The San Jose Earthquakes announced today that Mark Watson has been relieved of his duties as head coach with immediate effect. The club will welcome back Dominic Kinnear, head coach of the Quakes in 2004 and 2005, at the conclusion of the current MLS season.
Watson completes his tenure at the helm of the Quakes with a league record of 17 wins, 20 losses, and 14 ties. After taking over as interim head coach in the wake of Frank Yallop's departure in June of last year, Watson led the team to a 11-5-3 record to close out the season, narrowly missing the playoffs on a tiebreaker to the Colorado Rapids.
"I want to thank Mark Watson for five years of great service to the San Jose earthquakes organization," said Earthquakes president Dave Kaval. "It was a pleasure working with him. He is such a professional and hard-working individual and I wish him best in all his future endeavors."
Current assistant coach Ian Russell will serve as interim head coach for the Earthquakes remaining two games of the season -- home to the Vancouver Whitecaps and away at Chivas USA. He will be joined on the sidelines by goalkeeper coach Jason Batty. Another assistant coach, Nick Dasovic, was also relieved of his duties.
This season has not been as kind to Watson, and the team has struggled to find its rhythm. As of last weekend's 2-0 loss at Real Salt Lake, the Earthquakes have slumped to a 13-game winless streak -- tying the longest such streak of futility in club history, achieved in 2011.
"We are not being out shot, we are not being out worked, we are not being outplayed," said general manager John Doyle. "Sometimes you lose games, but at home this year in particular it has been very disappointing that we haven't come out and really put teams under our thumb."
Absences due to injuries, suspensions, and international duty have played a significant role in diminishing the roster available to Watson, but a second successive season of missing out on the playoffs and a current last-place standing in the Western Conference were too much to ignore.
"With regard to performance, I think Mark Watson and the team had a great performance at the end of last season, and we had every confidence that Mark was going to have a great season this year and worked hard towards that," said Doyle. "As things didn't work out, then the opportunities came, and Dave Kaval and myself saw that we needed to make a change."
And when the Houston Chronicle reported in September that Kinnear was available to move to San Jose, the writing was on the wall for Watson. The opportunity to bring back the most successful coach in franchise history was too good to pass up.
"The performance of the team was not where we wanted it to be, and that's when we decided we were going to go after a new coach," continued Doyle, "and Dominic Kinnear was our first choice."
Watson spent five years with the Quakes, beginning as an assistant coach in 2010 under Yallop. He helped the team to a playoff berth in 2010 and the club’s second Supporters’ Shield in 2012. He leaves the Earthquakes with the third best winning percentage for a head coach in the MLS era.