MLS: Quakes replace Kinnear with Leitch as head coach

Less than 24 hours after beating Real Salt Lake, 2-1, to move into fifth place in the Western Conference, the San Jose Earthquakes fired head coach Dominic Kinnear and replaced him with technical director Chris Leitch.

Assistant coach John Spencer, who had joined the Quakes in 2017, was replaced by the Quakes' director of methodology Alex Covelo. Steve Ralston and goalkeeper coach Tim Hanley remain in their current roles.

Probably no one is more closely associated with San Jose soccer than Kinnear, who grew up in nearby Fremont and played for the San Francisco Bay Blackhawks in the APSL and the San Jose Clash. He was an assistant coach when the Quakes won MLS titles in 2001 and 2003 and coached them when they won the Supporters' Shield in 2005, their last season in San Jose before moving to Houston.

He coached the Dynamo to MLS titles in 2006 and 2007 and spent nine years in Houston before returning to San Jose in 2015. The Quakes went 13-13-8 and 8-12-14 and didn't make the playoffs in Kinnear's first two seasons back.  The Quakes' win over RSL improved their 2017 record to 6-6-5.

Kinnear's firing does not come as a great surprise, though. San Jose has made numerous changes in the last year, firing general manager John Doyle, his childhood teammate from Fremont, and replacing him with Jesse Fioranelli. The move also comes less than three weeks after Tom Fox was named president, replacing Dave Kaval, who had taken on a similar position with the baseball Oakland A's. Despite a big investment in TAM spending, the Quakes' attack has not improved. It's the fifth worst in MLS with 18 goals in 17 games.

“First and foremost, we would like to thank Dominic for his hard work, professionalism and contributions to this club over the years,” said Fioranelli in a statement. “He worked hard this year and was a first-class person all the way. This decision was made after a lot of thought and evaluation. We decided that we wanted to go in a different direction as we continue to build the identity of this club.”

Leitch, 38, is a former Quakes player and worked for the club since retiring after the 2011 season as academy director and technical director since 2015. He was interim general manager following Doyle's departure.

The moves come ahead of the Quakes' MLS home game of the year: their annual Cali Clasico match against the LA Galaxy that draws more than 50,000 fans at Stanford Stadium.

VIDEO. Chris Wondolowski reacts to Kinnear's firing. (Kinnear had drafted Wondo in 2005.)

7 comments about "MLS: Quakes replace Kinnear with Leitch as head coach".
  1. R2 Dad, June 25, 2017 at 7 p.m.

    The identity of the club is "Cheap, since the only goal is to make the playoffs". Not sure why they'd let Kinnear go now--Quakes are right where you'd expect them to be. Reading between the lines, it appears Kinnear was not enthusiastic about playing Qazaishvili/a traditional #10. Kinnear's teams always seem to be most threatening on the counter, so maybe he didn't see a way forward employing a #10 where possession and patience are required.

  2. Jim Lindsay, June 26, 2017 at 10:22 a.m.

    I don't know: I thought they played beautifully Saturday, albeit needed to finish better. Before Kinnear, it was mostly horrible air attack / bootball stuff. At least he tried to play through midfield.

  3. R2 Dad replied, June 26, 2017 at 5:16 p.m.

    I guess it's dependent on whom they are playing. I was at Avaya for the SKC match and KC outplayed them for most of the match, with the SJ back line playing balls forward and down the channels for attackers to run on to. I imagine vs RSL they were able to dominate and play more attractively, but RSL is at the bottom of the table and SKC at the top.

  4. Jim Lindsay, June 26, 2017 at 10:30 a.m.

    That said, I'm so glad to see the massive shift in the Earthquakes. Man, was it ever needed.
    -- Earthquakes fan for 40 years.
    San Jose Earthquakes, you are my team, until the day I die. And when that happens, I'll still be singing, for you up in the Sky. :)

  5. Ron L, June 26, 2017 at 12:19 p.m.

    The Quakes are replacing Dom with a someone who has ZERO coaching experience above the youth/amateur level. So either the top brass is setting Tom up for failure and will bring in someone from Europe next season, he is just a hand puppet for Fioranelli, or Tom is truly brilliant and no one has seen it yet.

  6. R2 Dad replied, June 27, 2017 at 11:19 p.m.

    The problem as I see it is that when Covelo looks at the youth teams up to U18, they're playing more attractive soccer than their pros. None of their youth players can walk into the MLS side because of the style of play. Not because the kids aren't skilled enough, but because they're not physically mature enough to run fast enough and kick hard enough. On this site we're continually whining about the lack of opportunity for talented Hispanics. Well, the Earthquake academy has access to boatloads of them. But management has to break the system and start over. I'm surprised not that they've come to this conclusion but that ownership has the huevos to actually do something about it. This is going to be a 5 year journey but if they're patient Earthquakes could become another FC Dallas. It would be more effective if small clubs had financial incentive to feed the system with their best players but Sunil and Garber decided MLS would eat the entire pie themselves so competing DAs will be a perpetual drag on this process.

  7. James Madison, June 27, 2017 at 8:36 p.m.

    Major mistake to finally spend enough money to give Kinnear some assets and then not give him him the opportunity to make use of them. The fandom can only hope Leitch is a better coach than he was a player.

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