[MLS] Houston Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear and his childhood friend, San Jose Earthquakes general manager John Doyle, described the 0-0 friendly played by their teams Wednesday at Kezar Stadium in San Francisco – not far from where they grew up -- as "chippy."
They had met Thursday afternoon in the lobby of the Fairmount Hotel in San Jose, where the Dynamo was staying during its trip to Northern California, during a brief, whirlwind of opportunity for Kinnear to renew acquaintances and re-connect with family members. His brothers had attended the game at Kezar, he had gone to lunch with a friend, his sister lives “about five blocks” from the Fairmount, etc.
“We don’t come out here very often, so I’ve to make the time count,” he said of a Tuesday night arrival from Houston and Friday morning departure for Santa Barbara, where the Dynamo plays its final preseason game Saturday against Chivas USA.
What coaches and general managers want from preseason games are good competition, good weather, and good fields, and especially when there might be some emotions running high, good supervision by the officials. The field at Kezar was smooth and fast, and the evening blossomed into one most conducive for a St. Patrick’s Day pub crawl: clear skies and moderate temperatures.
The play, though, was littered with fouls. Kinnear objected stridently to what he believed to be a brutal tackle, and referee Tyler Ploeger dismissed him. “That’s not what you want in a preseason game,” he said, referring perhaps to both the foul and his dismissal. “But it was OK. I think we got out of it what we needed. We told our players sometimes games are like this.”
When they played at Kezar two years ago, shortly after Doyle and head coach Frank Yallop had begun the task of re-constituting the San Jose franchise, neither the conditions nor the environment were conducive to good play. Balls hopped and bounced on a tricky surface still in the throes of semi-dormancy. Angry Quakes fans shouted and chanted abuse at their former players, who not only “abandoned” them for Houston after the 2005 season but had the temerity to win back-to-back titles in their first two Texan seasons.
After that first Kezar meeting, defender Wade Barrett – a member of the 2001 championship team who had moved east along with the franchise – had said, “We had some great fans in San Jose, but the problem I guess is that we didn’t have enough of them. The fans in Houston have really embraced us.
“It’s too bad some of our fans here feel the way they do, but we’ve moved on.”
There’s much moving on to be done by both teams. Only five players played the full 90 minutes Wednesday, with both teams set to wrap up preseason play Saturday and roster spots still to be filled. (The Quakes play a future MLS opponent, Portland of USSF Division 2 at its current home, Buck Shaw Stadium.)
Kinnear is revamping a midfield which lost Stuart Holden and Ricardo Clarka few months ago and bid farewell to Dwayne De Rosario after the 2008 season, as he re-grooms one of the league’s top defenders last year, Geoff Cameron, into the center mid of his college days.
Doyle and his organization are buoyed by news that a complex re-zoning plan that will help finance a stadium project has been approved by the San Jose City Council, but concerned about a fan base that has celebrated only 15 victories in its first two seasons of (re)existence.
“They’re ready to go,” said Yallop last month, before the Quakes went to London and won all three of its games without conceding a goal. Shutting out Houston ran that streak to four. “They’re sick of losing, too. The players, John, the coaching staff, we don’t like it and we’ve been working real hard to make sure it doesn’t happen.”
March 17 in San Francisco
San Jose 0, Houston 0.
San Jose -- Joe Cannon, Chris Leitch (Steven Beitashour 46), Jason Hernandez, Bobby Burling, Ramiro Corrales (Justin Morrow 46), Joey Gjertsen (Omar Jassey 46), Javier Robles (Ramon Sanchez 46), Brad Ring (Simon Elliott 27, Antonio Ribeiro 58), Bobby Convey (Chris Wondolowski 46), Arturo Alvarez (Quincy Amarikwa 46), Ryan Johnson (Cornell Glen 46).
Houston -- Pat Onstad, Craig Waibel (Erik Ustruck 46), Bobby Boswell (Ryan Cochrane 46), Eddie Robinson (Andrew Hainault 71), Mike Chabala (Wade Barrett 46), Danny Cruz (Brian Mullan 46), Adrian Serioux (Richard Mulrooney 46), Geoff Cameron (Sammy Appiah 65), Corey Ashe (Francisco Navas Cobo 46), Cam Weaver (Dominic Oduro 46), Luis Angel Landín.