San Jose Earthquakes: Dominic Kinnear Has His Seat Getting Hotter By the Week

BRONX, NY - APRIL 01: San Jose Earthquakes head coach Dominic Kinnear coaches against New York City FC on April 01, 2017, at Yankee Stadium in Bronx, NY. (Photo by Dennis Schneidler/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Editorial (April 27,2017)- Look, it’s never really fun to talk about a manager losing his job. No matter how bad they are, it’s still a person getting fired. But in the sports world, we do it so much. In the land of the San Jose Earthquakes, Kinnear’s hot seat is starting to become the subject of discussion. Now, the Earthquakes are approaching a crucial match against a revived Minnesota United, and it’s conceivable that a bad result leads the Earthquakes to split ways with their Manager.

San Jose Earthquakes: Dominic Kinnear Has His Seat Getting Hotter By the Week

Things Started Bright

The San Jose Earthquakes scored four goals in their first two games, and picked up six points. Of course they played more than 50% of their first 180 minutes against 10 men. Then came the game in Sporting. If David Bingham doesn’t make a mistake there, The Earthquakes would’ve walked out of their with quite a respectable point. Then came the game in NYCFC. They looked terrible, and haven’t looked very “dangerous” since.

Offensive Ineptitude

Take this stat from their two matches last week:

That’s pretty bad, and if we take it all the way back to the last time they won a match (week two), you get this: 63 shots attempted, 18 shots on goal, 14 attempts blocked in 540 minutes of soccer. More than half of their attempted shots haven’t even troubled the keeper. They’re averaging a shot on goal every thirty minutes, so three shots on goal a match, averaged. That’s it.

Look, the Earthquakes’ issue has never been their defense. They have one of the best defensive records in MLS since Kinnear took over. But when you look at these pieces they added in the offseason, they still look like they did last year. Then you have to ask the question of are they being utilized properly? Can you honestly say “yes”?

So then you look at who has the power of where and how to utilize them, and it’s Manager Dom Kinnear. He’s been the constant in this offensive futility. Kinnear coached teams since they won an MLS Cup in 2007 have scored more than 45 goals only three times (in ten seasons), and haven’t broken the 50 plateau since the 2005 Supporters Shield winning, San Jose Earthquakes.

Now, granted some of those numbers are skewed in terms of where they are in league average. So I put together a nice big graph to help visualize this offensive futility that Kinnear has been experiencing:

Year Kinnear Team Goals League Average Difference GP Kinnear Goals Per Game League Avg. Goals per Game
2005 53 46 +7 32 1.6 1.4
2006 44 42 +2 32 1.4 1.3
2007 43 39 +4 30 1.4 1.3
2008 45 42 +3 30 1.5 1.4
2009 39 38 +1 30 1.3 1.2
2010 40 36 +4 30 1.3 1.2
2011 45 43 +2 34 1.3 1.2
2012 48 45 +3 34 1.4 1.3
2013 41 44 -3 34 1.2 1.3
2014 39 48 -9 34 1.1 1.4
2015 41 47 -6 34 1.2 1.4
2016 32 48 -16 34 0.94 1.4


So those aren’t pretty, especially the last couple years here. Want to know what the league is on pace for and where the Quakes fit in? It’s hard to say at this point, but the Earthquakes are currently averaging a goal a game, so you could project them at 34 goals at this rate. A league average is also hard to gauge because not everyone has played the same amount of game (and for some reason that won’t likely line up again until week 32). But let’s just say everyone at the moment was on 8 games, the league average would be 40 goals (it will be higher). So the Earthquakes are already on pace to be six goals below a super low projected league average. Not good.

Kinnear is MLS 2.0 Stuck in The Past

The big thing here, and in looking at the data above, is how stuck in the MLS 2.0 style of play Kinnear teams are. The eye test tells us that. But the data confirms that even more. That’s why when the league is in the midst of either transitioning to “MLS 3.0” or in the middle of that period itself, Dom Kinnear hasn’t changed with the league. Our Dept. Head, Matt Pollard wrote an article that uses the Stadium Development as a great Marker for the beginnings of MLS 1.0, 2.0, 3.0.

Matt Doyle also, in an article in 2014 introduced the idea that 2014 was the beginning of MLS 3.0. Frankly I’m in line with that, and oh, look! That’s right when Kinnear’s calling card system started to take a downward turn.

Kinnear still runs a 4-4-2 system that is rugged, and frankly doesn’t create a whole lot of clear cut chances. The majority of the league is on a 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3 or some sort of variation, or even into some 3-5-2/5-3-2 usage. Basically the league has evolved, and Kinnear hasn’t. It’s obvious when you look at these numbers in terms of goal scoring.

It’s also not to say that running a 4-4-2 like that couldn’t work. Leicester City won the Premier League and made it to the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League running a 4-4-2, and actually lost to a team that runs a rugged 4-4-2 as well. However, they have the quality and the type of players needed to execute this. The Earthquakes frankly don’t.

They don’t have skilled enough wide men and they don’t have creative enough forwards. That’s the offensive end of the 4-4-2. The defensive end, they’ve had down for a while, but they have never found the offensive side of this, and yet they spent a whole lot of money adding players whose skill set doesn’t match a 4-4-2 system’s needs in the attacking end. So something’s got to give.

Time to Put Up, or Shut Up

Frankly, this is it. This match away to Minnesota will tell you whether or not Kinnear should/shouldn’t stay. For all of Minnesota’s recent success, they still got destroyed on their home turf 5-1. The Earthquakes, if they are the contender and the team that the organization, and Dom Kinnear would want you to believe they are, should be walking away from TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday, with all three points. But, the Earthquakes have won on the road once in the last two seasons, so don’t expect that.

Then of course you get to hear about how “it’s hard to win on the road in MLS” and “A point on the Road is good!.” You know what, frankly it’s ok to pick up a point on the road if the team plays well, plays cohesive, and looks good in the attack. Sometimes you cannot control certain things. However, the Earthquakes haven’t controlled even the simplest of things in a match in 2017, at least while playing against 11 men.

If they don’t look the least bit impressive against Minnesota, the calls for Kinnear’s job will continue to grow, and grow, and grow. They’ve already gotten loud, a lot earlier than last year too. Something has to change. Either they play better or Dom goes. There really is no alternative.