RENO, Nev. (KOLO) The San Jose Earthquakes have signed three players from top affiliate Reno 1868 FC, both clubs announced on Thursday.
Defender Jimmy Ockford and midfielders Chris Wehan and Luis Felipe were all signed to deals this offseason, marking the first time in Reno 1868 FC’s history that players were signed by their MLS affiliate.
“Our partnership with San Jose has been strong from its inception and today only solidifies it,” Reno GM Andy Smith said. “Jimmy, Chris and Luis were vital pieces to our historic first season here in Reno and their hard work and dedication have been recognized.
“These three players showed that through hard work, doors can be opened to the next level. That is what our partnership was built on and we’ve become one of the premier examples across all of U.S. Soccer.”
Club president Eric Edelstien, who formed the partnership with San Jose upon the club’s inception, said that over the past season, Reno has become the model for affiliations with the MLS.
“This partnership set a new course for the development for professional players in America,” Edelstein said. “Today’s news delivers on that promise to compete in Reno while developing the future of San Jose.”
The three players signed by San Jose were major components to Reno’s breakthrough season.
Ockford captained Reno and was a defensive force finishing the season with 167 clearances, 71 interceptions and 27 blocks. He was one of the top-scoring defenders finishing with four goals including three off of headers. He earned a spot on the USL’s All-Second team this postseason.
“Coming into 2017, one my goals was to help Reno out as much as I could as a player while I also strived to get better myself,” Ockford said. “We had a fantastic season and I’m extremely happy to be a part of the Quakes organization moving into 2018.”
Chris Wehan busted onto the scene after going undrafted out of the University of New Mexico. Wehan’s 12-assist (tied USL record), eight-goal season led to him being named USL Rookie of the Year and earned a spot on the USL’s All-First Team.
A catalyst for Reno’s record-breaking attack (66 chances created), Wehan said his journey from undrafted to Rookie of the Year to now the MLS has been one of the most humbling experiences of his life.
“I’m grateful for this chance that I’ve been working hard to get over the past few years,” Wehan said. “I put my trust in (Reno head coach) Ian (Russell) and I became a better player for it.
“I was down on myself after not getting drafted, but this organization helped me grow and I’m excited to jump to the next level with the Quakes.”
Assisting in Reno’s attack at midfield was frequent starter Luis Felipe, who developed from a raw prospect out of Brazil to one of the most dynamic midfielders in the league.
Felipe scored five goals, notched three assists and recorded 31 interceptions on defense.
“We accomplished so much as a team last season and I am grateful that our hard work was recognized,” Felipe said. “I had the opportunity to train with the Earthquakes and now I get to fulfill one of my dreams of playing in the MLS.
“I developed into a better player in Reno and cannot wait to grow even more.”
Head coach Ian Russell, who has been a part of both organizations, said this moment is what he envisioned when he came to Reno after serving as an assistant with the Earthquakes.
“This is a big moment for Reno,” Russell said. “It shows that with hard work and dedication, players can advance to the top division in U.S. soccer with a fantastic organization like the Earthquakes.
“I hold both clubs close to my heart and this is personally a great day.”