For the 2016 MLS All-Star Game match pitting league stars against Premier League powerhouse Arsenal in San Jose Thursday, Earthquakes coach Dominic Kinnear is a fitting choice.
Kinnear is, after all, the host San Jose Earthquakes head coach, and, despite injuries hitting the Quakes hard, has kept that team right in the playoff picture.
But Kinnear’s connection to the city of San Jose extends beyond his recent hiring as head coach in 2015. He’s a California kid.
After being born in Glasgow, Scotland, his family moved to Fremont, California when he was three years old. Kinnear still calls the city his hometown to this day.
During his professional soccer career, Kinnear had stints with the 1989 San Francisco Bay Blackhawks, the San Jose Hawks and the San Jose Clash. During his career, Kinnear earned 54 international caps by the United States Men’s National Team.
His managerial career reflects much of the same. He spent 2001 to 2005 with the Quakes as an assistant coach first before rising to head coach due to the departure of Frank Yallop. Though he left from 2006 to 2014 to coach the Houston Dynamo, it was to follow the Quakes franchise after the team relocated to Texas. He was effectively still coaching his San Jose team, only in a different city.
At the start of the 2015 season, Kinnear made his return to California to once again coach the San Jose Earthquakes.
Kinnear took the time to appreciate the opportunity to coach a team of fantastic players and getting to do so in the city of San Jose:
“I never thought as a seven-year-old when I was making treks to Spartan Stadium way back in the day, that 42 years later I’d be sitting here next to Kaka and Sacha Klejstan leading them onto the field as MLS All-Stars.”
Kinnear said of the city on Men in Blazers:
“There’s a great rich history here in San Jose […] nationwide the essence of San Jose of soccer is under appreciated. But I think once you’re here in the area for a long period of time, you really get to appreciate the good people that we have. Coming here has been a dream for me.”
For Kinnear, 2016 is his first selection as All-Star head coach, but he said it’s not his first time coaching an All-Star team:
“Back in 2010, the All-Stars were going to be playing in Houston. Bruce Arena was the head coach, but some things were keeping him away and I don’t know if this has happened at any other time, but he asked the home town coaching staff to take over the team in his absence.”
That 2010 MLS side suffered a difficult 5-2 defeat to visiting Manchester United. Even though the game meant nothing in terms of MLS standings or any kind of international points, Kinnear said it’s a game they wanted to win:
“Going back to that game against Manchester United, the team was pretty humbled and we walked off the field with a sickening feeling, even though it was an exhibition.”
The following year’s event saw the All-Stars lose to United again, this time 4-0. The next four seasons showed better for the gathering of Major League Soccer’s elite as they recorded three wins out of four, by defeating European giants Chelsea, Bayern Munich and Tottenham.
Kinnear hopes to continue what has been overall a successful tradition for the MLS All-Stars. In the modern era of MLS All-Stars vs guest nations, since 2005, the domestic side is 7-4 against visiting European nations.
And it’s going to take place at his home Avaya Stadium in front of his San Jose Earthquakes fans plus friends and family, and with Quakes players Chris Wondolowski and David Bingham on hand.
Bingham said of playing under the same coach in a different scenario:
“It’s still fun. We want to go out and win so he’s definitely got that in our mind but he understands its a busy week. He’s keeping it kind of light and fun for everyone.”
Asked if Kinnear was employing any new coaching tactics with the All-Star team and players under his control, Bingham laughed before disagreeing:
“Nah, same Dom.”