Who is Steve Ralston? Get to know San Jose Earthquakes’ new coach

Steve Ralston - San Jose Earthquakes assistant coach

On Monday the last-place San Jose Earthquakes made their third coaching change of the past 15 months, parting company with Mikael Stahre and promoting assistant Steve Ralston to the top spot on an interim basis.

So who is the new Quakes boss? Ralston is a familiar face to MLS old-timers, though newer viewers may not know quite as much about the longtime New England Revolution winger. Here’s a quick rundown.

MLS’s first ROTY

A product of respected St. Louis-area youth club Scott Gallagher, Ralston was drafted by the Tampa Bay Mutiny out of Florida International in the league’s first college draft ahead of its inaugural season in 1996. He went on to earn Rookie of the Year honors, notching seven goals and two assists as the attack-minded Mutiny finished in first place in the MLS regular-season standings.

Becoming a fixture on Tampa Bay's right flank, he would go on to rack up 34 goals and 62 assists over six regular seasons, showcasing pinpoint crosses and intelligent distribution before that franchise was contracted following the 2001 campaign.

Revs legend

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Ralston as a Rev | Getty Images

Ralston moved on to New England, where he would build on his reputation as the league’s most productive winger, bagging 42 goals and 73 assists over eight seasons to power four runs to the MLS Cup final, crafting a particularly fruitful connection with prolific striker Taylor Twellman.

Though the Revs famously remained perennial bridesmaids through that stretch, losing all of those four MLS Cups, often in heartbreaking circumstances, Ralston’s exploits earned him a hatful of US national team appearances. He racked up a total of 36 caps, scoring four goals along the way – two of them in World Cup qualifiers, including the game-winner in a famous “dos a cero” win over Mexico in Columbus in 2005.

But somehow he never quite climbed into the core of the USMNT roster and fell agonizingly short of a place on the 2006 World Cup roster, where he was named an alternate by coach Bruce Arena. Ralston finished his playing days as the MLS career leader in assists with 135, a mark that Landon Donovan barely eclipsed a few years later (136).

Paying dues

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Ralston (right) and fellow Dynamo assistant coach Wade Barrett in 2011 | Getty Images

After retiring in 2010, Ralston immediately joined the Houston Dynamo’s coaching staff as an assistant under Dominic Kinnear, a former teammate in Tampa Bay. During his time in the Bayou City, La Naranja reached two consecutive MLS Cup finals (2011 and 2012), narrowly losing to the David Beckham-led LA Galaxy at StubHub Center on both occasions.

When Kinnear left Houston to take over the Earthquakes after the 2014 campaign, Ralston accompanied him, and stayed on the staff after Kinnear’s midseason departure in 2017. Widely considered one of the top assistants in MLS, the Missouri native has often been linked to coaching vacancies and was reportedly interviewed for the Revs post in 2011 and the Dynamo's in 2014.

Now he’s finally getting a chance to run the show with the Quakes, although he faces a stiff challenge in making the best of their luckless 2018 campaign – and at this point it’s anyone’s guess where he fits into the club’s process of hiring their next permanent head coach.