CARSON, Calif. — There are plenty of Dominic Kinnear fans in the LA Galaxy's front office and among the coaching staff and players, but two of more influential figures for the defending MLS Cup champions know first-hand what it's like to play for the Houston Dynamo coach.
Captain Landon Donovan and left back Todd Dunivant were part of Kinnear's first San Jose Earthquakes team, in 2004, so they're well aware of the challenges LA will face against his team in Saturday's title game at the Home Depot Center (4:30 pm ET; ESPN, TeleFutura in the US; TSN, RDS in Canada).
“First and foremost with Dom is his demeanor every day is really good, and his guys play hard for him,” Donovan said during Friday's pregame news conference. “Any Houston team has always had that attribute: They play hard, and that's because of Dom.”
“He's a fierce competitor," he said after training on Friday. "He was like that as a player, and he's like that as a coach. He gives a lot of leeway to the guys and he's good about giving rest and smart with his trainings, but he demands a lot out of his players. His teams are always high energy, they're always a pressing team, and they're always teams that like to get after the ball, and he demands that out of his players.”
Donovan joined the Earthquakes in 2001, when they won the MLS Cup title under first-year coach Frank Yallop, who brought in Kinnear as his top assistant. Dunivant was a rookie in 2003, when the Quakes won their second title. Kinnear took over when Yallop was hired as Canada's national team coach and posted a 9-10-11 record, with a playoff berth, in his first season.
Dunivant and Donovan moved to the Galaxy for 2005, when San Jose went 18-4-10 to win the Supporters' Shield but were upset by LA in its playoff opener. The team relocated to Houston after that season, and Kinnear won back-to-back MLS Cup titles with the Dynamo in 2006 and '07 and had them in the title game against last year, when they lost to the Galaxy.
“To be in a final four out of seven years is really impressive,” Donovan said. “I think there's no question that's down to what Dom has done.”
Kinnear was a fine player, a playmaking midfielder who was in the running for a spot on the US' 1994 World Cup team and toiled in his native Scotland, with Necaxa in Mexico and with three MLS clubs.
“As an assistant, he mixed it up with the guys,” Dunivant said. “He was always playing in training, and he could serve a ball and hit a volley as good as anyone on our team.”
He's an even better coach, an inspirational leader whose players are fiercely loyal.
“You want to play for Dom,” Dunivant said. “You want to win for him. There's certain coaches in this league that have shown that over time. Bruce [Arena, Galaxy coach] has guys that want to fight for him and want to win, and Dom's one of those guys. No secret why they have more success.”