MLS Beat: The crash that is the Clash

Can Osiander win with QuinnÆs core of players?

The storybook saga of Brian Quinn in American soccer has, once again, turned sad.

An extensive housecleaning of the San Jose Clash instituted by him this season eventually swept him out once playoff hopes were extinguished. For the third straight season with Quinn in charge, San Jose couldnÆt finish among the top four in its conference.

Quinn played for more than a decade in the United States in the NASL and MISL and with the U.S. national team. A native of Belfast, Northern Ireland, he was sworn in as an American citizen during an indoor soccer game in his adopted hometown of San Diego, and he always regarded his outdoor debut for the U.S. in 1991 against the Republic of Ireland as something right out of ôRipleyÆs Believe It or Not.ö

ôThis country has been wonderful to us,ö Quinn said shortly after he first donned the U.S. jersey. ôIt wasnÆt hard for me and Sharon to decide this is where we wanted to live and raise our family.ö

An injury helped derail his national team career, and he wasnÆt picked for the 1994 World Cup squad. When he took the Clash job in 1997 after two seasons of coaching the indoor Sockers in the CISL, he left his wife and six children in San Diego, awaiting the day a long-term contract would enable him to ship his brood up north.

That day never came, and to San Diego he has returned.

QuinnÆs fate was skewered by a winning record (15-12) propped up by shootout wins. As those tiebreaking victories piled up, San Jose fell further and further out of the playoff picture even as it set a club record for WÆs.

He will be replaced by Lothar Osiander, a Northern California resident and occasional visitor to Spartan Stadium during QuinnÆs first 18 months in charge. The frequency of OsianderÆs visits this season increased as the playoff gap widened, and it was no secret Clash general manager Lynne Meterparel had recommended firing Quinn more than a month before an official move was announced Sept. 14.

His mistakes were many, yet in his 21/2 seasons (record: 35-41) he encountered complications and obstacles he could not overcome.

His heavy reliance on younger players cost the Clash valuable points, as did the failure of several veteran players to come through during critical phases of matches.

ôIn those situations, you need an impact player who scores the goal, or at the other end makes the play that keeps a goal from being scored,ö said Quinn.

ôIf we do that three or four times this season, those shootouts become wins. We had our opportunities but didnÆt get it done, and thatÆs why we had so many shootouts.ö

He also had to deal with team ownership upheavals and a never-ending search for a permanent training site, the latter being a Clashesque ôField of Fiascoes.ö

Osiander has already stated one of his top priorities is a suitable, permanent training facility.

Clashes with the Calloway faction

To have your likely successor hovering above you in the VIP boxes is unsettling enough, yet Quinn also had to endure the specter of his predecessor ù Laurie Calloway ù observing him from a club management position at the insistence of former GM Peter Bridgwater.

Many Clash players had been coached by Calloway in the APSL, and frictions between those loyal to Calloway and those trustful of Quinn ù not to mention players tiptoeing along the fence between the two factions ù occasionally flared up during the 1997 and 1998 seasons.

The æ97 team finished fifth out of five teams at 12-20; the æ98 squad squeezed out only one more win at 13-19, which was one game better than last-place Kansas City but still fifth out of six.

He had to ride out several anxious months after the 1998 season as a proposed sale of the club to Alan Rothenberg fell through. Rothenberg bandied about the Clash job with Steve Sampson and formally offered it to Sigi Schmid.

Then stepped in the Kraft Sports Group, which agreed to absorb the teamÆs operating costs as part of an option agreement to purchase the club. As the Krafts pondered changes, the Clash played Mexican club Atlas in a friendly, after which Eric Wynalda declared ù publicly ù he wanted to leave.

Quinn replied, publicly, that he thought it was a good idea. It was one of the few times during his tenure Quinn shared an opinion with defender John Doyle, a Calloway loyalist and team captain. Wynalda and Doyle had nearly come to blows after Wynalda jeeringly called the defender a ôyes-man.ö

Another few weeks of uncertainty ensued; the Krafts kept Quinn, and brought in Meterparel as GM and former Revs assistant coach Renato Capobianco as director of soccer.

æI just wish I had been the guyÆ

The 1999 season had started off badly before it truly started. During preseason training in Mexico, Richard Gough left the team and the league after a dispute with Quinn, which left a large hole in the back line.

Eventually, only four players were left from the Calloway days on the revamped roster. Quinn imposed a system of play, but the team still cried out for consistent defense and midfield leadership.

The trade of Raul Diaz Arce, acquired in a preseason deal that moved Wynalda out of San Jose, backfired almost immediately. Snakebit in San Jose, Diaz Arce regained his scoring touch in Tampa Bay.

ôIt was one of those decisions you have to live with,ö said Quinn, ôbut I remember, even in practice, Raul hitting posts or having [keeper] Joe Cannon pick his shots out of the corners. He never stopped working hard, and you just got the feeling he wasnÆt going to score here, no matter what he did.ö

Jeff Baicher, like Doyle, a Clash original, was sent to New England in August. He lashed out at Quinn upon his departure, as did several of his former teammates.

In jettisoning Baicher for Jair, the Clash obtained a player six years younger who snugly fits the playmakerÆs jersey. But it had also lost the clubÆs second all-time leading goalscorer, triggering accusations the Krafts had engineered the move to strengthen New England.

After this move, Quinn had few allies left.

ôIf I had to do things differently, IÆd take care of situations a lot quicker than I did,ö admitted Quinn. ôBut I like what IÆve done here.

ôI had to overhaul this team, starting from the end of last season. That isnÆt the case here. Now, this team has a solid group of players.

ôAnd, I honestly believe the atmosphere in that stadium will be electric when they start winning. TheyÆll have 19,000 or 20,000 a game, and itÆll be great.

ôI just wish I had been the guy.ö

by Soccer America senior editor Ridge Mahoney

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