San Jose Earthquakes name Mikael Stahre as new head coach
The San Jose Earthquakes officially announced on Friday that Mikael Stahre would take over as manager for the 2018 season.
Stahre signed a multi-year contract, and replaces Chris Leitch, who will return to his role of technical director, which he has filled since 2015. The club announced that assistant coach Alex Covelo will return to his role as the team's director of methodology, and that assistant coach Steve Ralston will remain with the club and join Stahre's staff.
"After a thorough evaluation process, we are excited that Mikael will be joining our club," said Quakes GM Jesse Fioranelli via a press release. "What stood out with Mikael are not only the cups his teams won and his consistency over the past 10-plus seasons, but also his ability to identify with our players, our coaching staff and most importantly our goals."
Stahre, 42, has spent the vast majority of his managerial career in his native Sweden, most recently with BK Hacken in the country's top-flight Allsvenskan, leading them to a fourth-place finish in 2017. He had previously managed Vasby United, AIK, and IFK Goteborg in Sweden.
In 2009 he led AIK to a league and cup double, while in 2013 he led Goteborg to victory in the Swedish Cup. He has also spent time coaching in Greece with Panionios and in China with Dalian Yifang.
Leitch was in charge for a little under five months, having replaced Dominic Kinnear last June. Leitch led San Jose to its first playoff berth since 2012, but the team also suffered some wild fluctuations in play, including several heavy defeats. Included in that latter category was a 5-0 loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps in the knockout round of the MLS playoffs.
Overall, Leitch's record in league and postseason play was 7-9-2.
When Leitch was hired the Quakes made it clear that he wasn't an interim coach. But Fioranelli said that he took two to three weeks after the end of the season to evaluate the state of the team before deciding to go in a different direction.
"[The evaluation] led us to have much confidence in the opportunity which presented itself with [Stahre] to take the helm of the first team," said Fioranelli during a conference call with reporters. "While at the same time, speaking to Chris and realizing that he is a very important member of the club, and for that reason we said, 'Let's do what we did very well for the first six months, him as technical director, and head into 2018 that way.'"
Fioranelli first became aware of Stahre's work when the Quakes GM was working at Lazio several years ago. Fioranelli said he was then reminded of Stahre's work during a conversation with the manager's agent.
"When I realized that there was an opportunity there that we could pursue, I wanted to dig a little bit deeper," said Fioranelli. "Having already known [Stahre] made it very easy. I can only tell you at this point that [Stahre] isn't a coach that comes there that we don't know. But he's a coach that we know very well.
"We know he communicates, we know players actually feel his presence and accept his guidance."
Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.