just the way that the sport works – that the age next to your name might not allow you to continue on?

Yeah, a little bit. It’s just one of those things where that’s what I love about this game – you have so many different aspects. We have 16-year-olds in this locker room, and we’ve played with Nick Romando and Kyle Beckerman, who are 37 and it’s pretty cool to see that they’re still doing great things. You have guys like Zlatan – who’s 37 – and doing amazing things. So, it’s pretty cool to see that whole spectrum of things. But I also think I was really pretty content on it being my last year. I’m pretty much just taking the approach where I’m enjoying every moment – even preseasons and stuff like that I was enjoying it and taking it all in, road trips and things like that. But I always thought that there was just going to be a day where I was going to come in and things weren’t going to be fun, but that’s definitely not the case. I love coming into practice. It’s fun hanging out with these guys, so that’s why I’m probably going to end up putting a cap on it and putting an end date some time.


You mention the word “questioning.” Did you ever question your future prior to this season? Did that thought of leaving it all behind ever come to mind? If so, what was it that changed that idea?

To be quite frank, last year took a lot out of me both emotionally and physically. It was tough. It was a rollercoaster of a year. I was in a bad spot mentally, physically. The locker room was in disarray. I took a lot of self-inventory, and I got on myself for letting the locker room get to where it was. It was just refreshing to have this clean slate. We all came in. We all bought in. Again, I think that’s why it’s such a joy this year. It’s been awesome. It’s been so fun.


How do you describe Matias Almeyda?

[A] great man both on and off the field. I think that he has a lot of the morals and values that I think makes up a great man. I think that’s something that I strive for and to be like. I think that he just lives life the right way.


Do you sense that there’s the next Chris Wondolowski – not in the goal scoring aspect, but with the ‘this is my club’ mentality, ownership, and leadership – in the current locker room or maybe somewhere in the Quakes pipeline?

I think there’s a few guys coming up with that. I see guys from the area who have really taken ownership of the club. I see it in Shea Salinas, but also guys like Tommy Thompson and Nick Lima. I think these guys are really understanding what this club stands for and help moving it in the right direction, because this is a special club – there’s so much history and so many great things that happened. I think that they understand it, and are helping move it in the right direction. 


Who did you talk to regarding standing with the Ultras and cheering with them for 90 minutes? Is this something you thought about the day before or a couple days before when you first found out you were going to be suspended. Did you speak to maybe your wife about it, your family? Who was it?

It was just kind of something I’ve always wanted to do.


Just innate?

Yeah. You know, I wanted to be able to yell. I definitely told my wife about it and talked to her about it. She knows how crazy I am, though. But she was all about it. It was just one of those things where I had so much pent up frustration from the red card as well, and it gives me an outlet to yell. I was going to have a lot of nervous energy about that game anyway, so it allowed me to express that. 

SAN JOSE, CA – SEPTEMBER 25: San Jose Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski (8) chants with the fans in the stands before the MLS soccer match between the Philadelphia Union and San Jose Earthquakes on September 25, 2019 at Avaya Stadium in San Jose, CA. (Photo by Bob Kupbens/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

With the integration of LAFC to the league, it has taken away a lot of the spotlight from the LA Galaxy and the San Jose Earthquakes as a rivalry. People who follow this club near and dear will always see the California Clasico as “the” rivalry. With the pending integration of Sacramento Republic to the league, is it possible that San Jose and Sac Republic end up having an organic rivalry? Is that the next big rivalry for San Jose, and is it legitimate?

I think it’s going to be a great rivalry. I think that anytime you’re battling and you have similar territory – especially nowadays with the academies; we’re going to be fighting over those guys and stuff as well. I think that what makes a rivalry is what happens on the field. Fans will always help it and help promote it, but when you’re out there and you’re battling against them, you just develop a dislike for them, a dislike for the club because you want your club to be better. I think that it’s important to have some of these rivalries, and I think the Sacramento one is going to be a great one.


It’s not really talked about, but it’s factual: You are the leading American-born goalscorer in the league this season. Correct me if I’m wrong, but you never announced your retirement from the U.S. men’s National Team. Does it bother you that you’re not even considered, given that fact?

