#cf97 Off-Season Weekly #1: Yallop Settles In
#cf97Withdrawals led OTF editor Scott Fenwick to muse on the news from Fireland this week…
Frank Yallop certainly hit the ground running.
Within days of inking his contract to become Chicago Fire’s Director of Soccer and head coach, Yallop sacked assistant coaches Leo Percovich and Aron Hyde, reassigned first assistant Mike Matkovich to an academy position, and showed Scouting Director Rafa Carmona his walking papers less than a year and a half after he was brought in from club partner Atletico Madrid. Surprisingly, after a season in which many players’ fitness wasn’t up to snuff, head physio Tony Joueax remains.
This week’s presser revealed Yallop will bring in a technical director to oversee scouting and push paper, a signal that Gui Petrei’s days are numbered. In the meantime, the Fire’s front office shadow man will keep the files warm for the new guy.
A manager in the true sense of the word, Frank Yallop’s got a lot on his plate, but coaching is where he’ll devote most of his efforts.
“I want to be on the field, which is my job,” said Yallop.
True, and there are only 24 hours in a day. After all, the Director of Soccer is only one man and he will have much to oversee.
That said, a key member of Yallop’s new technical staff will be his first assistant. Like Dave Sarachan to Bruce Arena in LA, Yallop’s right-hand man must be a seasoned, experienced coach who’s capable of leading the charge on the training pitch. The gaffer will need time to watch and evaluate. Remember what Sir Alex said about the power of observation…
Regarding his new field technical staff, Yallop said he’ll look to have his assistants in place within the next few weeks.
“I think it’s exciting building, not from scratch, but kind of a blank slate, if you like. Not many times you get to do that, so I want to make sure that I put the right staff together for these guys,” Yallop noted.
Indeed, and a fresh start means lots of film-watching and stats analysis lies ahead.
Roster-wise, Yallop indicated there won’t be “too many changes. Just a few to make it maybe a little more experienced, a little more fight and drive.”
Sounds like a plan. And since the new Frank’s still getting acquainted with his squad, here’s a bit of friendly advice…
Five to keep
Quincy Amarikwa (F) – The Fire’s 2013 bargain basement surprise ($46.5k) needs a raise and a contract. A smart, young guy who does his job well. Tap into Amarikwa!
Dilly Duka (MF) – Dilaver was on high salary this year ($273k), a result of his Generation Adidas status. Apparently, that contract has expired, but a 2014 option is on the table. Pick it up. His potential has yet to be reached. Plus, he’s handsome, and the Fire need all the marketing help they can get.
Patrick Nyarko (MF) – The Fire’s heart and soul still has the wheels and touch to drive defenders crazy. Pick up his option, give him a Petr Cech helmet, and turn him loose.
Sean Johnson (GK) – Pick up his option and use MLS “retention funds” to keep the Milkman around for another year or two. Then, sell him abroad, make some $$$, and let him blossom.
Alex (MF) - The young CM paired well with Jeff Larentowicz this season. Their partnership was a key component of the Fire’s summer turnaround. Alex still has room to improve and can likely be had for just a bit more than the $120k he earned in 2013.
Five to unload
Arevalo Rios (MF) – As painful as it is to say it, the pragmatist in me says it must be done. With word that Juan Luis Anangonó will occupy a Designated Player spot in 2014 (we thought the seven figure transfer fee wouldn’t be amortized; he’s on $120k salary), and a glut of defensive midfielders (including the under-contract Jeff Larentowicz), Yallop must not pick up the Uruguayan international’s two-year option.
Rios will be 32 in January, will likely miss a significant chunk of the 2014 season on World Cup duty, and would occupy the club’s second DP slot. Moreover, given the back line’s sorry state and the need for a play-making center midfielder (and perhaps another striker), the Fire simply can’t afford to keep El Cacha around.
Logan Pause (MF) – Not much to say here. 2013 showed us it’s time to send this stud to the glue factory. He was a great servant and captain, but it’s time to go – unless of course he’s willing to take a 75% pay cut. Even then, I’m not sure he’s worth an on-budget roster slot.
Maicon Santos (F) – Another fine example of the old regime’s boneheadedness, striking overlord Mike Sanders ranked 11/30 on the Fire’s salary sheet in 2013. Time for him to do what he does best: move on. Adeus.
Wells Thompson (MF) – “El Diablo” (I prefer “El Liability”) made $113k in 2013. Need I say more?
Corben Bone (MF) – Free him.
Roster-wise, Yallop’s first order of business must be to address his thin back line. Finding a proper right back should be priority one. Next, add a third center back who can seamlessly rotate into the starting XI. All things equal, these two moves alone will drastically improve the squad’s chances to succeed in 2014 and remedy its most glaring deficiencies. A lack of depth doomed the Fire to ship 52 goals in 2013, tied for third most in Major League Soccer.
In other news, OTF amigo Guillermo Rivera reported this week that Mike Magee “says he’s still not thinking about postseason awards [and] still has bad taste from New York loss.”
I hope he’s not the only one. Players completed their exit interviews this week and are headed home for a long winter of contemplation. Let’s hope they stay hungry and fit.
Lastly, after enduring the New Jersey beatdown in person and walking around in a haze during my week of mourning, I’m not too upset about watching the MLS Playoffs sans Fire. After all, it appears hardly a soul’s watching – if they’re able to watch at all.
Smartest thing heard this week:
“[Billboards are] a part of the 2014 [Chicago Fire] marketing plan. We will use digital boards to broaden reach.”
Stupidest thing heard this week:
“The Fire should sign Freddy Adu.”
Funniest thing heard this week:
“Robbie Rogers is about as useful as the cones sitting in the trunk of my car.”
Scott Fenwick founded On The Fire in 2012 and is its Executive Editor. Along with Brian Smith, he co-hosts the On The Fire Soccer Radio Podcast. Scott also contributes to the Guardian’s (UK) MLS fan previews, The Cup.us, Pickles Magazine, and is America’s #1 Rapid supporter.