Mark Watson

Report: Long-tenured Kinnear leaving Houston for San Jose

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With two games left in the MLS regular season comes the announcement than an institution may be changing institutions.

Houston Chronicle sportswriter Jose de Jesus Ortiz is reporting that Dominic Kinnear, the only manager is Houston’s MLS history, is leaving the Dynamo to get closer to home. No, not Scotland, where he was born but to California where he grew up.

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San Jose will be the place, and the Quakes staff has known change was a-brewing after a miserable season. Kinnear is the only coach in Houston’s existence, winning two titles and going to four championship games in nine seasons.

From The Chronicle:

The native of Glasgow, Scotland, was three years old when his parents moved from Scotland to Fremont, Calif. He and his wife, Colleen, still have most of their immediate family in the Fremont-San Jose area.

The Dynamo gave Kinnear permission to interview for the Earthquakes’ job in late September, and the meeting with Earthquakes officials took place earlier this month.

Kinnear began his coaching career as an assistant with the first incarnation of the Major League Soccer Earthquakes in 2001. He helped coach Frank Yallop lead the squad to MLS titles in 2001 and 2003. He was promoted to head coach of the Earthquakes in 2004.

It’s a coup for the Quakes, who have stumbled down the stretch under Canadian coach Mark Watson. San Jose hasn’t won since Aug. 2, a streak of 13 games, and Watson’s current record as Quakes boss is 20W-19L-20D heading into the final two games.

Apparently the move won’t be as contentious as Oscar Pareja’s move from Colorado to Dallas, which is good news for everyone. Now who will become the second head coach in Dynamo history? Could it be respected one of Houston’s respected assistants, Wade Barrett or Steve Ralston, or will the Dynamo go outside the organization?

Quakes nab diminutive attacker on loan from Benfica

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San Jose Earthquakes general manager John Doyle may’ve just pulled off a late coup with the loan acquisition of a speedy little winger from Benfica.

Yannick Djalo is bound for San Jose for the entire 2014 season as long as the international paperwork plays out correctly, and will give the Quakes blazing pace on the wings. He stands just 5-foot-6 but scored 31 goals in 146 games for Sporting CP and earned a full cap for Portugal before transferring to Benfica in 2011.

Djalo, 27, hasn’t found his footing in Lisbon, playing in just three matches since then and spending parts of 2012 and 2013 on loan at Toulouse in Ligue 1, where he appeared 17 times.

“We’re excited to announce the signing of Yannick,” said Earthquakes head coach Mark Watson. “There was a lot of work and time spent scouting in the offseason, and we feel like we have a very good player in Yannick. He adds a versatile, attacking dimension to our team. He can operate as an attacking midfielder, but also has the pace to get behind defenders.”

San Jose hosts Deportivo Toluca in the CONCACAF Champions League on Tuesday before their MLS home opener on Saturday against Real Salt Lake. The Quakes had a bye on opening weekend.

Three Good Questions: San Jose Earthquakes’ head coach Mark Watson

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PORTLAND, Ore. — One year ago, as San Jose left Portland’s Rose City Invitational, a slew of injuries to attacking players had then-coach Frank Yallop concerned ahead of the Earthquakes’ Supporters’ Shield defense. As the team struggled to replicate their 2012 form, Yallop’s premonitions proved true, with San Jose’s struggles eventually seeing the veteran boss move on from his place on the sidelines.

In stepped Mark Watson, whose move from assistant to interim head coach helped restore San Jose’s place in the Western Conference playoff race. Though the Earthquakes eventually fell short of the postseason, Watson’s results earned the former Columbus, New England, and DC United defender the full-time job.

Following Saturday’s preseason game against Jamaica’s Portmore United at Providence Park, Watson stopped for a brief Q-and-A with ProSoccerTalk.

PST: Last year at this time, it seemed injuries and the absence of Simon (Dawkins) were on coach Yallop’s mind. Can you compare the mindset now to the mindset last year?

Watson: I think we’re in better shape physically, in terms of injuries. Last year was incredible, just the number of guys who were out. It’s not that we don’t have little knocks, little injuries and stuff, but I think in terms of the first team players that are available, I think we’re in better shape. I prefer to have everyone completely healthy, but that doesn’t always work out like that.

On expectations for 2014.

Watson: I think we kind of feed off how we finished last season. We’re a really solid unit. We’re going build on that and try to get better. I think goals for this season, number one would be to try and make the playoffs. And then once you make the playoffs you look beyond that. Going into the season, making the playoffs in a very difficult Western Conference is our primary goal.

PST: You’ve replaced Rafa (Baca) with Jean-Baptiste (Pierazzi), and you’ve swapped out the fullbacks for new players. Do you feel there’s one particular area where this team is stronger? Which of your additions do you think is going to be most important?

Watson: I’d say in general we got a little bit better. We had to make a lot of decisions. It wasn’t always that we didn’t want the players, but when you work under a salary cap, you have to make things work on that side of it. We feel good about the squad right now, and I think everything’s really positive going into the start of the season.

On how San Jose stacks up to the teams that finished at the top of the Western Conference.

Watson: I’m not sure the exact math, but I think we finished the season two and three and four points behind [LA Galaxy, Real Salt Lake, and Portland], so there’s not a huge margin there. We know they’re good teams. They’ve all gotten  better, and we know that we’re going to have to perform very well to compete against those teams and get in the playoffs.

On matching up with the midfield strength of Portland, Real Salt Lake. 

Watson: For us, like you said, we’re a solid unit. Do we spend millions of dollars on big name players? No, we don’t. That’s not an excuse.

We’re really happy with our team. We want to continue being a solid defensive unit and work on a few little things as far as moving the ball better, being a little bit more varied in our attack. Ultimately, when we get the ball, we’re trying to score goals, and trying to get service to our strikers who are very good at putting the ball in the back of the net.

PST: This is your first full preseason. What are your thoughts (on the experience)?

I feel good. I feel very fortunate in the fact that we have a great group of guys to work with. They come every day prepared to work and give you everything they have. You can’t ask for much more than that.

Whether anything about his first preseason caught him by surprise.

As a coach, you expect the unexpected. You have a plan, but it rarely goes to plan. There’s always going to be little injuries. We missed guys for international games and media tours – there’s always little things. I think you just stay the course and stick to what you believe in, and having a good solid, honest, hard-working group of players is usually a good starting point.

 

MLS Season Preview: San Jose Earthquakes

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Injuries, a shaky defense and some plain bad luck sent the San Jose Earthquakes crashing down in 2013, sliding down from the team that won the Supporters’ Shield in 2012 to a team that couldn’t even make the playoffs last season. But, provided the team hasn’t actually been cursed, it’s highly unlikely 2014 will be as disappointing for Quakes fans.

Why? They’ve got their new head coach locked down for the season. The side is healthy. Sensible, strong acquisitions were made since the start of the 2013 season. The defensive holes have been mended. And really, just how much bad luck can one team attract?

After scoring 27 goals in 2012, Chris Wondolowski scored just 11 last season, primarily due to playing most of the year with a broken toe. He’s back to health, as are Steven Lenhart and Alan Gordon, so the goals should be coming more freely – particularly if Lenhart has learned to control his temper.

On the other end, bringing in Clarence Goodson midway through last season proved to be one of San Jose’s smartest moves, strengthening the defense to the point where the Quakes conceded just 10 times in their last 14 games. And with Jean-Baptiste Pierazzi now on board, Sam Cronin doesn’t need to spend quite as much time covering for the disappointing Rafael Baca, and can be more effective in his role as defensive midfielder.

LATEST MLS 2014 SEASON PREVIEWS, HERE

Players In: Jean-Baptiste Pierazzi (Discovery); Atiba Harris (Trade with Colorado); Billy Schuler (Weighted lottery); Tommy Thompson ( Homegrown); Bryan Meredith (Free); J.J. Koval (SuperDraft); Shaun Francis, Brandon Barklage (Re-Entry Stage 2)

Players Out: Ramiro Corrales (Retired); Nana Attakora, Dan Gargan, Marcus Tracy, Evan Newton, Peter McGlynn, Cesar Diaz Pizzaro (Option declined); Mehdi Ballouchy (Out of contract); Jaime Alas (Loan expired); Rafael Baca (Transfer to Cruz Azul); Justin Morrow (Trade to Toronto); Marvin Chávez (Trade to Colorado); Steven Beitashour (Trade to Vancouver); David Bingham, Sam Garza (Loan to San Antonio)

Key Player: Jean-Baptiste Pierazzi

source: AP
Can Pierazzi provide the missing link for San Jose?

Yes, it would be easy to put Wondolowski here. But we know what he can bring to a side when fully fit: goals, goals, and more goals. He will bother defenders and even create chances. But he, alone, cannot pull the Quakes out of the mire.

Enter Jean-Baptiste Pierazzi. The central midfielder, about at his prime at age 28, began his professional career with AC Ajaccio in 2006 and has been with the French club ever since. He’s not going to be a goalscorer (he’s had just two goals in his career) but Pierazzi is the man that San Jose are hoping can help with ball distribution in the center of the field. If he’s as good as they hope at winning the ball and getting it out wide to spark an attack, then calling him “key” is no exaggeration.

Manager: Mark Watson, who took over the reins as interim manager when Frank Yallop departed last June, was appointed as the Quakes head coach in October. He’s been with the team since 2010, when he came on as assistant coach. Watson earned his promotion by righting the sinking ship, patching up the defense to go unbeaten in the last seven games of the season. Plus, he must get some credit – and some adoration from the fans – for steering his side to a comeback win over the LA Galaxy, just a few weeks after taking over as head coach.

Outlook: If luck is on San Jose’s side, they’ll certainly have a much brighter season in 2014. The midfield’s been strengthened, the defense sorted out, and if Wondo can stay healthy, there’s no reason to think the Quakes won’t make an impression in the West. It may not be another Supporters’ Shield season, but they should easily make the playoffs.

Cheat sheet of MLS coaching comings and goings

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This has certainly been a period of managerial transition like none other in Major League Soccer. Want an example of how much?

Guys that we didn’t even know have been fired (or dismissed, or having “parted ways” or been placed on freakin’ “gardening leave” or whatever) are now being replaced.

It happened today when Frank Klopas, recently dismissed a Chicago, was named to replace Marco Schallibaum. Which wouldn’t be such a big deal – except that Montreal had somehow managed to (mostly) slip it past everyone that Schallibaum would not be brought back.

In all, 9 of 19 MLS coaching seats changed hands this year (Chivas USA more than once, in fact.)

At any rate, here is the cheat sheet of MLS managerial comings and goings in 2013.

 Out during the regular season:

  • Chivas USA’s José Luis Sánchez (May)
  • San Jose Frank Yallop (June)
  • Columbus Crew’s Robert Warzycha (September)

Out since the end of the season (or very close to it)

  • FC Dallas’ Schellas Hyndman
  • Vancouver’s Martin Rennie
  • Chivas USA’s José Luis Real
  • Chicago’s Frank Klopas
  • Real Salt Lake’s Jason Kreis
  • Montreal’s Marco Schallibaum

Replacements now in charge

  • Mark Watson in San Jose (promoted from interim in late October)
  • Gregg Berhalter at Columbus
  • Jason Kreis at New York City FC (begins play in MLS in 2015)
  • Frank Yallop (pictured above) at Chicago
  • Carl Robinson at Vancouver
  • Frank Klopas at Montreal

Jobs that remain vacant

  • Chivas USA
  • FC Dallas
  • Real Salt Lake