Let’s get one thing clear about Dominic Kinnear – he was an American player and he’s an American coach, he grew up in Fremont. Yes, he has Scottish roots but he came here when he was 3 years old which is hardly enough time for him to become fully waterproofed; he grew up in the sun and has coached under the Californian and Texan sun not the grey drizzle of Hibernian skies.
So Kinnear knows San Jose and San Jose knows Kinnear and they have this awesome, brand spanking new stadium to play in. The question now is, who will Kinnear choose in his attempts to bring the Quakes back from the gloom of the bottom of the Western Conference and into the glare of silverware they knew just two short seasons ago?
Kinnear’s basic task must surely be similar to that of Loius Van Gaal at Manchester United, Okay, he has a fraction of the money and player choice but nonetheless, he has some good players to work with. Just as in Manchester, in San Jose there will be few, if any, givens when it comes to the first team squad.
Starting at the back, will Quakes stalwart fixture Jon Busch, who set a new league record for saves (read: being bombarded), still be between the posts next season? Somehow a team without the heroics of Busch wouldn’t seem like a San Jose team. But players move, jerseys change color and needs must as the devil drives. Common sense and the practical pundit would be wise however to see a 2015 team that still includes Busch.
In the 2014 season Shea Salinas and Jordan Stewart continued to show just about the only consistent on field player-to-player communication, and their work down the left flank would be a big loss should they not play together next year.
Yannick Djalo, if he stays fit and the Quakes can work out a loan extension with Benfica, would be an extremely valuable player to keep. Just as the success of 2012 upped Simon Dawkins’ asking price from Spurs and took him back to the land of rain, the poor 2014 Quakes season might induce Benfica to decide to keep Djalo in a holding loan at San Jose. His 2014 season in California can have done little to increase his value on the world transfer market.
Matias Perez Garcia cost San Jose a lot of money and he’s shown glimpses of an Argentinian vision and physicality that if nurtured within a new team context could cause all sorts of unexpected havoc in opposing 2015 MLS defenses.
Despite John Doyle’s joke in a recent press conference about letting him go, Chris Wondolowski, who continues to be a goal scoring machine pretty much whoever he plays with, has to be the key player to getting that negative goal turned around.
Homegrown player Tommy Thompson did some pretty quick growing up at home during this past difficult season. He displays all the raw, unrefined skills and fire of a young Paul Scholes and it may be the challenge of a new, more attack-minded coach and the awe-inspiring new home venue will provide the right environment for Thompson’s skills to find their focus.
The defense and midfield has to shed some underperforming players, as well as those who are dealing with injury recovery in the latter years of their careers. There was too much focus on defense and the failure to solve the midfield puzzle resulted in strikers starving to death in the final third. If the purse strings stretch to it a new, class striker to partner Wondo up front could make a big difference.
A new chemistry in attack flowing out of an organized, pacey midfield playing ahead of a solid defense could quite easily see the Quakes sitting at precisely the opposite end of the Western Conference table this time next year. Over to you, Mr. Kinnear!