New Earthquakes coach Dominic Kinnear sounds more interested in achieving success on the field than in going on a “This is Your Life” buffet circuit.
“I’m a fan of Bay Area soccer,” said Kinnear, who was introduced as the Quakes coach on Wednesday. “I grew up in that area and I’ve watched MLS grow as well. This isn’t me going home and having parades and parties."
"I’m going home to be the coach of this team and try and make a successful team in 2015 and beyond.”
Kinnear, 47, who grew up in Fremont, knows the winning formula well. He is one of four coaches to win multiple MLS Cups, leading the Houston Dynamo to championships in 2006 and 2007 during a nine-year run. He is third all-time in MLS history with 139 wins, and is one of six coaches to win 100 games.
The timing of his return as a connecting link to the Bay Area’s illustrious soccer past seems impeccable.
The club’s new 18,000-seat stadium now graces the Silicon Valley as the first soccer-specific pro soccer stadium in San Francisco Bay Area history.
“We could not be happier to welcome back Dominic Kinnear to lead the Quakes in our new stadium,” Quakes president Dave Kaval said. “It’s an historic day for our franchise and it demonstrates our club’s continued investment to field a world-class soccer club.”
Kinnear began his coaching career as an assistant for the Earthquakes in 2001, helping the club to MLS Cups in 2001 and 2003. He was named the Quakes’ sixth head coach in 2004 and led the team to the MLS Cup Playoffs during his first season. In 2005, he engineered one of the best regular seasons in MLShistory with an 18-4-10 mark -- still the league record for fewest losses in a season. Kinnear was named MLS Coach of the Year.
The former U.S. national team standout also ranks third all-time in MLS Cup Playoff wins as a head coach, with 15, and has reached the postseason in nine of his 11 seasons.
This week, though, it all came full circle. Kinnear said his decision to return ranks right there with getting married, having kids, and going from San Jose to Houston, an area he also holds dear.
Quakes general manager John Doyle and Kinnear are close friends and former teammates on Fremont Celtic youth teams coached by Dominic’s dad; the San Francisco Bay Blackhawks, San Jose Clash, and the national team. They coached together in San Jose.
“First and foremost, he’s a great coach,” Doyle said of Kinnear. “The amount of trust and respect I have for him as a person and as a coach, it’s excellent.”
Kinnear admittedly has thought about returning to coach the Quakes through the years, but the timing had to be right.
His family ties are deeply woven into the Bay Area soccer fabric. Kinnear starred at Kennedy High in Fremont, a rival of Doyle's Washington High. squad. Dominic's wife, Colleen, has visited her large family in the East Bay each year on Christmas and in the summer.
Now she won't have far to travel to make those connections.
“It’s never easy to go in a different direction, so this was talked about quite a lot between my wife (Colleen) and I," Dominic said of the move back from Houston. "Obviously, it’s a good move on the professional side and the person side. I think those are the two most important reasons for us to do anything.”
Kinnear remembers the early Earthquakes glory years when Quakes legends Johnny Moore and Davie Kemp played at Spartan Stadium.
“We’re dating it back quite a ways,” he said. “Really, my first memory used to be this dirt hill behind the goal. There really wasn’t any stadium there. It was just watching the match from the dirt hill, so you would sliding down, running back to watch the game and sliding back down again. … I have a lot of good memories from Spartan Stadium”
Born in Glasgow, Scotland, where he lived until age 3, Kinnear is third all-time in MLS history with 139 coaching wins, and is one of just six head coaches in league history to win 100 games.
He will attempt to bring the Quakes back to the playoffs after the club's two-year absence from the postseason in 2015.
“For me, everyone loves a winner,” he said. “Over the years, San Jose has had its ups and downs. I want that team to win. For me, I want a hard working, honest team. It is difficult to do, easy to talk about.”
Kinnear remained with the franchise after it relocated to Houston and continued his winning ways. He is one of just two head coaches in league history to win back-to-back titles, along with Bruce Arena. Kinnear also led the Dynamo to MLS Cup Finals in 2011 and 2012, conference championship games in 2009 and 2013 and CONCACAF Champions League Quarterfinals in 2008-09 and 2012-13. He compiled a 112-88-86 record with Houston and reached the postseason seven times.
Always gifted with the ball, Kinnear spent 12 years as a pro player, including 54 appearances and scoring nine goals for the national team. He helped the U.S. win the 1991 CONCACAF Gold Cup and competed in the 1993 CopaAmerica. In club, he played in Scotland with St. Johnstone before three seasons with the San Francisco Bay Blackhawks, which won an APSL title in 1991.
Kinnear signed with Necaxa of the Mexican First Division, and was part of their Mexican Cup triumph in 1995. He signed with the APSL's Seattle Sounders, where he again was part of a championship team. He was part of the MLS debut season in 1996, making 14 appearances for the Colorado Rapids. He returned to the Bay Area in 1997 in a trade that sent Kinnear to the Clash. He closed his playing career with three seasons for the Tampa Bay Mutiny from 1998-2000, leading the Mutiny to the 1999 playoffs.
Now he's back home. The Bay Area soccer scene fits him, well, like an old soccer boot.