Droplets of champagne glistened on his cheeks as all around him delirium reigned.
The jubilant Houston locker room was jammed with players, coaches, family members and friends. A large plastic sheet, pooled by melting ice and liquids of a more potent nature, covered the floor as journalists, reporters and camera operators tried to slosh their way through the crush of laughing, cheering, singing bodies.
As Coach Dominic Kinnear spoke of his team's triumphant end to a tumultuous season, a grey ice chest stealthily crossed the roaring, roiling room toward its quarry. Two players raised it over his head to send a shower of ice cubes and chilling water raining down on his head and neck and shoulders.
He yelped and recoiled, his face a mirror of shock and surprise yet strangely gleeful. "You b******s!" he shouted, laughing. A few minutes later, somebody poured champagne on him, and with another defiant growl, he shook up his own bottle of bubbly and sprayed back.
He's worked three years as a head coach following three years as an assistant to Frank Yallop in San Jose, and has won a third MLS Cup, his first as the top guy.
"They're all very special," he said. "I think the 2001 one was an eye-opener because it was my first year in coaching and just the way the team played was impressive. It went by so fast. The one in 2003 was one where I thought we would win it the whole year because we were the best team.
"This one was a little more special because I had more responsibility."
He also had a personal crisis to deal with before ever arriving in Houston to set up shop in a new city: Leaving home.
"It must have been hard for him," says Kelly Gray, a San Jose native drafted by Chicago in 2002 and traded to the Quakes a few months before the move was announced. "For me, 25, a single guy, sure, I'll go anywhere. But his family's in California and he has to deal with all the players and their problems moving, too."
Born in Glasgow, Kinnear moved with his family to Northern California at a young age and was soon befriended by a tall, blond defender named John Doyle. They played together for Fremont Celtic, a team founded and coached by Kinnear's father Hughie, whose passionate zeal for the game inspired his son.
"Growing up in a house where soccer is a constant topic of conversation, an experience of the day, or it's on television, it gets you to dream a little bit," says Kinnear. "We went to Scotland in 1978 for a summer vacation, I was about 11, and all we did was sit around watching the World Cup on television even though it wasn't a great World Cup for Scotland.
"I remember thinking, 'That's what I want to do.'"
After playing for local teams, as well as Mexican club Necaxa, he earned 56 caps for the national team but wasn't picked for the 1994 World Cup team. He played in the first five seasons of MLS, from 1996 to 2000, for Colorado, San Jose and Tampa Bay, and was pondering his next move, at age 33, when a former Mutiny teammate called.
"When he asked me, I was in preseason with Tampa but I didn't really know what my future was there," says Kinnear when contacted by Yallop. "Actually, at first I thought he was asking me to play in San Jose.
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