San Jose Earthquakes president expects Dominic Kinnear back in 2017

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MENLO PARK, Calif. -- San Jose Earthquakes president Dave Kaval said that he "absolutely" expects Dominic Kinnear to be the team's head coach next season.

The Quakes are poised to miss the playoffs for the fourth consecutive campaign, with Kinnear in charge for the last two of those. With four games remaining in the regular season, San Jose is in ninth place in the 10-team Western Conference, and is seven points behind the Seattle Sounders for the sixth and final playoff spot. Even more alarming has been the team's form over the past 11 matches, as they have gone 1-4-6 during that span with just eight goals scored.

Such struggles have led to speculation that Kinnear may be let go at the end of the campaign. And a report from the website fiftyfive.one stated that Kinnear was on the initial shortlist of candidates to be the manager of Minnesota United, which will make its MLS debut next season. The Quakes also fired GM John Doyle -- a friend of Kinnear's -- just last month. But Kaval insisted that Kinnear, who has won two MLS Cups as a head coach and two as an assistant, will be in charge of the team in 2017.

"I love [Kinnear], he's a great coach, and brings a ton to the table," said Kaval in an exclusive interview. "I think he's one of the better coaches in the entire league. His history speaks for itself. I see him as our coach for a long time.

"I think we need to get more support around him in terms of players and infrastructure so he can be more effective. That's really the focus of finding a sporting director or GM who can bring in some fresh ideas, new connections, and a philosophy about how we play, and an identity so we can take this team to another level."

To that end, Kaval said he recently traveled to France, Belgium, Denmark and the UK, and has interviewed "12 to 14" candidates. Kaval said he is grouping the prospective GMs into four categories: international candidates with experience working as sporting directors; domestic candidates -- including current technical director Chris Leitch -- who have worked as GMs or at the league office; agents; and finally sports executives from outside the world of soccer.

Kaval stressed that the last category is "a little bit more of a radical proposition, but when you're looking for a person, you kind of want to run the gamut and see everyone."

The Quakes' president said that he's especially intrigued by some of the foreign candidates he's spoken with.

"Don't underestimate that the league in the last three years has changed tremendously," he said. "The amount of spending, the mechanisms, all of the different things, we're in a really different era, and I think the international relationships are going to become more and more important. That's why for me the international candidates are so interesting. They don't have a great track record in the league to date, but I'm trying to make a decision for the next 5-10 years."

The additional resources don't end with new personnel. The team's player recruitment processes will need to improve as well. Kaval admitted that San Jose has gotten scant return on its investment in Designated Players. Forward Innocent Emeghara has battled injuries for most of his tenure, while Matias Perez-Garcia struggled to get playing time this season before being traded to Orlando City. Kaval added that while the team's payroll is in the upper half of MLS, the amount of money that has actually gotten minutes on the field is the lowest in the league.

"When guys are paid a couple of million bucks per year, expected to score 8-10 goals, we have to make sure that there is alignment that these guys fit the starting lineup, they are the right type of player that the head coach is maybe more involved in signing, and understanding that this guy has to play," he said. "Those are all really important parts of it in order to be successful."