In their first meeting with the press since the firing of Dom Kinnear as the Earthquakes head coach, GM Jesse Fioranelli, new Head Coach Chris Leitch, and players made their voices known about Dom’s departure and the reasons behind it.
The decision was made not to renew Dom’s contract sometime last week, although neither Fioranelli nor Leitch would give specific details about the exact time the decision was made about Dom’s firing or the decision to hire Leitch as the regular (non-interim) head coach.
On the timing, Fioranelli was blunt. “When I realized that heading into the next season, we [would] not renew (the contract) with Dominic Kinnear, I said to myself that we wouldn’t want to hold onto this . . . I wouldn’t want it to go another three months knowing we would part ways at the end of the season.”
It appears the vetting process for a new coach was brief. Fioranelli would not name other potential candidates, but did say that others were considered. “In the last months, there were considerations I had made, talks that I have held, coaches that have been proposed” to replace Kinnear if/when the decision was finalized to part ways with Kinnear.
Fioranelli felt that in the end, Leitch was the best fit to move the club away from the John Doyle era (despite Leitch being a John Doyle hiring) because of what he has done for the club since his arrival as the the Quakes’ Technical Director. Leitch “is part of the foundation of this club . . . and for that reason, we did not want someone to come from abroad and take over this team.”
Leitch has little coaching experience, but that did not deter Fioranelli from putting his full support behind his pick. “The MLS has also had other coaches that had little experience in the top league here in the United States. I can tell you, having worked with Chris, and knowing what he stands for in the game, that he is absolutely equipped to take on this challenge.”
Leitch’s goals are simple. “The first one is to make the playoffs. The second one is we gotta make the playoffs. The third one after that is we gotta make the playoffs.” While he would not hint at specifics, he did imply that there would be tactical changes going forward to try and make the club more competitive in order to have post-season success.
Players had similar reactions to Kinnear’s firing. The players, and Dom Kinnear, received the news of Kinnear’s departure on Sunday morning, and the move to put Leitch on as the permanent head coach.
10-year MLS veteran Shea Salinas was sorry to hear the news. “It came as a surprise . . . my first reaction was a little bit of remorse, sadness for Dom and John Spencer. They loved this club, and they loved our team.”
German center-back Flo Jungwirth shared Shea’s sentiments. “Obviously it’s sad news . . . it’s hard, but that’s how business goes. We’ll move on.”
Captain Chris Wondolowski was distraught. “Still swirling . . . I didn’t really see it coming. I owe Dom where I am today, and it’s definitely tough.”
There were numerous reasons for the decision for the club to part ways with Kinnear, both on and off the pitch.
Jungwirth gave a glimpse into the Quakes’ poor road performances under Kinnear as a potential reason why Kinnear was let go, citing the team’s dominance of Portland at home, then being dominated in Colorado. “On the road we didn’t have the right mentality at times . . . that’s not the way it should be, and I think now it’s important to use this as a signal to be [stronger] and develop a new mentality.”
However, it appears the change is due mainly to the club’s inability to be a top MLS club. When asked if the team was underachieving as the catalyst for the coaching change, Fioranelli responded “I think the team can achieve more” while noting that both Dom Kinnear and John Spencer would probably have agreed with him.
Jungwirth also felt there was room for improvement. “On the one side, from the standings, I think we’re very good in the race (for the playoffs) . . . but I think we all expected more from ourselves to get better results.”
However, when captain Chris Wondolowski was asked the question about the team’s performance and possible underachieving, Wondo was noticeably distraught. Rather than answer the question, Wondo opted to leave the press gathering altogether. (You can see the video here)
Tactically, don’t expect major changes anytime soon. Salinas noted that “It’s the same guys in the locker room . . . I don’t think there’s going to be too many tactical changes made that [will] be drastic” while noting that “change is scary, it’s also exciting.”