Frank Yallop and Nick Dasovic were once teammates.
On Saturday, the two former Canadian national-team defenders will come together as opposing coaches when their respective teams face each other in a critical encounter with major playoff implications.
The showdown between Yallop’s San Jose Earthquakes and Dasovic’s Toronto FC marks the first time two Canadian head coaches will be facing each other.
MATCH PREVIEW: Toronto FC vs. San Jose Earthquakes
Yallop is a seasoned coach, first as an assistant with the defunct Tampa Bay Mutiny, then as field boss with the Los Angeles Galaxy and now San Jose. Throw in a nearly three-year stint as Canadian national-team coach and he has an impressive coaching résumé.
Compared to that track record, Dasovic is a newbie, but Yallop likes the job Toronto’s interim head coach has done since taking over from the Preki nearly two weeks ago.
“Nick’s a young coach who’s been with the Canadian system for a long time, so it’s always good to see a young coach get his chance,” said Yallop, who played alongside Dasovic in the mid-1990s under then-head coach Bob Lenarduzzi, now president of the MLS expansion Vancouver Whitecaps FC.
“They had a good result in Mexico in the week, a good result in Houston, although maybe not playing the greatest soccer in the world, little bit like us, but they ground out two great results. That’s the part that you get out of changing, change makes you confident and then once you get the confidence you start to play better.”
Since Dasovic took over, Toronto are a respectable 1-1-1 and have responded well to the former Canadian U-23 coach’s new philosophy. That’s no surprise to Yallop’s assistant, Mark Watson, another former Canadian international defender, who also shared the backfield with Dasovic.
[inline_node:318465]“He’s been through every situation, so all the things he’s confronted with now he’s seen them thousands of times,” said Watson.
“I think he has a good soccer brain, I think he has a real good feel for the game, tactically, putting the right players in the right positions and I think he’s the kind of guy that will get the most out of the players and for me it’s all those things combined. He’s got a great chance to be a very good coach.”
Yallop’s name has come up from time to time as a potential candidate for TFC’s head coaching position.
In 2006, while coaching Canada, TFC parent company Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Ltd. consulted him on the franchise's start-up ahead of TFC’s 2007 debut season.
MLSE senior management didn’t formally offer him a contract, and Yallop eventually pulled himself out of the running for personal reasons.
“I had initial talks when it first started out, I was the Canadian men’s national team coach," Yallop said. "I had good talks with [MLSE top executives] Tom [Anselmi] and Richard Peddie about moving forward with the Canadian program and with TFC."
“It got to a point where, I think, if things maybe were a little bit different circumstances for myself, that I may have come to Toronto, but it didn’t work out.”
Yallop eventually stepped down as Canada coach later that year and became coach of the Los Angeles Galaxy. Mo Johnston was hired as manager of soccer and appointed himself as head coach. Since then, TFC have gone through four more coaches in just three years, including Dasovic.
Dasovic’s future as head coach may or may not depend on whether or not TFC make the playoffs.
When asked about any interest in the TFC job, Yallop was definitive.
“No, I’m under contract," he said, "I have no interest, no. I’m very happy where I’m at right now in San Jose.
"I think we’re doing a nice program there, but I’d like to think that the next coach – if it’s Nick or whoever it is – really takes on board that the Canadian side of it is very passionate, that they want to win and make sure that they treat [the fans] with the respect they deserve.”
Having Canadians running TFC’s soccer operations, Yallop feels, isn’t necessarily critical except for a key proviso.
“As long as whoever is in charge takes in mind that they’re in Canada and Canadians are very patriotic and this organization is very passionate about what they do, it doesn’t need to be a Canadian," he said, "but it helps to have that in the blood that you feel pretty strongly for the country and doing well.”