SAN JOSE, Calif. – A combination of poor results and low style points cost the San Jose Earthquakes’ ultimate survivor his job.
John Doyle, who captained San Jose’s side in MLS’ inaugural 1996 season and had worked for the franchise in one capacity or another ever since, was relieved of his duties as the Quakes’ general manager Monday.
Team president David Kaval said the club was looking to start anew after Doyle’s nine-year reign as GM, which began when the franchise was reborn as an expansion team prior to the 2008 season. Technical director Chris Leitch was elevated to interim GM.
“We just felt at this time we needed a fresh approach on the technical side, because the performance just wasn’t where it needed to be,” Kaval told reporters in a conference call. “The way the team is playing, it isn’t even just the results of the actual matches – where we’re not getting the wins that we need – but also the style of play has gotten kind of boring. And I think we need a fresh approach so we can have a style of play that’s more interesting for fans to watch.”
San Jose opened this season with a 4-2-2 start but have gone 3-6-9 since then, including a stretch of three games in nine days this month in which the Quakes took only one point out of nine against a trio of opponents who all have fewer points thus far: Houston, New England and Columbus.
Kaval said he hoped Monday’s move – which he referred to as a “termination” – would spur the Quakes to make a final push over their last eight matches, beginning Sept. 10 against Seattle. San Jose currently sit in seventh place in the Western Conference on 32 points, with a match in hand on sixth-place Portland (35 points) and two on fifth-place Sporting Kansas City (38).
“The last week, the performance of the club was not commensurate with the standards that we want as an organization,” Kaval said. “We kind of squandered an opportunity to move up the table. We felt that that there was still a chance here to really send a message to the technical side and make a change and hopefully see some performance increase that could lead the team to the playoffs.”
That would be a remarkable coda to Doyle’s tenure, which saw only two postseason appearances in eight full seasons. The Quakes have not made the playoffs since their astounding 2012 campaign, when San Jose set franchise records for points (66) and goals (72) and won the Supporters’ Shield before being ousted in the playoffs’ first round by the eventual champions, LA Galaxy.
"'Around the red line' is not going to be a suitable result for this club,” Kaval said. “We expect more, and this type of action shows that.”
Kaval did give a vote of confidence to coach Dominic Kinnear, whose history with Doyle goes back to their childhood days growing up in the Bay Area. But there were also signs that time is getting short for the coach, who returned to San Jose after the 2014 season from Houston, where Kinnear had relocated along with the original Quakes franchise.
“I don’t think we are getting the most out of the players that we have and the talent that we have,” Kaval said. “We need to make sure we put the brain trust together to basically get more out of what we have. I really don’t think we’re achieving that right now, and hopefully, with this type of shakeup, we can get to a place that the players that we currently have can play in a system that hopefully gives us some better results in the near term, too.”
Kaval said the team is looking to have a permanent replacement for Doyle installed by the end of the year, although he acknowledged that Leitch’s time as the interim head would serve as an audition for the role.
“I think Chris has a great shot at the role, long-term," Kaval said, "but by the same token, I feel that I owe it to ownership and the fans, to make sure that we cast a wide net. You don’t get an opportunity to make a change like this very often.”