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Landon Donovan among finalists for San Jose Earthquakes coaching job, per reports

Tue, Jul 12, 2022
Soccer News (AP)

Landon Donovan among finalists for San Jose Earthquakes coaching job, per reports

With D.C. United as their head coach, another soccer legend could be joining the MLS coaching ranks.'

The San Jose Earthquakes have reached the final phase of their coaching search, with Landon Donovan among the list of finalists, according to ESPN. Over 10 people have been interviewed with five making the final phase, which includes current interim manager Alex Covelo.

The Earthquakes are looking to rebound from 'that ended in an ugly departure in April. Disagreements with the front office resulted in Almeyda publicly skipping media obligations along with personnel decisions made that seemed designed to push his limits. Since Almeyda's departure, Covelo has done what he can with an imbalanced roster to try and steady the ship.

Since taking over on April 18, Covelo's Earthquakes have gone 4-4-5 with 23 goals and 25 conceded. Their Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup run ended in disappointment at the hands of Sacramento Republic with a round of 16 exit despite knocking out the Seattle Sounders in penalties in the previous round. It may have been enough to deserve consideration for the coaching job for a team that has had so much turnover.

This isn't Donovan's first time being considered for an MLS job. He was linked with the Real Salt Lake gig in 2021, but withdrew his own name from consideration. Currently, in his third season managing San Diego Loyal, Donovan's team sits third in the Western Conference with 34 points as it looks to secure its second consecutive playoff berth. Donovan is also co-owner of the club and the executive vice president of soccer operations -- which adds quite a bit of complexity to taking an MLS job.

A man wearing many hats, Donovan has smoothly slotted into coaching and making personnel decisions since hanging up his boots. A six-time MLS champion with both the Earthquakes and the Galaxy, Donovan has scored 188 goals while assisting 140 more in a career that has taken him all over the world with brief stints at Bayer Leverkusen, Everton and Leon, along with his long MLS career. Add in being one of the best attackers ever for the United States with 57 goals and 31 assists across 157 caps and there's a lot that Donovan could bring to the Earthquakes if he were to get the job.

Coaching initially wasn't part of Donovan's post-playing plans, but when he was approached in 2018 about becoming a coach of an MLS side, it sparked a fire that he didn't know was there. Having been coached by Bruce Arena in the past while also playing with Gregg Berhalter, Donovan has had plenty of minds available to hone his coaching skills, leading to him favoring a practical style of play.'

"I've had a lot of influence from a lot of different coaches over the years, a lot of different players over the years," Donovan said'in an interview with MLS Soccer'when he got the San Diego job in 2019. "I'm trying to learn how to say this succinctly: If you watch press conferences around the world for coaches coming in, 99 percent of the time [they'll say], 'We're going to attack, possession-based, we're going to score goals, we're going to be high-energy,' and I always think to myself, 'What happens when you play Barcelona? You gonna do that?"'

He suggested that while teams should play on the front foot at home, things should change when on the road with the need to impose their will. With the Earthquakes having a gung-ho attacking style, he could've been speaking directly to current general manager Chis Leitch. The Earthquakes have attacking figured out, but they lack a pragmatic style that can win a defensive battle. Some of this is down to the squad built, but the ream has allowed two or more goals in seven of the 13 league matches that Covelo has managed.

Donovan also wants to help young players get better, which should be music to Leitch's ears in an effort to get the most out San Jose's talented academy setup. A protector of his players, Donovan understands the human side of the game as well, after Junior Flemmings called Collin Martin a homophobic slur in a game against Phoenix Rising in the USL Championship.'

"What I realized early on is that players have this natural distrust of coaches, and I think the reason why is because probably 99 percent of the coaches they've played for are interested in progressing their own careers. The players are just the means to an end. They're used to coaches, I don't want to say using them, but they're not as focused on them as much as people as they are as players," Donovan said in an interview with Goal.com.

These career advancement quotes are likely why Donovan turned down approaches in the past, but it means that if he does join San Jose, he'll be fully bought into the vision. It's not a short-term stop as the Earthquakes need someone who can turn around their fortunes after 10 seasons of mediocrity following their glorious 2012 season when they captured the Supporters' Shield behind 27 league goals from Chris Wondolowski.

The team needs a culture shift and with Donovan's experience building the San Diego Loyal from the ground up, he can provide that in San Jose. From a pragmatic playing style to instilling a winning culture with the Earthquakes, this is the kind of job that Donovan has built himself up to succeed in if he ends up being offered the coaching position.

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