Without Dominic Kinnear, Chris Wondolowski might not have ever been an Earthquake. He might not even have been a professional soccer player at all had Kinnear not encouraged him to complete the Quakes tryout process after graduating from Chico State in 2004.
“I owe Dom where I am today,” he said.
The midseason firing of Kinnear as Quakes head coach represents an understandably tough transition for the entire squad, but even more so for Wondolowski given his career-long connection with the coach. Dom believed in Wondo, and Wondo believed in Dom. The forward was visibly emotional as he braved questions from the media less than twenty-four hours after Kinnear had given his farewell speech to the team.
“Still swirling,” he said. “I didn’t see it coming. It was interesting.”
He broke when it was noted that General Manager Jesse Fioranelli, who gave Kinnear the axe, suggested that he made the decision in part because he felt the team was underperforming. Wondolowski reacted with a tentative laugh, glancing aside with a gutted look, as if to question whether he heard the comment correctly. He had. Apparently overwhelmed, Wondolowski apologized and left the gaggle without answering the question.
Wondolowski’s emotional reaction wasn’t universal, but the surprise was.
“We found out Sunday morning, it came as a surprise to us,” said veteran midfielder Shea Salinas.
“We didn’t see it coming right now, it was definitely unexpected. My first reaction was a little bit of remorse and sadness for Dom and John Spencer. They loved this club, they loved our team. They wanted us to win and they were doing everything in their power to do so. It’s important to remember that these guys poured every ounce of energy into this team. It’s sad that that’s just done.
“Change is scary, but change is also exciting. It’s a balance.
“It sounds insensitive to say it’s just part of the job. These are people who loved the club and worked really hard for it. Unfortunately, that’s just the direction our upper management has decided to go and we have to get on board. Our job doesn’t change, we go out there and we win games. Just like Dom wanted the best for the club, so does Jesse and so does our upper management. They’re doing everything in their power for us to be successful.”
Center-back Florian Jungwirth also expressed regret but, having trusted Fioranelli to sign with San Jose, is confident the team can persevere.
“Obviously it’s sad news, the team really appreciated Dom and [assistant coach] John as persons,” he said. “We have to accept the decision and it’s hard but that’s how the business goes and we have to move on. We shouldn’t use this as an excuse and be more strong as a team. Especially on the road, we didn’t have the right mentality a lot of times. We were inconsistent.
“As a group, it’s important that we use this a signal to be stronger and develop a new mentality.”
Despite their strong position in the standings, Jungwirth said they still expected more from themselves.
“In the standings, we are in a good position, but I think we all expected more from ourselves to get better results more points,” he said. “It was a big goal to dominate the games, especially with our ball possession. At home we have shown that a lot of times, but we expected more on the road. We are not happy with all that we have achieved yet. We are where we want in the standings, but we can still do a lot better.”
He said the introduction of a new coach will push everybody in the team to work hard ahead of crucial matches against the Seattle Sounders in the US Open Cup and the LA Galaxy. “It’s obvious that everyone is pushing themselves more when the new coach is in,” he said.