Photo credit: @SJEarthquakes
By: Ana Kieu
SAN JOSE, Calif. — The San Jose Earthquakes announced Monday that the club has hired Matias Almeyda as their latest head coach. Almeyda’s a former Argentina National Team midfielder who most recently led Mexican side Chivas de Guadalajara to the 2018 CONCACAF Champions League title. Interim head coach Steve Ralston will remain in his position for the final two matches of the 2018 MLS season before Almeyda takes over in 2019.
The assistants on Almedya’s coaching staff will be announced at a later date.
“What we saw in Matias was a coach that brought success by creating a culture we strive to emulate,” said Earthquakes general manager Jesse Fioranelli. “He has demonstrated leadership qualities in Argentina with River Plate and Banfield, as well as in Mexico with Chivas. He has always had a winning mentality, both as a player and a coach, and most importantly, he is someone that knows how to redirect a team in a difficult situation with a commitment to a distinct style of play and youth development.
“Matias came here because he welcomes the challenge of helping our organization open a new chapter after a grueling season. He had several other opportunities available to him from clubs and national teams around the world but made it very clear the Earthquakes were the one he wanted to lead.”
Almeyda, 44, comes to San Jose with an extensive background both as a player and manager. He most recently served as head coach of Chivas from September 2015 to June 2018, where he led the club to five trophies in his three seasons. During his tenure, Almeyda managed numerous Mexican National Team players, including Carlos Salcedo, Omar Bravo, Alan Pulido, Oswaldo Alanis, Rodolfo Pizarro, Miguel Angel Ponce and Isaac Brizuela.
Almeyda’s side won the 2018 CONCACAF Champions League with consecutive wins over MLS clubs Seattle Sounders FC (3-1 agg.), New York Red Bulls (1-0 agg.) and Toronto FC (3-3 agg.; 4-2 PKs). It marked the club’s first CONCACAF Champions League title since 1962, the first year of the competition’s existence, and secured Chivas’ first-ever qualification for the FIFA Club World Cup.
In addition to their international success, Chivas also performed well domestically under Almeyda. Chivas won the nation’s biannual tournament, Copa MX, in 2015 (Apertura) and 2017 (Clausura), as well as the 2016 Supercopa MX. The club also won the Clausura 2017 Liga MX championship, their first league title in more than 20 years. He was subsequently named Liga MX’s Best Coach after winning the league double.
Prior to joining Chivas in 2015, Almeyda was head coach for multiple clubs in his native Argentina.
In June 2011, Almeyda made the rare transition from player to head coach, where he was tasked with leading a River Plate side that had just suffered relegation. In his debut season as manager, Almeyda led the Argentine power to a commanding 20-5-13 record and promotion back to the nation’s top league. The team also reached the semifinals of Copa Argentina with five consecutive victories, in which they allowed one total goal, before bowing out to Racing in penalties.
Almeyda left River Plate in November 2012, joining Argentina’s Club Atletico Banfield a few months later. Banfield had also recently suffered relegation and turned to Almeyda to restore the club to the Primera División.
Banfield won the championship and earned promotion in his first season, finishing with a 22-8-12 record and +31 goal differential, scoring a league-best 71 goals in 42 games. Only one other team finished with more than 54 goals that season.
After avoiding relegation in 2014, Almeyda’s side surged ahead in 2015, finishing in eighth place in the 30-team league with a 14-8-8 record and earning qualification for the 2016 Copa Sudamericana. Almeyda departed for Chivas after the team’s successful 2015 season.
Almeyda became a head coach after a lengthy playing career that featured stints in five countries. The defensive midfielder played in nearly 300 club matches, including 129 in Italy’s top-flight Serie A, 63 in Argentina’s Primera División and 28 in Spain’s La Liga, also making 20 appearances in UEFA Champions League competition. He featured for some of the world’s most storied clubs, including Inter Milan, Lazio, Sevilla and River Plate.
Among the trophies he helped lift as a player are three Argentinian championships (’93, ’95, ’96), one Copa Libertadores (’96), one UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup (’99), one UEFA Super Cup (’00), three Italian Cups (‘98, ‘00, ’02) and one Italian championship (’00).
Almeyda started and ended his playing career at River Plate, retiring in 2011, and immediately taking the reins as head coach at age 37.
Internationally, Almeyda made 35 appearances for the Argentina National Team, scoring five goals. He represented his country at the 1998 and 2002 FIFA World Cups.