San Jose has so much potential

Luchi Gonzalez is ready to lead the San Jose Earthquakes into the 2023 Major League Soccer campaign and serve as head coach of a senior team for the first time ever.  

He joined the organization on August 18, while serving as an assistant coach for Gregg Berhalter in the United States men’s national team. Despite his appointment amid the 2022 MLS campaign, Gonzalez did not officially take the reins until after the Qatar World Cup in December. 

But now, the new manager is ready to make his debut. 

“I had a beautiful and amazing experience with U.S. Soccer, qualifying and getting to the World Cup. But the rhythm is different. You have these really intense one or two week moments, where you prepare for hours and you get in the zone to execute. That was an amazing experience of intensity, focus and execution. But club is different,” said the new head coach exclusively to 90min.

“It’s just different. It’s a little more spread out and lengthy, so sustained energy and focus is needed. There’s more consistency to it, I miss the day in and day out work and grind, and creative drive. I’m really thankful for the experience I had, but I miss the club rhythm and the league.”

Though he has yet to lead a team in MLS, he’s no stranger to the league. Before transitioning to a managerial career, Gonzalez began his playing career with the San Jose Earthquakes. He was picked sixth overall by the Quakes in the 2002 MLS SuperDraft, making eight appearances for the club before seeing stints with the Colorado Rapids, Miami FC and abroad. 

“The league is very dear to me, I played here. I never got to be an assistant coach here, but that’s why I was hungry to be an assistant with one of the best coaches and leaders that the game has in this country, Gregg Berhalter,” he added.

“Now, having learned all that and to come back with San Jose, a club that has given me a chance with an exciting foundational roster and hungry group of players, I am looking forward to it.”

Gonzalez and the Earthquakes are facing an uphill battle in 2023, after concluding last season in last place on the Western Conference table. The team managed a mere 35 points in 34 games and a record of 8W-15L-11D. But the new head coach insists San Jose will do better. 

“Already on day 1, you see the intensity they train with,” the coach continued.

“Their mentality to fight is there. It’s a team that’s been through a lot of ups and downs, so they grind. They move forward, and show up the next day, no matter what happened the day prior, ready to compete and fight. So I embrace that a lot.

“But for me, this team has the foundation to implement a game model and style that allows for creativity and verticality. We need to break lines, get in behind the last line and get goal-scoring opportunities. Our defensive structure, our defensive clarity, we will work hard with that foundation of intensity to be able to do it in the real game.

“San Jose has so much potential. Why can’t we beat the opponent in front of us and have a better season. It’s going to take a lot of work and it won’t be easy. But I challenge other teams to underestimate that because I think we have the group for more.”

The San Jose Earthquakes kick off on February 25 when visiting Atlanta United at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium.