Houston Dynamo’s Dominic Kinnear Headed to San Jose Earthquakes?

The Houston Chronicle reported Friday night that the Houston Dynamo front office has given head coach Dominic Kinnear permission to leave the team after the 2014 season if the San Jose Earthquakes offer him a job.

Kinnear was head coach of the previous version of the Earthquakes when the franchise relocated to Houston and has been the only coach the Dynamo have known in their short franchise history.

It has long been rumored that Kinnear might return to San Jose at some point in his career. With Frank Yallop finishing out his second stint as head coach of the Earthquakes last year, the rumors linking Kinnear to a return have increased. Mark Watson’s struggles this season mean the job may well become available again this off-season.

The fact that the Dynamo have given Kinnear permission to leave suggests that he has already expressed an interest in doing so. Making the news public only serves to increase the pressure on Watson.

That the Dynamo are willing to allow Kinnear to leave is a reflection both of the appreciation towards Kinnear for his service to the franchise but also a possible indication that the time is right to move in a new direction as part of what will inevitably be a rebuilding project following the completion of this season.

While Kinnear has a stellar playoff record with the Dynamo, including four MLS Cup appearances and two wins, there can be no denying the fact that the Dynamo have generally been lethargic during the regular season since completion of the 2009 season.

The past two seasons, the Dynamo barely reached the playoffs and they stand to miss postseason play this season for only the second time in franchise history. Only the 2011 season stands out as a strong regular season performance in recent years, with the Dynamo finishing second in the Eastern Conference behind Sporting Kansas City.

Disappointing over the past few seasons, and this year in particular, is the inability of the club to generate results when playing away from home. While road teams generally are at a disadvantage in MLS, the Dynamo often seem to be far more of a Jeykll and Hyde team than most.

The lack of heart that the current version of the Dynamo has frequently shown throughout this season has drawn criticism from fans and media alike. Kinnear, for his part, has looked increasingly frustrated and lacking in ideas for turning the season around. Injuries have played a key role in exposing a roster that was dangerously thin at a number of key spots coming into the season.

Fans have typically blamed ownership for a lack of investment in players for the club. However, the Dynamo play under the same salary cap rules as everyone else in MLS and it is Kinnear, who essentially acts as both GM and head coach for the team, who picks the players. Therefore, he deserves his fair share of the blame for the current state of the Dynamo roster.

It would be interesting to see what type of change in roster building might occur under a new coach (and possibly the hiring of a true GM). However, that freedom that Kinnear enjoys in Houston of picking his players could be what keeps him in Houston if San Jose are unwilling to give Kinnear full control.

Regardless, it is difficult to envision players putting it all on the line for a coach who has one foot out the door and any lingering chance of a miracle last gasp run at the playoffs over the final six games of the season has likely been dealt a final blow by the release of the news, the timing of which is questionable.

In the end, as good of a servant as Kinnear has been, MLS is rapidly evolving and a fresh start for the Dynamo with a new manager with new ideas may be just what the doctor ordered.