SAN JOSE, Calif. – Back in January, there was no need for squinting towards the podium to notice the optimism from general manager Jesse Fioranelli as he welcomed his winter signings.
Nine months later, in the San Jose Earthquakes’ most significant game in nearly half a decade, following a season filled heavy rotation up front, the striking tandem – Marco Ureña and Danny Hoesen along with Chris Wondolowski – served to be the difference.
The former AS Roma executive had the Midas touch all along, and despite it being too much for rookie manager Chris Leitch at times, it was the missing formula the Quakes necessitated for far too long.
“It’s a really nice luxury to have a player of Marco’s quality, who as everyone knows, is an MLS starting caliber player that has proven it even on the world stage,” Chris Leitch said on Ureña’s historic super-sub cameo. “In this particular game, it was a nice luxury to have him come off the bench where I knew exactly what he needed to do, so he was going to stay high, he’s never short of working hard, takes his chances.”
Having the pedigree to compete regularly at the MLS level, Hoesen and Ureña, at times, have hesitated to accept the bench role, but even in Europe’s biggest stages, the super-sub role can be the most rewarding and rejoicing.
“A bit of relief after I had been losing protagonism in what has been the last couple of games,” Ureña told SBI. “I haven’t had the ability to play, and it’s tough and frustrating being on the bench, but God always rewards who works hard and who works with sacrifice.”
“It was a gift from Him,” he added. “It’s a big moment for the club, for everyone.”
It was a game of inches for the Quakes, but it was the Costa Rican to the rescue at death, a scenario that is enamored with the World Cup goalscorer.
“I always shine these important moments – where all the players want to score,” the Costa Rican said. “God chooses me, I’ve always said it. It’s really impressive how I always score in the really important moments – for my national team I had a lot of goals like these.
“Now, it’s good to be a part of the Quakes and do that for them, because they bring me here,” he added. “They expect a lot from me.”
Expectations heading into the 2017 campaign were never minimized following last winter’s overhaul. If anything, the expectations had grown exponentially especially for the newly-arrived forwards who had to overturn the abysmal, league-low 32 goals scored the season prior.
With trust, an attacking-oriented tactical system and healthy competition for a starting spot, the Quakes’ attackers have revitalized the club, and, more importantly, themselves.
“I love to be here,” Hoesen told SBI after his goal and assist performance against the Loons. “I had some difficult times at my old club. Jesse put some trust in me to get me here, and obviously I want to pay that back to him.”
“I love this club, and now it’s time to talk also with Jesse about next season,” he added. “I’m very happy here.”
With a single-elimination game forthcoming on Wednesday, the Quakes will heavily lean on their attacking depth. Again, it might prove to be the difference, but it doesn’t need to end there.
After all, strikers and Fioranelli seem to understand each other well come winter time.