SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Even as San Jose Earthquakes general manager John Doyle scoured the coaching landscape over the second half of this season, searching for candidates to lead his team, there was a nagging suspicion that all his work might be a bit of a waste.
And as interim coach Mark Watson kept piling up victories, the choice became all the more obvious.
The Quakes made it official Wednesday, announcing a multi-year deal to keep Watson, who replaced Frank Yallop in June and fell just one point short of leading San Jose to a stunning playoff comeback.
“When Frank left, it was a very easy decision to put Mark as the interim head coach,” Doyle told reporters on Wednesday at the club's headquarters. “And then you never know how it’s going to work. You see all these great qualities that he has. How is he going to do it when he’s the head man? … He kept doing so well. He didn’t lose any momentum, from the day he was put in as the interim, to be the [full-time] head coach.”
For Watson, who went 11-5-3 in regular-season MLS matches and helped qualify for CONCACAF Champions League knockout play, the move affords him a moment or two to reflect and set his own course in terms of player procurement, rather than making do with Yallop’s roster choices.
“It definitely changes your thinking,” Watson said of having the interim tag removed. “Taking over when I did, in the middle of the season, you are completely focused on getting results. So now, knowing that I’ll be here for the near future, you can think a little bit more in terms of the philosophical stuff, how you’d envision your team.”
The quick timing of the move – first announced by Doyle at the club’s award banquet on Sunday – meant the Quakes knew for certain, before breaking up for the winter sabbatical, who would be in charge when they return on Jan. 20.
“It’s definitely nice not to have any doubt in your mind going into the offseason about who’s going to be your head coach next year, what preseason’s going to look like,” midfielder Shea Salinas said. “We know coach Watson and what his tendencies are going to be.”
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“It was a great decision, because now is the planning time,” center back Clarence Goodson said. “Now is when you’re going to decide who’s going to stay and who’s going to go, the type of players you want to bring in. What type of player is going to fit into his system, only he knows. …
"It’s important to have the coach and the general manager on the same page. And that’s something we’re able to do because of the quick hiring.”