Earthquakes' Dominic Kinnear "completely surprised" by John Doyle's firing

Dominic Kinnear - San Jose Earthquakes

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- San Jose Earthquakes coach Dominic Kinnear may not necessarily agree with team president David Kaval’s assertion that the club’s current tactical style is “boring.” But the four-time MLS Cup winner -- twice as Houston’s head coach and another two times as a Quakes assistant -- knows what would change that perception.

“Winning games is exciting,” Kinnear said. “That’s my job, is to win games.”

However, those wins -- and the attendant sense of excitement -- have been tough to find this season, a fact that led Monday to the firing of longtime Quakes general manager John Doyle.

“It’s tough,” Kinnear told in an exclusive interview after practice Tuesday, his first public statements about the departure of Doyle, a friend for more than 40 years. “That’s all I can say. It’s definitely tough. . . . It’s terribly disappointing.”

Kinnear, who said he was “completely surprised” by Doyle’s removal, received a vote of confidence on Monday but still seemed to be in the crosshairs when Kaval discussed his desire to see the Quakes make tactical changes. San Jose (7-8-11) must try to find another gear to match last season’s mark of 13 victories -- which presumably would be enough to end a streak of playoff misses that currently runs to three straight seasons.

“I’m always aware of what I do and I’m always fighting hard to make sure I alleviate pressure on my job,” Kinnear said of the idea he is on the clock. “No matter what you do, there’s always going to be pressure, because there’s lots of people out there that want your job, and they think that they can do a better job than you.”

The Quakes are last in MLS with just 26 goals in as many games, and currently sit seventh in the Western Conference with eight matches remaining.

“I look at it and, yeah, we’re at the low [end] of scoring goals,” Kinnear said. “I think the last two games, [against] New England and Columbus, we didn’t play particularly well. I think before that, we’ve been consistently OK. . . .

“Last year, I thought we were pretty good. This year, we added some pieces and I thought we’d be better than where we are. Obviously, injuries and call ups have hampered us. [Not] scoring goals has hampered us. But I think we’ve built a good squad here. We’re just not winning games.”

Kaval indicated the club’s poor performances against Houston, New England and Columbus earlier this month -- losing two out of three matches to teams with fewer points -- was a final straw that led to Monday’s move.

Kinnear, on the other hand, pointed to an earlier stretch as being a critical time in coloring the outlook of the Quakes’ season to date, linking the Houston defeat of Aug. 19 to San Jose’s previous home game, a scoreless tie two weeks earlier against New York City FC.

“Let’s be honest: We walked off the field against New York and we had more than enough chances to score and win the game,” Kinnear said. “We stepped on the field against Houston and we have more than enough chances to win the game. Those are five more points that we would have right now.”

As for the idea that a move from the Quakes’ predominant style through 2016 -- a 4-4-2 alignment with Quincy Amarikwa and captain Chris Wondolowski on the forward line and a pair of deeper-lying midfielders in the center of the pitch -- Kinnear offered no hints as to what changes, if any, lie in store for San Jose’s massive showdown against fellow playoff hopeful Seattle on Sept. 10.

“Yeah, we could always tuck a guy inside or drop Chris into midfield,” Kinnear said. “We have the personnel to be able to do that. Then you’ve only got one player in the box, like we did last year, and then people complained that we don’t have enough players in the box. So it’s always a little bit of a juggling act with people’s opinions.

“If we’re going to listen to a guy on the Internet who has a fake name and believe in his opinion, then we’re all struggling. But somehow, that person’s opinion gets listened to and sometimes matters. Which I always find kind of . . . humorous.”