SAN JOSE, Calif. – The San Jose Earthquakes haven’t lost faith in coach Frank Yallop, and vice versa.
Despite a franchise-record 13-match winless streak during a disappointing 2011 campaign, Yallop is expected to return for a fifth season at the helm of the reborn Quakes. And, in a wide-ranging discussion with MLSsoccer.com, he outlines his plans for how San Jose will recover after this year’s 8-12-14 record.
MLSsoccer.com: Do you see this season as being half-full, or half-empty?
Yallop: Half-full, because I think that potentially, we had a chance to be better than our record showed. I just wish we could have kept on our run when Steven Lenhart was doing well, and kind of kept him here. Obviously, he was a big loss for us, in the end. You should never have to worry about losing one player, but I think he was so influential to us when he played that we missed him when he didn’t, and we never really recovered.
Ike Opara was another one who was not available all year, and that hurt us in certain spots. We were very close in a lot of games that really didn’t just quite go our way. That’s no excuse, because it doesn’t matter what level you’re at or what league you’re in, or who you are, you can’t keep saying that it’s bad luck. You’ve got to figure it out and win.
There’s a lot of things that go into it, but it wasn’t like a disaster of . I think it was more that we underachieved for what we had, the talent we had. That run in the middle hurt us, where we couldn’t seem to get a win in 12, 13, 14 games. We tied a lot of them, and the ties are what killed us.
MLSsoccer.com: Obviously, injuries and absences did play a big part in this season’s results. What can you do to prevent that next year?
Yallop: If you look at it, we had one of our top strikers [Lenhart] go missing for most of the year after his father’s death, and what happens on most MLS teams is they get replaced. We now have some backing from owners that they’re going to spend some money. We needed to spend it last year, and I think if we would have done, I don’t think we’d be talking like we are now.
Obviously, there are teams that are spending millions. We don’t need to be that big, but we need to be equal with the rest of the teams, and we weren’t. So we are now going to catch up. And I feel that if we’re just equal with eight or six teams in our league, then we have enough talent to make the playoffs. The ownership realizes that we needed that proper commitment and they are going to do that now. We’re very happy that John Fisher and Lew Wolff are going to do that and back the team and really give us a fighting chance to be competitive and get in the playoffs.
MLSsoccer.com: Is it better served to spread those resources throughout the roster, or to get a couple of higher-priced difference-makers and hope to avoid the health problems?
Yallop: I think the middle of the field has always been a problem for us. We’ve never really had someone to dictate the pace of the game and really be the general in that position. That’s always a hard position to fill, but we’re looking for that. We’re looking to get pace up front and wide, in different positions, so my feelings are spread the wealth a little bit, but then can we get some difference-makers in the middle of the field or an attacking-type position.
Whether it’s going to be a big [individual] splash, we don’t know yet, because we’re still in the early stages of us getting all the players that are going to be available. Brazil’s over now, and we have a couple offers in to them. We’re just waiting on responses.
MLSsoccer.com: You talked after the season finale about wanting to have the roster flexibility to play different styles. How much did a lack of that hurt you this year?
Yallop: It was frustrating. The big thing for me is, the fans, I would like them to know that it’s not by design that we played like we played in the middle of the season. It was by default, if you like. And that’s no disrespect to the guys that played. But when you don’t have many choices, you can’t make a change and get out of a rut of a 13-game streak where you can’t seem to win and Lenny’s gone and you’ve got a bunch of injuries.
I don’t make excuses, but it’s just reality. I’d like to think that at the end of this season, the last six to eight to 10 games, that that’s more the style I want to play. Without getting carried away that we were a good team, I felt that every game that we played towards the end of the year, we felt we were going to win.
MLSsoccer.com: After 34 goals in two seasons, what does Chris Wondolowski do for an encore?
Yallop: Well, Chris will always score goals. Chris will never go through a season playing 30 games and not score a goal. I will guarantee that. It’s so great to have him. I’m so excited he has another chance at scoring a bunch of goals next season, and maybe with a better supporting cast around him, we can really do some damage and do well – and maybe take the load off him.
MLSsoccer.com: What are the three biggest needs you want to address next year?
Yallop: We cannot concede late goals, No. 1. No. 2, we’ve got to score more goals. And I think No. 3 is, we’ve got to be more dynamic in the final third. Which means we need some dribbling, running-with-the-ball players that I’ve been trying to get. I think those are three key elements for us, because I think we can possess and be pretty good.
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com. On Twitter: @sjquakes