Dominic Kinnear will return to the San Jose Earthquakes as head coach next season, the team announced on Wednesday. The Houston Dynamo confirmed the move in a separate announcement, and the two franchises held a joint conference call to discuss the move. The Houston Chronicle first reported the news Tuesday evening.
Mark Watson was fired as San Jose’s coach immediately, and assistant Nick Dasovic was also let go. Ian Russell will take over as interim head coach for the rest of the season. Watson had been with the Earthquakes since 2010, first as an assistant and then taking over from Frank Yallop as head coach in 2013.
Kinnear, a native of Fremont, California, who coached San Jose for two years before the original team’s relocation to Houston, will finish the 2014 season with Houston. Neither the Dynamo nor the Earthquakes will be in the playoffs.
“We had a prescribed amount of time to work through an arrangement with Dominic. It wasn’t our ideal situation,” Earthquakes president Dave Kaval said in the conference call. “We felt it made more sense to do it at the end of the season, but it really was the only way we could acquire who we feel is the best possible coach for the San Jose Earthquakes.”
It hasn’t been the easiest season in either city.
Watson took over in June 2013, and his team compiled the best record in the remaining time during that season, but the Earthquakes took a serious downturn in 2014. San Jose is in the midst of a 13-game winless streak and sits at the bottom of the Western Conference table.
The Dynamo won MLS Cup in 2006 and 2007, the team’s first two years in Houston, lost in two more MLS Cup finals in 2011 and 2012 (both to the LA Galaxy) and only failed to qualify for the playoffs in 2010 and 2014. The last three years have been difficult in the regular season, although Kinnear has always found a way to get the team in the playoffs until now and be dangerous in the postseason.
Both teams need a fresh start, and they will be getting that with new managerial staffs.
For Kinnear, he'll also get the chance to be part of a second soccer-specific stadium opening in three years. He guided the Dynamo in the first two seasons of Houston's BBVA Compass Stadium, and the Earthquakes are set to open a new stadium next season.
He'll also get a second chance to coach U.S. national team striker Chris Wondolowski. Kinnear dealt the then-little-known Wondolowski and a draft pick – which turned out to be Iran international and MLS All-Star Steven Beitashour – to San Jose for Cam Weaver in 2009.