SAN JOSE — It's playoffs or bust in 2023 for the San Jose Earthquakes.
That was the message given by newly hired head coach Luchi Gonzalez, who was hired by the 'Quakes to take over the head coaching duties and bring back a winning culture to the South Bay.
Gonzalez was introduced by general manager Chris Leitch at a press conference on Wednesday afternoon inside the Signia Hotel (formerly The Fairmont) in downtown San Jose to a room full of media, club personnel and fans.
Gonzalez, currently an assistant coach with the United States Men’s National Team, will take over at the conclusion of the 2022 FIFA World Cup. The interim coaching staff, led by Alex Covelo, will remain in their current roles through the end of the 2022 season.
Gonzalez, 42, has served as an assistant coach for the U.S. National Team since December 2021. With Gonzalez on staff, the USMNT played their final six qualification matches for the 2022 FIFA World Cup and secured their place in the competition for the first time since 2014.
Gonzalez believes going through the interview process with Leitch on the type of path the team was heading in, convinced him that this is where he wants to be in the next chapter of his career.
"There was a lot of alignment. Ambition was built to start seeing the future and seeing the potential of the team. The alignment I felt was strong after the process having a lot of conversations with Chris (Leitch) about the locker room, the culture, the expectations of that and how it wants to be represented on the field," said Gonzalez.
Leitch, in the middle of questions from the media, took a defensive stance on questions being asked about the team's expectations with the hiring of Gonzalez.
"For us through this interview process is really important because I'm hearing some undertones already with some of these questions. Just want to make it crystal clear, that the intent is to win. That's part of the reason why we hired Luchi Gonzalez. You'll see a competitor. You see a guy who wants to win as much as we do. And that is very important to us, full stop," Leitch said.
Luchi agreed stating he has a win now state of mind and emphasized that point during the presser.
“The ambition is to win, is to make the playoffs next year. Plain and simple. We must make the playoffs next year. That’s going to be our mentality, our objective. The process is the most important for me. That’s where the work has gotta be done. That's what everybody has gotta believe. Fans, team staff, me, leadership, we all gotta believe to make next year’s maybe at end of the year moment count. But it’s gotta start with believing in the next step, which the process,” Gonzales stated.
Gonzalez praised the 'Quakes academy and the development of the homegrown players it has produced over the years that includes Cade Cowell, someone Gonzalez is excited to work with once he takes over the reigns next season.
“I think there is a lot of potential. I think it’s a high potential group and club. The academy is growing. You got young players doing well. You have people that would die for this jersey on this roster. You see it improving. You have more players on the youth national team than ever before. Maybe the most in the country right now,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez previously MLS coaching experience was back in 2019 as the head coach of FC Dallas. He led the club to back-to-back MLS Cup Playoff appearances in 2019 and 2020. Over those two seasons, FC Dallas lost just one of 27 home matches (17-1-9) and ranked top-seven defensively both years. He departed the club in September 2021.
Gonzalez said, “Everything I learned from my former experiences in Dallas, have led me to be in this moment to grab the opportunity for San Jose.”
San Jose has nine matches remaining on a dismal season that has them anchoring the bottom of the Western Conference standings. The Earthquakes host SoCal rival LAFC on Saturday at 7:00pm at PayPal Park.
January 17, 2023