For Dominic Kinnear, Sunday's 2-1 win over Real Salt Lake was a great start to his second interim stint in charge of the LA Galaxy. It kept them alive in the playoff race, and was a burst of positivity for a team that had experienced some significant lows in recent weeks.
Yet, as an assistant coach for Guillermo Barros Schelotto, relieved of his duties as Galaxy head coach earlier this week, Kinnear recognizes that the transition is a bittersweet juncture for the team.
"I think everybody was immensely disappointed," Kinnear observed. "What happened with the coaching change, I think anytime that happens, you have to have a feel for the situation and your involvement in it. Like I've said before, Guillermo is a very good coach, and a very good person, so anytime that happens to somebody who you spend a lot of time with, there's just a touch of sadness, especially when you have a little bit of responsibility. We all do with what's happened in the situation for the Galaxy this year."
But Kinnear also thinks the fast start against RSL, and getting an opening goal just 18 minutes into the match, helped the team's mentality quite a bit.
"I think when that goal went in, it gave the guys a complete lift," he remarked. "Even at halftime, it gives them something to hold on to and to protect." He also credited Cristian Pavon's 65th-minute solo goal as being essential, noting that RSL did get a goal back. He added, regarding the match's tenuous close, "Thankfully, time went up."
"You have to give Salt Lake credit," he added. "They were throwing a lot of numbers forward, and we were a little tired. I'll be honest with you, we were just kind of hanging on a little bit there at the end. So while for the first 45, I give [the Galaxy] a complete thumbs up for everything ... in the second 45, I just give them a thumbs up for absolute heart and courage."
Highlights: LA Galaxy 2, Real Salt Lake 1
Sebastian Lletget, who assisted on the first goal, echoed Kinnear's sentiment about the transition to a new head coach, but also characterized it as "a breath of fresh air" that might have helped the team embrace their slim odds of getting to the postseason.
"I mean, it was a quick turnaround," he noted. "Obviously, it was a sad day. It's never easy seeing one of your head coaches or your whole coaching staff having to get let go, and obviously, you as a player you feel you played a part in that and you feel like you let him down. But, again, I guess a change was necessary and I understand what happened."
He added, "Dom, I thought, took the group really well. He's only had two days to make some changes and incorporate his style of play a little bit."
Lletget acknowledged that Kinnear being in the Galaxy system is making the transition easier, and noted that Kinnear already is displaying a good sense of where to deploy players where they're most effective. He also notes that, at least for one night, the team had a spark that's been missing in recent weeks — which has a lot to do with them still being in playoff contention.
"I think we all felt that, having hope and knowing that in the standings you do have a numerical chance," he reflected. "I think that for any player, even if there wasn't, I know we would go out there and give it everything."
"It's not easy losing a coach, but you know as soon as that happens, you have to turn the page and you've got to be professional about it," he added. "I thought Dom stepped in very well. We all do really get along with him, and we have this whole time he's been an assistant coach. So I guess it's not like somebody that was new who just stepped in. We know him, we know kind of what his ideas are, and so it was an easier transition."