I’d appreciate it, but I would probably turn it down anyways. I am pretty much retired from it. It’s time for the US to move on. There’s so many valuable growth in getting into camps. That’s why I love that Jackson [Yueill] and Nick [Lima] are in these camps. It’s something that you really grow from and learn from. I think you can grow as a player and as a person there. It’s time for Josh Sargent and all these other young guys to really make their mark, and I think they’re doing a good job of it and hopefully they can continue it.

MLS: ATL run wild on 10-man SJ; MNUFC fall to CLB, at home

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Atlanta United 4-2 San Jose Earthquakes

The game in 100 words (or less): Here’s the toughest part of facing Atlanta: they come at you in waves, and they. do. not. ever. stop. coming. San Jose learned that lesson the hard way — made even more difficult by Kofi Sarkodie’s 32nd-minute red card, which forced Chris Leitch’s side to play a man down for an hour, on the road, against one of MLS’s highest-tempo teams — on Tuesday. Tommy Thompson gave the visitors an early lead, which they would hold onto until the 55th minute, at which point all hell broke loose. Carlos Carmona equalized, Josef Martinez put Atlanta in front 10 minutes later, but Chris Wondolowski answered fewer than 90 seconds later. Anton Walkes bagged the winner, Atlanta’s third goal of the night scored on a ball delivered from a wide area, in the 81st minute, and Martinez put the game to bed one minute before full-time. With the victory, Atlanta sit 4th in the Eastern Conference, just three points back of New York City FC, five back of Toronto FC, and seven back of league-leading Chicago Fire.

[ MORE: Dwyer, Acosta power USMNT to win over Ghana | Three things ]

Three Four Five Six moments that mattered

2′ — Thompson bags his first MLS goal for 1-0 — It took him 2,563 minutes of playing time over three and a half seasons, but Thompson finally has a league goal to his name.

32′ — A second yellow for Sarkodie, SJ down to 10 — Kofi Sarkodie was more than a little fortunate to still be on the field after just 10 minutes, so he can’t complain too much when he’s shown a soft second yellow card 22 minutes later.

55′ — Carmona taps in the equalizer — Josef Martinez is just an unbelievable joy to watch. Some of the things he tries, and pulls off, are so rare to MLS. Turns out, he’s also an Olympic high-jumper.

65′ — Martinez heads home for 2-1 — Greg Garza serves up a tasty ball from his left back spot, and Martinez loves to go up and get it.

66′ — Wondo equalizes 78 seconds later — Apparently, current MLS defenders haven’t been watching MLS at all this decade, because they’ve still not figured out the league’s one unbreakable rule: never leave Wondolowski alone on either post.

81′ — Walkes heads home for 3-2 — Julian Gressel served up the corner kick, no one for San Jose dealt with it, and Walkes powered the header past David Bingham to seal all three points.

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Man of the match: Josef Martinez

Goalscorers: Thompson (2′), Carmona (55′), Martinez (65′, 89′), Wondolowski (66′), Walkes (81′)


Minnesota United 0-1 Columbus Crew SC

The game in 100 words (or less): Theoretically, all 22 teams are still very much alive in the race for six playoff places in each the Eastern and Western Conferences. Realistically, however, teams like Minnesota can’t afford to drop many more points the rest of the way — especially at home — if they’re to claw their way back into the fight out West. Tuesday’s 1-0 home defeat to Columbus, while not season-killing, was a bitter blow with Adrian Heath’s side seeking to move to within a single point of 6th-place LA Galaxy. Instead, the Loons managed just a single shot on target all game long and dropped all three points for the sixth time in their last nine games. All four teams that stand between Minnesota and a playoff place currently have at least one game in hand.

[ MORE: Dwyer, Acosta power USMNT to win over Ghana | Three things ]

Three moments that mattered

56′ — Steffen makes the diving save on Ibson — The Loons were headed for a 1-0 lead not long before the hour mark, but Zack Steffen was all over Ibson’s free kick.

58′ — Manneh fires from distance, makes it 1-0 — Perhaps letting Manneh take so many touches through the center of the field wasn’t so wise.

65′ — Shuttleworth goes full-stretch to deny Kamara — Ola Kamara had picked out the near post with his volley from the edge of the box, but Bobby Shuttleworth was quick to cover his near post and make the save.

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Man of the match: Wil Trapp

Goalscorers: Manneh (58′)

Video: Tommy Thompson nets brilliant back heel finish

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
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It’s only preseason but Tommy Thompson looked to be in midseason form on Saturday for the San Jose Earthquakes.

