Timing is everything, and for Dominic Kinnear, his time in Houston was up.
The California-bred head coach sat at a table Wednesday afternoon meeting with the Houston media after it had been made official that he was leaving the Dynamo to return home to coach the San Jose Earthquakes.
Kinnear and Dynamo president Chris Canetti spoke about the triumphs in Houston and fond memories and friendships. But for the club’s only manager to date, the allure of a move home was simply too much for him to pass up.
“We’ve always had an eye on returning to California, and the time is right because Chris Canetti allowed the time to be right,” Kinnear said during a conference call. “Sometimes change is good. You always hope the grass is greener, and I have to make sure I work extra hard to make sure that grass is greener when I get back.”
Ensuring the grass is greener on the field could be a chore. Kinnear enters a tough situation with an Earthquakes team that has struggled this year and currently sit at the bottom of the Western Conference. Off the field, however, the move makes perfect sense.
Kinnear grew up near San Jose in Fremont, and his professional career saw him spend time with the club as a both a player and manager, when he won an MLS Cup in 2003 and a Supporters Shield in 2005. That’s when his California dream was unhinged.
The club relocated to Houston, a city that’s far removed from San Jose. But the forced move turned into a good one as the club enjoyed early and consistent success with MLC Cup triumphs in 2006 and ’07 and title-game appearances in 2011 and ’12.
“It was a real struggle to come here in the first place. It was a really hard decision, but I wanted to coach and the only place I could coach was Houston and that’s why we came here,” Kinnear told the media today at a press conference. “To be honest with you, we thought it would be a two-year plan and we’d be out the door, and two years turned into nine. That, for me, is pretty incredible.”
The timing of the move makes sense for both sides. There have been opportunities in the past. Several clubs have approached the Dynamo about speaking with Kinnear, yet neither he nor the organization pursued them.
“I knew how important it was to him. I don’t think it’s anything beyond that,” Canetti said on why he allowed Kinnear to speak with San Jose.
Since Kinnear had a year left on his contract, he had to receive permission to pursue the opportunity.
“We’ve said 'no' plenty of times before,” Canetti continued. “I felt like because it was important to him, I felt it was the right thing to do.”
Said Kinnear: “I’ve never knocked down his door and said, ‘This is not fair,’ or, ‘I want this or that.’ Ownership has given me great contracts over the years, and I think it’s my job to be a good worker for the team. It’s not my job to kick and scream and be a spoiled brat. I’m a soccer coach for goodness sake.
“When the opportunity came up and he said we’re going to give you permission to talk to San Jose that was it.”
San Jose are now officially Kinnear’s future, but he’s not letting that get in the way of his present.
He was adamant that he is focused on the final two games of the season and admitted to not having discussed the possible futures of his assistant coaches. He said the reality of the situation won’t fully sink in until the club finishes the season, until then its business as usual.
“It’s going to feel different; it’s going to feel weird,” Kinnear said about not being in Houston. “I can walk away feeling pretty proud of what’s been accomplished so far.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.