Every MLS outfit has traces of foreign influence on and off the pitch. Certain sides have chosen a domestic-heavy route, but several others have designed winning blueprints that hinge on foreign players and managers.
On Wednesday, the San Jose Earthquakes continued their surge towards that latter path by establishing a heavily Swedish identity with the signing of Magnus Eriksson from Djurgardens IF in the Swedish Allsvenskan.
Recent history shows that successful sides in MLS have targeted specific markets when acquiring players playing abroad; thus, creating certain, unique identities.
For example, recently crowned MLS Cup champions Toronto FC assembled their dangerous trio of Sebastian Giovinco, Michael Bradley, and Jozy Altidore by purchasing each individually from one of Europe’s top five leagues. Then there is Atlanta United, who delivered some of the most electrifying soccer driven by its South American based talent and steered by none other than one of the continents best in ‘Tata’ Martino.
With the calendar inching towards the 2018 season, the first full off-season under Fioranelli is culminating and it seems the Quakes are heading into uncharted territory. Landing Allsvenskan products became a staple to San Jose overnight. But for their Swiss general manager, Sweden’s success and player production in the past three decades says it all.
“It’s maybe not for me to say; but their (Sweden’s) recent success, having beaten Italy to the World Cup speaks for itself. That’s one thing,” Quakes general manager Fioranelli told SBI on Wednesday. “Sweden has always had big talent over the last 25 years. Talent that has gone to the Premier League, that has gone to Italy.
“It’s a big exporting country and they’re doing a lot of things right also in youth development,” he added. “I think that is just giving the Swedish market a sustainable model for transferring players, high-talented players.
“What we are interested in is consistently improving our quality season for season with domestic players, San Jose players, and then, on a very selective basis, with foreign talent. That helps us to have competition inside of the team, a sound competition. And then for us also to have that consistency that we are striving for.”
The Quakes, only have two Swedish players, both signed this winter, in Eriksson and Joel Qwiberg, but also a new Swedish head coach in Mikael Stahre. All three joined the Quakes from Sweden’s top two tiers, assuming leading roles in arguably the team’s most tremulous positions last season.
The Quakes’ Sweden-centric identity is only in its beginning stages given Stahre’s arrival is only weeks removed. Despite the Quakes newfound identity probably being considered as lacking appeal to that of other teams, only on-field results will determine if the Bay Area side have discovered a blueprint of its own, and a first of its kind in MLS.