SAN JOSE, Calif. – After three long seasons, Frank Yallop finally delivered the Earthquakes back to the promised land of the MLS Cup Playoffs. And it wasn’t a minute too soon.
Rebuilding from scratch hasn’t always been easy in a city accustomed to success in MLS – a bar that Yallop himself set in coaching the old Quakes to two titles. This past year, it finally came together as San Jose went to the postseason for the first time since being re-established and bagged a stunning upset of New York in the first round.
But now it gets tougher. With many big names not returning, Yallop and GM John Doyle must rebuild the offense and hope 2011 brings the same good fortune. MLSsoccer.com recently sat down with Yallop to discuss what went right in 2010 and what’s next.
MLSsoccer.com: You didn’t just make the postseason, you were within a game of MLS Cup. Were you surprised to go as far as you did?
Yallop: When we started out, preseason felt good. I thought we got a good, hard-working group. Every game, I never felt we were outclassed or outplayed. In football terms, maybe out-passed or out-possessed, but never outplayed. I always felt we were going to create chances, that we were always good enough to stop the opposition.
[inline_node:324532]I think we could have been a bit more dynamic around the goal – not just from Chris Wondolowski, but getting more output from our other guys. Everyone was really good at supporting Wondo and what he was doing. Nobody was jealous. It was a terrific run. I really thought that we deserved to get where we got.
MLSsoccer.com: You made some tough calls in deciding not to bring back a handful of offensive players. What was the thinking?
Yallop: Once we looked at all the options, it was going to take us way over the salary cap. We couldn’t afford everybody. You try, to a certain extent, to gamble with an investment of money knowing that next year, we can’t hang on to everybody. They all understood. We always try to leave with a good taste in my mouth and theirs that we’ve not sat there and completely slagged them off.
It just didn’t work out. It was no fault of theirs. Eduardo didn’t want to be injured all season, Cornell Glen didn’t want to be injured at the wrong time. Geovanni is a quality player but I felt he was after too high of a salary for what he actually brought. We knew this was coming. John and I look at the budget all the time to make sure we’re not getting away from ourselves.
MLSsoccer.com: Still, that’s a huge chunk of offense you need to replace. How will you do that?
Yallop: The SuperDraft is a big component of what we’re trying to do. We’ve done a lot of scouting in college ranks, and we feel we’ll get a good player at No. 15. We’re also out scouting a lot. I’m going to Japan next week. John’s overseeing our college scouting. Ian [Russell, assistant coach] is off to Ghana. Mark [Watson, assistant coach] is doing some college stuff and then some stuff in Brazil. Our partnership with Tottenham is really helping us expand our reach.
We’re trying to add to Wondolowski, Scott Sealy and Ryan Johnson – that’s a good core. We want to add another striker to complement those guys. We can spend some money on that. We feel that we can add some depth in certain positions. It’s mainly for offense – I think we’re solid defensively. But we’re not taking our foot off the gas. We want to get better. And I think that’s a big key in this league, you can’t be content with what you have.
MLSsoccer.com: Did the Geovanni experiment turn the club off from Designated Players? Or might you give it another try?
[inline_node:316560]Yallop: If a really, really good player comes along and we like them, ownership has shown they’re not afraid to do that. They leave it up to us to make sure we make the right decision. They know we have the club headed in the right direction and we don’t spend money willy-nilly.
We said all along that signing Geovanni was a trial period. If it doesn’t work out, we won’t just waste your money. I think they appreciated that. But in the same breath, they’re not afraid to say, “If there’s something you really like, and it’s really going to help us and it’s a good move for the club, do it.”
MLSsoccer.com: How badly does this organization need its own stadium?
Yallop: Ownership’s been great with trying to get the deal done and trying to get the stadium pushed through. They’re trying their best. As a coach, you just want to get into a new venue and have a fresh outlook on things. As a player, it helps knowing that we’re here to stay. We’re in a temporary stadium; we’re borrowing a field and borrowing a locker room, and you feel like you’re borrowing it. Once we do get into our stadium – and we will get into one, it’s just a matter of when – I think it’ll really set us up for years to come and I’m excited about that.