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San Jose Earthquakes: Dominic Kinnear’s Challenge

Trying to fix a losing team halfway through the season is kind of like learning to swim by falling off a cruise liner.

You can put as optimistic a spin on the situation as you choose, hope for better days ahead soon, but right now things are far from okay with the San Jose Earthquakes.

July 2015 saw 7 games and 0 points. Last weekend’s slack 0-0 encounter between San Jose and Portland has to be seen as an improvement, but not by much.

When Dominic Kinnear accepted the head coach contract with two games to go last season the team was all at sea and no sign of land. As with any head coach hired to fix a team that isn’t winning much was made of his past record and in Kinnear’s case it is impressive.

He is one of four coaches in league history to win multiple MLS Cups, leading the Houston Dynamo to titles in 2006 and 2007. He came into the job third all-time in MLS history with 139 wins and is one of just six head coaches in league history to win 100 games. He led the Quakes to their first ever Supporters’ Shield in 2005 during his first stint as the team’s head coach. He also ranks third all-time in MLS Cup Playoff wins with 15 and has reached the post-season in nine of his 11 seasons as a head coach.

For teams suffering in the doldrums the hopes of fans are, understandably, for the quick fix, the miracle cure, conjured up by the right man for the job. Soccer coaching in major leagues around the world has now become a short term career based on fast results. Despite the greed of corporate demands this is still not, and never will be, the true nature of the game. Winning teams don’t just happen overnight, they take time to develop.

©LRadical 2015

Photo © LRadical 2015

Kinnear’s challenge, discovering what player options and combinations he has that work, is a process that has to happen mostly out on the field of play, in games that count. All these preseason friendlies and pie-in-the-sky international games are only marginally more useful to him than training sessions. The harsh reality of regular season MLS games, facing off against the opposition when and where it counts, this is the only real way to test your choices and gauge your team. These games are also the best way to try and get a handle how other clubs are developing their teams, and what you need to change game to game in order to beat them. 

Kinnear is experienced enough to realize that sudden sweeping changes just for the sake of change, even if they happen to initially please some fans, are unlikely to give him a team that suddenly starts whupping the opposition.

However, at this stage of the season, 21 games in and bottom-but-one in the Western Conference, Kinnear might soon feel the time has come to instigate some level of change. Given that he’ll have to do this within the strictures of the MLS budget and business model it’s going to be a bit of a Houdini hanging upside from a crane escape routine.

5 Reasons To Be Cheerful

1. The experience and skill of Kinnear as a head coach.

2. Wondolowski is still a top level MLS striker, and partnered with newcomer Amarikwa he could mentor the young striker to hone his finishing skills.

3. The talent, vision, skill on the ball and sheer "bulletproofness" of Garcia.

4. The reliability of Salinas and the increasing importance of Catos’ youthful  pace.

5. The youth of Alashe, Thompson, and Pelosi.

In Conclusion

If the Quakes give him time Kinnear will almost certainly deliver the goods. European leagues might well switch multi-million euro valued players as regularly as we mere mortals change channels during a slow night’s TV but this is a financial luxury no MLS coach is likely to see any time soon.

Kinnear has experience, he has passion, and fans should stand behind him and believe he will fix things for San Jose.