You want to win games and please the fans, then protect the players. Easier said than done in the ever more physically demanding league that is MLS.
Last season every San Jose Earthquakes player injury was like a body blow, each seeming to come on the heels of the last, as the team reeled under ever limited player choice. Eventually the legs bucked and the team hit the canvas; but that was last year.
This year, one thing that emerged from the first press conference with new San Jose Earthquakes head coach Dominic Kinnear is that keeping players free of injury is one of his major priorities. Kinnear said that the ever increasing raft of injuries the Quakes experienced last year, as well as those he had to deal with in Houston, were a major factor in both team’s seasons.
He said he thought every team is MLS should now be considered a playoff-caliber team, that there were no easy games for anyone. He admitted you sometimes needed some luck but said that most importantly you needed health. Kinnear stated his immediate goal is to come out of preseason in five and a half weeks time with the healthiest team he can have. He added that if the new Quakes team could stay healthy he thought they could be a playoff contender in 2015.
In todays’ training session Kinnear ordered both Steven Lenhart and Clarence Goodson to train alone and not risk aggravating long term injuries that are all but healed by taking part in the scrimmages.
Speaking on his health status Goodson said:
“My health is good, I feel well. Been training, not quite 100% but close. Closer and closer every day. It feels good to have the boots on and be playing. Myself and Lenny is like getting two new players. Both of us missed a good chunk of the season last year. Before our injuries we were both starting.”
Speaking of his role in helping new incoming players assimilate and building a solid team Goodson said:
“We both hope to be big parts of the team this year both on and off the field.”
Kinnear trotted out his current injury list with the air of man eying the clouds and hoping they would blow over. He listed Khari Stephenson as still recovering from toe surgery, Mark Sherrod with some knee tendonitis trouble, and Jordan Stewart as suffering a slight calf muscle problem that was described as not serious.
Tommy Thompson had been given the day off not due to injury but because he just flew in from his USMNT U-20 duties. Coach Kinnear added it was important they didn’t burn Thompson out as he had what he described as a very important year ahead of him.
Building a new team, winning games, and making the MLS Cup play-offs aside Kinnear joked that, given the housing market here in the Bay Area, one of his biggest challenges has been finding a house.