SAN JOSE, Calif. – The San Jose Earthquakes announced today that the club has hired John Spencer as an assistant coach. Spencer fills the vacancy left by Ian Russell’s departure to become head coach at the team’s USL affiliate Reno 1868 FC.
“I’m incredibly excited to join this staff with Dominic [Kinnear], Tim [Hanley] and Steve [Ralston],” said Spencer. “I’m looking forward to getting to know the players and helping the club have a successful season on the pitch.”
Spencer, 46, was most recently an assistant coach for the Colorado Rapids in 2016, where he helped the club earn the second best record in Major League Soccer (15-6-13) and reach the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 2006. The Rapids improved their goal differential from -10 in 2015 (t-3rd worst in MLS) to +7 (5th best) in 2016 with Spencer on staff.
Before entering the coaching ranks, Spencer was a decorated player, featuring for sides such as Rangers, Chelsea, Queens Park Rangers, Everton and Motherwell before finishing his career with the Colorado Rapids. One of the MLS’ top strikers in the early 2000s, Spencer finished with 37 goals and 17 assists in 88 appearances from 2001-04. During his first season with the Rapids in 2001, he was named to the MLS Best XI, after tallying 14 goals and seven assists in 22 matches. He was once again named to the MLS Best XI and was a finalist for the MLS MVP Award in 2003 after scoring a team-high 14 goals and adding five assists.
Spencer began his coaching career as an assistant on Kinnear’s staff in Houston from 2006-10. With Spencer aboard, the Dynamo won back-to-back MLS Cups in 2006 and 2007. From 2006-09, the Dynamo ranked at or near the top of the league defensively, and in 2007, allowed a league-best 23 goals in 30 games, five fewer than any other squad.
He was also the head coach for the Dynamo Reserves and led the side to the 2008 MLS Reserve League Championship with a 9-1-2 record. While overseeing the reserves, Spencer mentored and greatly aided in the development of four-time MLS All-Star and three-time MLS Best XI selection Chris Wondolowski.
“Working with John before, I always respected his approach to individual and team coaching,” said Kinnear. “He holds himself and everyone in the locker room responsible for how the team acts and how the team performs. He will be a good addition to the staff.”
He was hired as the head coach of the Portland Timbers ahead of their inaugural season in MLS in 2011 and remained with the club until 2012. During his brief stint in Portland, Spencer selected midfielder Darlington Nagbe in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft, who would go on to develop into one of the league’s top players and make an impact with the United States National Team.
Spencer also featured for the Scotland National Team, making 16 appearances.