In the wake of yet another disappointing result in a season that is slowly slipping away, the San Jose Earthquakes announced today that they have terminated long-serving general manager John Doyle.
Doyle was the first hire of the Earthquakes back in October 2007 when the organization returned to MLS following a two-year hiatus. The long-time GM had previously worked and played for the club from its inaugural 1996 season.
“It’s obviously a big decision,” said Earthquake president Dave Kaval in a conference call with reporters. “We want to thank John for his amazing contributions to the club since 2007.
“We fell we need a fresh approach on the technical side because the performance really wasn’t where it needed to be.”
Under Doyle’s leadership, the Quakes made the playoffs only twice in nine seasons, and the club’s only title was winning the 2012 Supporters’ Shield. With San Jose’s current run of form, the team is in danger of missing out of the postseason for the fourth straight season, necessitating the move to fire Doyle.
“From our perspective, we still have a chance to make the playoffs,” said Kaval, “and in the last week the performance of the club was not commensurate with the standards that we want as an organization. We squandered our opportunity to move up the table.”
The Earthquakes made great strides last season in improving off a club-low 2014 campaign, with returning head coach Dominic Kinnear making a big contribution to that turnaround. This season, the Quakes have regressed, yet Kaval indicated that the move to fire Doyle was the only action the organization plans to take. Technical director Chris Leitch will serve as interim GM, and Kaval plans to have a permanent hiring completed by the end of the calendar year.
While the results on the field, notably a scoreless draw against the New England Revolution last Wednesday at Avaya Stadium that ended with fans showering the team with boos as they retreated to their locker room, have been uninspiring this season, the Earthquakes have also suffered from a long-time lack of success in signing Designated Players. This failure on the player signing side of the equation was also a key factor in the decision to remove Doyle as GM.
“The acquisition of high-priced DPs is a key part of any team’s success in Major League Soccer,” said Kaval. “It can really be the difference maker, and we need to do a better job in that area.”
This season, the Quakes featured three DPs to start the season: Simon Dawkins, Innocent Emeghara, and Matias Perez Garcia. Only Dawkins is making a noticeable contribution on the field; Innocent has been a non-factor and MPG was traded away to Orlando City SC. Chris Wondolowski, a designated player prior to the start of the season, but bought down below the DP salary threshold to make way for the addition of Dawkins, is the only DP in club history that has lived up to his contract.
As is the goal of every club in MLS, the Earthquakes expect to make the playoffs every year, and Kaval made it clear that the current regime was not effective at keeping that goal realistic.
“We don’t want to be a team that just trolls along the red line,” said Kaval, referring to the demarcation in the Western Conference table between the six playofss-eligible teams and the four that miss the postseason. “We want to create a team that is more competitive, more exciting to watch, and we feel that a new approach was necessary to achieve that.
“We expect more, and this action shows that.”
The Earthquakes are currently three point behind the Portland Timbers for the last postseason berth, but the defending MLS Cup champions are coming off a 4-2 drubbing over rivals Seattle Sounders and look tough to catch. San Jose returns to MLS action following a week off when they host Seattle at Avaya Stadium on September 10.