The 21-year-old forward opened the scoring for the Earthquakes during their friendly with Reno 1868 FC of the USL. Reno will make its debut in the league during the upcoming 2017 season.

Anyway, Thompson is surrounded by Reno bodies inside the penalty area, before pulling the ball back on his right foot and knocking it beyond the goalkeeper to give Dominic Kinnear’s side the 1-0 lead.

Jurgen Klinsmann struggling to get USMNT players released for Olympic qualifying

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Don’t look now, but the 2015 CONCACAF Men’s Olympic Qualifying Championship is just over a month away from kicking off, and Jurgen Klinsmann is beginning to worry about which key players will and won’t be available for the start of the United States U-23 team’s qualifying campaign.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage | MLS ]

While Klinsmann won’t be coaching the U-23 squad himself (he’ll be busy with the senior team in their Confederations Cup playoff against Mexico on Oct. 10), Klinsmann’s role as technical director and overseer of the entire U.S. Soccer program makes him the one responsible for liaising with the involved players’ club sides.

In a video released by USSoccer.com on Monday (above video), Klinsmann explains the intricacies — and difficulties — of getting the club teams of that many quality players to release their prized possessions for international duty when they don’t necessarily have to do so.

“We need help from the clubs overseas, we need help from the clubs here in MLS, in order to get the players released, especially [since] the Olympic qualifiers start outside of the release dates, so we badly need those players in order to qualify for Rio de Janeiro. Hopefully we get the support by all the clubs to get the players in.”

The tournament is scheduled to begin Thursday, Oct. 1, when the Yanks will face Canada at Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kan., and that’s a problem, because the international window for early October doesn’t begin until Monday, Oct. 5. The US U-23 squad will play its three games in Group A on Oct. 1, 3 and 6. Two teams advance from each four-team group. The two semifinals winners advance to the final and automatically qualify for the 2016 Olympics.

Regarding players likely to be called up to the Olympic qualifying team, the following players’ club teams have league games that will conflict with Klinsmann’s request to release them for the start of the tournament:

  • Wil Trapp, Columbus Crew SC — Saturday, Oct. 3, vs. New York Red Bulls
  • Rubio Rubin, FC Utrecht — Oct. 3, vs. Excelsior
  • Matt Miazga, New York Red Bulls — Oct. 3, vs. Columbus Crew SC
  • Gedion Zelalem, Rangers (on loan) — Oct. 3, vs. Falkirk
  • Kellyn Acosta, FC Dallas — Oct. 4, vs. Houston Dynamo
  • Tommy Thompson, San Jose Earthquakes — Oct. 4, vs. Vancouver Whitecaps
  • Luis Gil, Real Salt Lake — Sunday, Oct. 4, vs. Colorado Rapids
  • Jose Villarreal, LA Galaxy — Oct. 4, vs. Seattle Sounders
  • Dillon Serna, Colorado Rapids — Oct. 4, vs. Real Salt Lake
  • Fatai Alashe, San Jose Earthquakes — Oct. 4, vs. Vancouver Whitecaps
  • Tyler Turner, Orlando City SC — Oct. 3, vs. Montreal Imapct
  • Christian Dean, Vancouver Whitecaps — Oct. 3, vs. San Jose Earthquakes

Key players perhaps unaffected due to their various club situations:

  • Emerson Hyndman, Fulham — currently playing for U-21 side
  • Cameron Carter-Vickers, Tottenham Hotspur — currently playing for U-21 side
  • Paul Arriola, Club Tijuana — currently a bench player

October is just about worst time of the calendar year for the Americans in which CONCACAF could have planned to stage this tournament, from a player availability standpoint — MLS’s 2015 regular season will be winding down at that time with the season’s final matchday taking place Oct. 25.

Perhaps breaking apart the “tournament” and spreading it out over the September and October international dates would have better suited Klinsmann and the US U-23 team, but contrary to popular belief, CONCACAF doesn’t exist simply to cater to the US and Mexican federations on any and all matters.

Qualifying for the 2016 Olympics in Rio is by no means a foregone conclusion for the American men (remember the 2012 qualifying debacle?), and potentially being forced to begin their quest without a number of their best players will only make it more of a challenge and require the group’s depth to exceed expectations.