SAN JOSE, Calif. – Dominic Kinnear was still shopping for the last of his presents two days before Christmas.
He might also go down to the wire in terms of making purchases for his first season back as coach of the San Jose Earthquakes.
Since bringing Kinnear in from Houston on the heels of a miserable 2014 season, the Quakes have scooped up the rights to six MLS veterans – forwards Mark Sherrod and Kris Tyrpak, wingers Leandro Barrera and Sanna Nyassi, defenders Marvell Wynne and goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum – through various methods, plus given new contracts to forward Steven Lenhart and keeper David Bingham.
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And there’s still time for more changes to be made before Kinnear leads the Quakes into their new Avaya Stadium home.
“You never are close to being done, because I think any time there’s an active window to improve your team, you have to pay attention to it,” Kinnear told MLSsoccer.com last week, while on his way to a local mall. “Is there a possibility of more moves? I can’t say ‘yes,’ I can’t say ‘no,’ because you never know what’s happening.”
One thing Kinnear’s sure of, however, is his pleasure in adding players to a roster that suffered through a franchise-record 15-match winless streak to finish the year.
“When you look at the work there that’s been done in the last month, I think the roster is better than it was from [the start of the offseason],” Kinnear said. “We actually had both players, Nyassi and Marvell Wynne as potential first picks in that [Re-Entry Draft]. And I think we kind of came out of it better than we anticipated, because we had a feeling Nyassi might get picked after we selected Marvell.”
The moves are not definite additions yet – Barrera, Nyassi and Wynne must all be signed to new deals – but they give the Quakes more options, especially on the wing, where Atiba Harris was let go and the status of expensive loanee Yannick Djalo remains in limbo.
Kinnear said that the club has not yet given up hope of retaining the mercurial Djalo, who injected life into San Jose’s offense during a majority of his time on the pitch but was dogged by the same injury problems which initially led to his year-long loan from Portuguese power Benfica.
“Yannick’s name does still get mentioned in conversations,” Kinnear said. “It’s not completely done. Along the way, you can not say, ‘Well, he’s going to come back’ and know that for sure. You have to plan for if he doesn’t, and I think you saw that with our selections of Nyassi and Barrera. It’s going to be competition for Cordell [Cato] and Shea [Salinas] and some others.”
Other things have come more into focus as well. Kinnear said he thinks team captain Chris Wondolowski is best utilized as a second striker, meaning the experiment with the franchise’s leading scorer as a lead forward are likely over. And with the re-signing of Lenhart and the addition of 6-foot-3 Sherrod, the Quakes will keep their ability to play through the air to a target forward.
“I think you do need that versatility in attack, where sometimes if you’re under pressure, if you have to go direct, you have it,” Kinnear said. “I look a little bit at [FC] Dallas; they were a good combination of stuff on the ground and size. A lot of times, they won games from set pieces. Whatever you want to say about [Fabian] Castillo and [Mauro] Diaz – yes, they’re very good players, but they did also have the ability to beat you in the physical game, off of set pieces. I think that was a good combination for them this year. It was the reason they were successful.
“We still have Matias Perez Garcia. If you have Shea Salinas and Barrera, you have good technical players on the ground. But then, on the other side of it, I think you do need a little bit of a threat from set pieces. You can’t all be 5-foot-5, unless you’re extremely, incredibly talented, like Barcelona, who really don’t rely on corner kicks and free kicks. They beat you in other ways. In MLS, you see that there needs to be a little bit of a combination.”