Who is Frank Yallop?
OTF friend, collaborator, and San Jose Earthquakes writer Nerdy Gales brings Fire Nation an informed look at its new leader…
When Scott invited me to tell Chicago Fire fans what they should expect from their new coach Frank Yallop, the first thing I typed was “4-4-2”. I briefly considered stopping there; it was the one constant throughout his career in San Jose, and Fire fans will surely become familiar with the most straightforward formation in soccer, if they’re not already.
Not coincidentally, the second thing that came to my mind when I thought of Frank Yallop was the word “straightforward”. I found him personable, direct, and with a dry humor. Yallop was once asked if he might be tempted to roll out a 4-3-3 and he replied, wryly, “you can call it whatever you like, but you already know what it will be.”
Frank Yallop is considered a player’s coach – he is loyal to those he chooses and is well-liked and respected. As an example, Yallop worked with striker Alan Gordon in Los Angeles and later targeted him for the Earthquakes. Gordon had high praise for his manager. “I wouldn’t want to play for anybody but Frank,” Gordon said. “He’s great in every way. We go back to Galaxy days and he’s just someone we want to fight for – so we do.”
Yallop’s separation from the Earthquakes in June was sudden, unforeseen, and provided me ample opportunity to teach my fellow ‘Quakes fans the word “gobsmacked”. Nobody, not even his players and fellow coaches, expected that Yallop would leave – especially mid-season. When he did, he was just one win shy of a hundred with the Earthquakes, a club for whom he delivered two MLS Cups and a Supporters’ Shield. Yallop also earned two MLS Coach of the Year awards while manning the sideline in San Jose.
Yallop’s split with the Earthquakes came by “mutual agreement” in a regularly scheduled meeting with Dave Kaval (Stanford MBA and club president) and John Doyle (former ‘Quakes player and current GM). Yallop exited that meeting with a pink slip, after what was described by Kaval as a “collective ‘aha’ moment”.
Apparently, consensus among the three led to an agreement that the coach’s departure was the only way forward for the Earthquakes. Yallop has since refused all requests for interviews about the decision, so we may never know what really happened in that meeting. If there was any underlying friction between Yallop and the front office, he certainly kept it well clear of the clubhouse.
In summary, I agree with Jay Hipps, who wrote in his eulogy for Frank Yallop “we leave with the experience of knowing a man who was a leader, not through threats or coercion, but by reaching into his players to find their humanity, their trust, and their commitment. And for all those things, he will be missed.”
I wish Frank Yallop the best in Chicago. Fire fans should feel good about their new gaffer.