Yallop hoping for injury-free season

Earthquakes boss hopes constant rotation is a thing of past

Frank Yallop, San Jose Earthquakes

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There were times last season
when you would have forgiven San Jose Earthquakes coach Frank Yallop for
thinking he was channeling Hawkeye Pierce from M*A*S*H. Fitness problems forced him to juggle lineups practically
from match-to-match.

This year, Yallop is looking
forward to something different: Actually coaching, rather than simply trying to
piece together the least-worst collection of banged-up players.

“Right now, I can pick and
choose and play people where I feel it’s right,” Yallop said as the Earthquakes
prepare to open the 2010 season Saturday at home against Real Salt Lake. “And
there’s no spot that’s guaranteed for any of the guys, which is great for me,
because you’re not playing guys out of form. If they’re not quite feeling it,
you can leave them out and put in someone who’s ready to go.”

Yallop churned through 25
different lineups last season, including one setup which made him pause before
submitting his 11 to the officials.

“We had to play [center back
Bobby Burling] at left back in one game. I look back now and it’s like,
‘Whoa,’” Yallop said. “It’s unfortunate for him to put him there; he wasn’t
overly comfortable.”

One could knock the Quakes for
failing to make a big-name signing in the offseason. The way general manager John
Doyle would spin it, though, is that the side is better off shoring up several
different thin spots rather than just pouring all its money into one player.

“Frank has a much harder job
as far as deciding who’s starting this year, whereas last year, with injuries
and with some of the performances it was made pretty easy for him: ‘Shoot, I’ve
gotta play these guys,’” Doyle said. “Brandon McDonald, he’s been a little
injured, but he’s finding it a little hard to get into the [starting 11]. Last
year, we would have just shuffled him in—‘Hey, are you healthy enough? Get in
there.’”

Even before it starts, the
2010 campaign has not been injury-free. McDonald has been slowed by a hamstring
problem developed while training with the U.S. national team a couple months
ago. New acquisition Eduardo strained a hip before the team’s training camp
trip to England. Midfielder Andre Luiz needed arthroscopic surgery to clean up
a knee.

The team took a highly
cautious approach with all three players, figuring that missing more time than
necessary in March was preferable to sitting out matches in April, May or June.

“I kept looking at [McDonald]
and saying, ‘Are you OK?’” Yallop recalled. “He said, ‘It’s a bit sore.’ And we
ended up saying, ‘You’ve got to get it right, because we’ve had all those
niggling injuries all last year on everybody. You’ve got to get it sorted
out.’”

Now it’s up to Yallop to put
all those bodies to good use. The coach used El Salvador international Arturo
Alvarez—who bounced around last season on the wings and up top—as an example.

“I think the squad now is
real solid, and where Arturo plays is up to him and me,” Yallop said. “That
goes along with all the players, and I think that that’s healthy.”

Healthy in more ways than
one.