It’s been just over a year since we found out that Dom Kinnear would be returning to San Jose after nearly a decade with the Zombie Quakes. I thought it would be a good time to take a look at his record as it pertains to player acquisition.
By my count, the Quakes have made 16 acquisitions since Kinnear took over, 12 of which are still with the team (out of 29 total on the roster).
The first acquisition made after Kinnear took the helm was in November 2014. The Quakes picked up Forward Kris Tyrpak from the dispersal draft after Chivas USA folded. He apparently failed to impress and was waived during preseason. He was then re-signed back to [Austin Aztex], which is where he was before Chivas USA. Chivas had only a few players worth much, and those few were gone by the time San Jose’s turn at the draft came up, so I can’t blame Kinnear for this one.
In December, MLS held three drafts. The first was a Re-Entry Draft, for players whose contracts were up and not renewed or whose options were not exercised.
In the first round of the Re-Entry Draft, the players have to be hired at or around their prior salary. In this round, the Quakes opted only for Andy Gruenebaum, as a backup keeper to David Bingham. Greunebaum, however, declined to move across the country to play backup, and quit to be a commentator for KC games. Again, can’t fault Kinnear for this one, and it was clear that we didn’t want anyone else at their old salaries (since the Quakes passed on the first round after selected Greunebaum).
In the second round, players picked may have their salaries renegotiated, and here the Quakes opted to pick up two players: Marvell Wynne (late of Colorado) and Sanna Nyassi (from Chicago). Both of these players are solid pickups, especially Wynne, who has done a stellar job covering the Right Back position which has haunted the Quakes since we gave up Steven Beitashour. Nyassi, too, has his moments at RM, especially in combination with Wynne, but hasn’t been as consistently good there as Wynne has at his position.
The second of the two drafts in December 2014 was the Expansion Draft, where new clubs NYCFC and Orlando City SC filled out their rosters by drafting players from the existing teams. While San Jose didn’t participate directly in this Draft (other than having NYCFC draft Jason Hernandez away from us), Kinnear pulled some strings and got Orlando to draft Forward Mark Sherrod away from Houston to trade the next day to San Jose, in exchange for a second round draft pick in the 2015 SuperDraft. Sherrod was a young player that Kinnear had drafted while in Houston the year before, and had (and probably still has) high hopes for. Sherrod hasn’t panned out as well as the fans might like (although he’s still a better option than Adam Jahn), but he’s still young and probably factors into Kinnear’s long-term vision.
(As a side-note, Orlando ended up using that second-round pick on Akeil Barrett, who was shortly thereafter waived and now plays for Jacksonville Armada, a second-division club. So, we still probably got the better end of that deal.)
The third and final draft was the Waiver Draft, where six players were made available by other teams. It’s not clear to me how players end up on the waiver list instead of the re-entry draft, but here the Quakes picked up Leandro Barrera from Chivas USA. Barrera is a pretty okay wide midfielder, but faces a great deal of competition. Perhaps he’ll develop into something more.
In January 2015, MLS held their annual Super Draft. San Jose had the fourth pick in each round (except the second as noted above), due to finishing second-to-last league-wide in 2014. (The two new clubs got to be the top of the Super Draft in addition to being able to draft from existing teams in the Expansion Draft. Oh, well. They still failed to make the playoffs.)
In the first round, the Quakes picked Fatai Alashe, a defensive midfielder who put our veteran d-mids to shame early on. This was one of Kinnear’s absolutely stellar pickups, and he has played a huge role in the (admittedly limited) success that San Jose has found in 2015.
In the third and fourth rounds, the picks were Chimdum Mez and Keasel Broome, both of whom were waived before the season began. In Kinnear’s defense, this seems to be very common for picks below the first few of the first round, and the success of Fatai more than makes up for them.
Shortly after the super draft, the Quakes announced that they had signed a new Designated Player, Innocent Emeghara. I think that if Kinnear’s made any mistakes, it might be this one. Innocent managed to play seven games, scoring only one goal in that time, before suffering a torn meniscus during a game against Real Salt Lake.
It’s hard to say where the blame really lies here. On the one hand, San Jose has a history of injuries. Fellow Designated Player Matías Pérez García spent most of his debut year on and off the injury list. No one was particularly surprised when our newest star ended up with a season-ending injury. On the other hand, Innocent did little to justify his million-dollar salary in the games he did play. Honestly, he’s not even a bad player. Maybe with more time to gel, we’d have seen what Kinnear saw in him. As it is, this signing looks to me like Kinnear’s only serious error in player acquisition.
Before the season began, the Quakes made two more signings: Paulo Renato, a decent backup central defender (although, like a true San Jose signing, he’s spent a fair bit of the season on the disabled list), and Tomas Gomez, a third goalkeeper behind Bingham and Meredith. I haven’t seen much of Gomez, so I can’t really comment on the quality of this signing.
The Quakes had a lackluster first half of the season, and were in the midst of another long winless streak, when the Quakes made a few of what I think are the best signings in the last few years.
First up was Quincy Amarikwa, who joined the team on a trade from Chicago in June. While he by himself was unable to turn the team around, he was definitely a huge signing, and the kind of player we needed up top next to Wondo (who spent most of of Quincy’s first month on international duty). I give a lot of credit to Kinnear for realizing that Jahn, Sherrod, and Fucito were not working up top, and Lenny wasn’t coming back any time soon.
We then picked up two younger midfielders, Matheus Silva and Marc Pelosi. I haven’t seen Silva play much, and he’s currently the youngest player on the Quakes, but Pelosi is a solid pickup for his age, and I think they’re both part of the young core that Kinnear expects to be the future of the team.
Finally, as the summer transfer window came to a close, the Earthquakes announced the signing of Aníbal Godoy. While initial fan reactions were skeptical of adding another d-mid to the mix (“We’ve already got Fatai, not to mention the others!”), Godoy turned out to be the final piece of the puzzle. With Godoy slotting in alongside Fatai, the empty bucket the Quakes fielded starting in August was nigh-unstoppable. Indeed, the win streak only came to an end when Godoy was called up for international duty.
Some of the signings were merely the best option from a mediocre pool. Some are youth whose full value perhaps remains to be seen. The one glaring mistake is Innocent, and it’s hard to even say how big a mistake it really is, since he never really got a chance to gel. Or if it’s even Kinnear’s fault that yet another DP got badly injured after coming to San Jose.
But I give Kinnear a great deal of credit for signing Fatai, Quincy, and Godoy. Those three are the fantastic underpinnings of the Quakes’ summer turnaround, and I think if we can keep what remains of the team healthy and squeak into the playoffs, the Quakes may just surprise everyone.