Quakes GM Jesse Fioranelli explains dismissal of head coach Dominic Kinnear

Jesse Fioranelli - San Jose Earthquakes

SAN JOSE, Calif. – At his initial press conference upon arriving as the San Jose Earthquakes’ new general manager in January, Jesse Fioranelli told reporters that he was going to take three months to listen and absorb information regarding all aspects of his new club.

Following that period of introspection, it didn’t take long for Fioranelli to entertain the notion that head coach Dominic Kinnear – a local star who played for San Jose’s original MLS team before serving as lead assistant on the Quakes’ MLS Cup winners in 2001 and 2003 – would not be back after the 2017 season.

As Fioranelli’s first year in MLS rolled on, the feeling only grew stronger. Things came to a head Sunday, when Fioranelli – the 37-year-old hired from AS Roma to oversee the Quakes’ technical side – broke the news to both Kinnear and lead assistant John Spencer that the team would be moving executives Chris Leitch and Alex Covelo into their respective sideline slots, effective immediately.

“I think that we can achieve more,” Fioranelli told a media gaggle on Monday after the club’s first training session with Leitch at the helm. Over the course of the first half of the season, “I realized that the improvements and the efforts that we had done were not leading to the results we were hoping for.”

“Results,” in that context, did not simply mean the Western Conference standings, in which San Jose (6W-6L-5D, 23pts) currently sit fifth and rank seventh when the table is sorted by points per match.

For Fioranelli, who was brought in by then-team president Dave Kaval with the remit to forge a winning culture for the Quakes, the decision was based on more than simple wins and losses. It was also about the impression that the club’s performances left on the GM – that of a team seemingly often stuck in a reactive mode rather than playing proactively.

Quakes GM Jesse Fioranelli explains dismissal of head coach Dominic Kinnear - https://league-mp7static.mlsdigital.net/images/quakes.jpg

Former Quakes head coach Dominic Kinnear (far left) poses with Chris Leitch, Jesse Fioranelli and Dave Kaval at Fioranelli's introduction in January 2017.Photo by USA Today Sports

Early optimism about his arranged marriage with Kinnear – originally hired by then-GM John Doyle – dissipated over the course of the season, a process that culminated in Fioranelli not wanting to string along the club icon: “In the last two to three months, I matured a gut feeling as to where we stand as a club. When I realized that heading into the next season, we will not renew with Dominic Kinnear, I said to myself that we wouldn’t want to hold onto this for the remainder of the season.”

Fioranelli said he finalized his decision last week and was happier to make the move after a victory – the Quakes beat Real Salt Lake 2-1 on Saturday night – because it showed the choice was not simply a snap judgment.

Pressed for concrete reasons for the dismissal of MLS’s winningest active coach, Fioranelli pointed to untapped potential among the club’s younger players, a less-than-ideal comportment in road games (2W-5L-1D, 7pts) and a need to get quicker at reading the game and gauging risk-reward scenarios.

“There are various aspects that fall all into one main aspect, and that is we want to mature a sense of certainty when we go onto this field and be able to impose our game in the long-term on a more regular basis,” Fioranelli said.

Quakes players were caught off-guard by the move. Team captain Chris Wondolowski, who came up under Kinnear as the 41st pick in the 2005 Supplemental Draft and followed Kinnear and the organization during their move to Houston the following season, described his emotions as “still swirling, a whirlwind. I didn’t see it coming. … I owe Dom where I am today, so it’s definitely tough.”

MLS newcomer Florian Jungwirth, a veteran of Germany’s pyramid, said the Quakes had to guard against using the coaching changes as an excuse for poor performances.

“We have to be more strong as a team because obviously, it was not just Dom,” Jungwirth said. “I think, especially on the road, we didn’t have the right mentality a lot of the time. A lot of times we were too inconsistent, especially if we win against Portland 3-0 [on May 6], play amazing, and go six days later to Colorado and get busted [in a 3-0 loss to the Rapids].

"That’s not the way it should be, and it’s important as a group now that we use this as a signal to be more strong and develop a new mentality – that we develop a will to win, especially on the road.”