SAN JOSE, Calif. – Few offseasons have been as tough to swallow as the past couple of months have been for San Jose Earthquakes coach Dominic Kinnear.
Despite assuming the mantle of “winningest active MLS coach” with the departure of LA Galaxy boss Bruce Arena to rejoin the US national team, Kinnear was left dissatisfied by the Quakes’ 2016 campaign, including his own part in unsuccessfully trying to avoid what eventually became a 3-9-11 slide to finish off the season.
“We’ve have a lot of time to think about what happened last year and I wasn’t happy,” Kinnear told MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday at the club’s media day. “I’m not really an angry person, but I am a little bit bitter about how last season went. For me, my focus is going to be on, ‘Did I get the most out of the players last year?’ And I think I could do a little bit better job of being attentive to that.”
While his childhood friend and longtime Quakes fixture John Doyle lost his job as San Jose's general manager in August, Kinnear survived the 2016 campaign and returns for his third straight season at the helm of the Quakes. And with former Seattle coach Sigi Schmid (the MLS all-time leader in regular-season victories at 228) and Arena (No. 2 at 202) both off the sidelines this year, Kinnear’s 160 wins now lead the pack among coaches currently working in MLS. Orlando City’s Jason Kreis (105) and Sporting Kansas City’s Peter Vermes (103) are the only other active coaches in triple digits.
The 49-year-old Kinnear, who has coached in MLS since 2004, will be using the preseason to continue building his relationship with new GM Jesse Fioranelli, a 37-year-old Italian-American steeped in European soccer tradition. Their schedules have been “crisscrossing,” as Kinnear put it, while Fioranelli gets up to speed on the Quakes’ culture, but they have spent a few long evenings discussing their visions for the club.
“What was really important was that we create a trusting relationship, right from the beginning,” Fioranelli told reporters. “And that’s what I really felt. I met the person Dominic Kinnear, and that’s who I really appreciate. He is really engaged in making sure that all of the players will look at the season and say to themselves, ‘We would like to go out there with conviction and courage.’ With the tactical vision, we had preliminary discussions – not even discussions; I would really say a dialogue – and we found ourselves aligned.”
As for leading the pack in terms of coaching wins, Kinnear doesn’t put much stock into it. He’d much rather be in the position of new Seattle Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer, who has all of eight regular-season wins – but also hoisted the MLS Cup in December thanks to a shootout victory against Toronto FC in the final.
“I’m not at the top of the mountain, because I would say that Brian Schmetzer is at the top of the mountain right now,” Kinnear said. “We’re all chasing Brian right now. So, he’s the new kid in town, but he’s the most popular one in town, too.”