The Earthquakes push for the Supporters’ Shield continues after a Chris Wondolowski hat trick led the team to a 4-1 victory over the Colorado Rapids on a very chilly night in Commerce City, Colo. San Jose’s head coach Frank Yallop, however, is not surprised with the team’s success. The Quakes stand with a league-best 19-6-7 record on 64 points. Such success has placed many members of the club as frontrunners for the gamut of MLS’ individual awards handed out at the conclusion of the season. Frank Yallop, specifically, is a favorite to win his second MLS Coach of the Year honor. With only two games remaining, Frank Yallop’s Quakes have set their sights on a long playoff run.
SJEarthquakes.com spoke with Earthquakes head coach Frank Yallop about the match against Colorado, the success of the season, and the attention that the Earthquakes have been receiving:
SJEarthquakes.com: How are you doing? You had a great result in Colorado over the weekend.
Frank Yallop: I’m doing great. It was a great result. Scoring two early goals is what we are trying to do. The only slight blemish was the penalty at the end. Jason [Hernandez] is so competitive that he didn’t want Colorado to score. It was a red card and we can’t do much about it.
SJEQ: You decided to start the attacking trio of Gordon, Lenhart, and Wondolowski. Were you surprised to score those early goals?
FY: No, not at all. I played Wondo wide a couple times last year and he scores goals whatever position he plays. Sometimes, it can be a different look for a player. A change of position may invigorate a player. If you put Chris wide, and Gordon and Lenhart up top, it gives Wondolowski a fresh look. Chris’ finishing is top-class.
SJEQ: Talk about Gordon and Lenhart’s partnership. Typically, we have seen one substitute in for the other. This past game we got to see them start together.
FY: It comes from Simon’s [Dawkins] injury. You tend to go with what you feel is the best combination of players. I didn’t think Shea [Salinas] was ready to start. He usually plays wide. We had an option with Khari [Stephenson] in midfield but those three [Gordon, Lenhart, and Wondolowski] deserve to play. Wondo scores his first from wide-right and another from wide-left so he can score from wherever.
SJEQ: Were there any tactical tradeoffs by starting Lenhart, Gordon and, Wondolowski together? Did you give up anything at midfield?
FY: No, not really. Chris [Wondolowksi] can run all day. When he plays those wide positions, he looks to track back. He has a great work rate, fantastic attitude to team concepts, and doesn’t mind where he plays. No one really minds where they play this season and that is why we are doing so well.
SJEQ: Alan Gordon received a call up to the national team yesterday ahead of their World Cup Qualifiers. Talk about how this is a reward for Gordon this season.
FY: I think it’s great. A fully-fit Alan [Gordon] is a very good player in our league. His goal-scoring is incredible given the chances that he has. He has been plugging away at it for a while. To finally get a real chance for Alan [Gordon] to play for his national team is fantastic. I’ve known Alan [Gordon] since 2006, worked with him in Los Angeles, loved his attitude, and really liked the player. I wanted to bring him here in the 2008 Expansion Draft, but he just had met his now wife. I granted his wish and didn’t take him. I knew at some point we would work together again. He’s a terrific person and a great player.
SJEQ: As an individual, what has been Alan Gordon’s impact on this team?
FY: He is a leader. When I say a leader, he is one of the guys that is vocal, strong, and honest. When he talks, players listen. He is a very honest person. When he asks his players to do something, the players follow. Going forward, when he is working hard for the team, we get results.
SJEQ: Some people were surprised that Gordon received a call to the national team and Wondolowski did not. What are your thoughts about the decision not to include Wondolowski?
FY: I think Jurgen [Klinsmann] picked the squad before the weekend. He has a certain view on how he wants to go about the games that he has left. Like every coach, with team selection, it’s not all about the best players. I change my lineup to suit our needs in certain games. He has every right to do that. The results will take care of themselves. I expect them [U.S. Men’s national team] to win both of these games coming up and that will be the correct decision. It’s always pretty easy after the game to say, “We should’ve had Wondo.” Wondo is a great striker and Jurgen [Klinsmann] has a lot of respect for Chris. Jurgen [Klinsmann] probably thought that he just wanted some height in the upcoming game. Alan and Eddie Johnson have scored a lot of goals in the air this MLS season.
SJEQ: What do you think about the speculation surrounding many of your players with individual MLS’ awards? Chris Wondolowski is considered a candidate for MVP, Victor Bernardez is in contention for Newcomer of the Year, Steven Lenhart and Alan Gordon both are in the running for Comeback Player of the Year, and you will headline the Coach of the Year award?
FY: For us, it’s a team game. We don’t mind who wins the awards. The players will say the same thing. Everyone has helped each other get where they are at. The players have helped the coaches and I would like to think that the coaches have helped the players.