2012 in Review: Q&A with San Jose head coach Frank Yallop
MLSsoccer.com continues to take a look back at the 2012 season that was for all 19 clubs in Major League Soccer, starting with Toronto FC and ending with the Supporters' Shield-winning San Jose Earthquakes. You can find the schedule and comprehensive reviews for each team here.
2012 record: 19-6-9 (66 points); 72 GF / 43 GA (+29 GD)
A third career MLS Cup may have slipped through, but not much else in the way of silverware escaped the nets of San Jose coach Frank Yallop in 2012. His team won the Supporters’ Shield; his star, Chris Wondolowski, won the MVP award; and Yallop himself took home Coach of the Year honors for the second time in his career.
Yallop sounded recharged this week after a 10-day family vacation, ready to continue putting together the squad that will attempt to defend all those trophies – and win the one that remained uncaught in 2012.
WATCH: Yallop on season-ending loss to LA
MLSsoccer.com: In the playoffs, you obviously had guys playing hurt, such as Steven Lenhart, Alan Gordon and Steven Beitashour. Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently in those final weeks and the run-up to the postseason?
Yallop: No, we couldn’t. The injuries that we had, it wasn’t rest that was going to make them better. They rested anyways, all week. It was just unfortunate, the timing of everything. That was a big thing for me, it was just disappointing we didn’t have our full unit when we needed it. I look at the Galaxy, and they were firing on all cylinders. They’re a good team, a really good team anyway, but for us to meet them at that point and not be quite at our best, it was going to be tough. But we had a great season, that’s how I look at the whole thing. It was unfortunate that we didn’t get it done in a 30-minute spell, but other than that, I’m quite proud of what we’ve done.
MLSsoccer.com: In your mind, is this year a success because of the Supporters’ Shield win, or a failure because of the playoff loss?
Yallop: It was very much a success. To go 34 games, get that many points, score that many goals, it’s no fluke. It’s proven that, with the longevity of the season, it’s the hardest thing, to keep going. A lot of teams can get hot in the playoffs – I’m not saying the Galaxy were [only that]. They’re a good side. I think Bruce [Arena] mentioned it, from July onwards, they were pretty close to being the best team in MLS, points-wise. But you look at us, and other than the one game at home against the Galaxy, we hadn’t lost a game at [Buck Shaw Stadium] all year. We were excellent. For me, it’s a big, big plus and a big success. I don’t look at as a failure at all.
MLSsoccer.com: What can Chris Wondolowski possibly do for an encore?
Yallop: Get 27 assists, maybe? I guess that’s the next thing. I mean, there’s not much. You look at his production this year – but not just this year, the last three years; it’s incredible – so I don’t expect anything different from Wondo. He’s going to get his big, big share of goals. How many [in 2013]? I don’t know. It’s never easy. He may get a few little nicks and bumps and may not have that many chances. But if he gets a few chances, he buries them. So I don’t think anything different [is coming] from Chris, and it’s exciting that he’s going to be with us for a number of years, which is great.
MLSsoccer.com: You have been a big Alan Gordon fan, but did his level of success this season [13 goals, seven assists] surprise even you?
WATCH: All 27 of Wondo's 2012 goals
Yallop: No, to be honest. I knew it was in Alan. I always felt that he never really got going anywhere he was at. He finally looked comfortable with us, the way we played. He was a leader on and off the field for us. I think he embraced the role and it really made him shine. It’s always been in Alan to be a good player. He’s a good player. I feel proud that we could get that out of him. I felt really good he was comfortable enough to play the way he did with this group of players and coaches.
MLSsoccer.com: I know you feel Steven Lenhart is mischaracterized by other teams. From an organizational perspective, is there a need to fight the perception that folks have of him and his style of play?
Yallop: I still don’t get it. He played with Columbus and I never thought he was anything other than a good player that gives everything he’s got. I think we listen to the odd fan online, and then the players buy into that as well. I mean, every player and every fan doesn’t watch every game we play. It just becomes a bit of a domino effect; someone says something and everyone jumps on the bandwagon. I think it’s unjust. Does he get involved too much with other players? Yeah, he does. But we’ve talked about it. And he’s not dirty. Is he going to change his game? Not too much. I think just getting away from getting too involved with players on the field, he’s going to try to work on that. But he loves the contact, he likes the aggression of the game and he plays within the rules. And that’s all you can ask.
MLSsoccer.com: You have younger players that broke into the regular playing rotation this year, most notably Steven Beitashour, Justin Morrow and Rafael Baca. Is there someone from whom you’re expecting a similar breakout next season?
Yallop: Well, you don’t know. Preseason’s coming up, and they might get injured. They might not live up to your expectations. We have some good young players. I’m expecting, from the group of them, one or two to emerge. I think Sam Garza really had an up-and-down season. I saw some things that were good, and then he got injured a lot. So that didn’t help him. Jake Hustedt was injured basically all season. Cesar Pizarro potentially looks great, but we’ve got to get him healthy. So there’s a bunch of things that we need to get right before they can shine. But they’ll have every opportunity to shine and do well.
WATCH: SJ vs. LA voted MLS Game of the Year
MLSsoccer.com: One thing that didn’t work out this year was Tressor Moreno. Given that you scored 72 goals, do you need a No. 10?
Yallop: I wanted to have options. Any I think that any time you’re sitting there, and you think you like the player and you feel sure he’s going to contribute – and to be honest, he did contribute. He was playing early in the season when we were winning games. He could keep the ball well. It was just that the money he was on, when he wasn’t starting, was too much to handle.
I think it worked out well for us. The way we play, our playmakers, if you like, are out wide, because we feed off crosses so well. And it’s not a direct style or a boring style or an ugly style. I keep getting told that I play ugly soccer, and It pisses me off, to be honest. But that’s OK. We do our playmaking usually from wide positions. My two (central) midfielders are hard-working, little bit of water carriers, if you like. They’re the ones that take the brunt of the running and the fighting and the scrapping and the movement of the ball. Sam [Cronin] and Rafa [Baca] are excellent at supplying the other guys with chances to score and create.
Nothing’s going to change. I tried to incorporate that. If it was a really, really good player at that position, I have no problem playing him. But if he has some things that are not going to help the team out and he’s not playing all the time, then obviously we have a problem with paying that guy quite a bit of money.
MLSsoccer.com: You picked up three guys in the Re-Entry Draft. What are you still looking for?
Yallop: You hate to say that these three guys are coming in to add depth. They’re coming in to compete for places, which I say to every player who joins us, and I said it to all three of them, ‘You’re not here to make the numbers up. You’re here to play. You’re here because I want to use you. Get ready for that.’ We’re going to get busy with those guys, see if we can get a number we’re all happy with, salary-wise. Having said that, we never stop looking. I’m still on Wyscout a lot. For any players that are presented to me, I’ll look at them thoroughly, and if there’s something there that we want to pursue and sign, we’ll do that. Forever looking, but we have a pretty good squad that did very well in the league last year. Why would you change that, and upset the chemistry and the vibe we had?
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.