Like a tour bus passing a scenic overlook, MLS slowed down for FIFA’s international dates this week, but it didn’t stop altogether.
While dozens of players left their clubs to play for their countries, there were five MLS games and plenty of intriguing action, including a comeback thriller in Chicago, and a wide-open, entertaining tilt in Seattle in front of a season-high 53,679 fans.
There were also impressive showings by Real Salt Lake and the Philadelphia Union, and a possible light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel sighting for struggling D.C. United.
Before all of that, the US landed a huge three points in Jamaica despite giving up an 89th-minute equalizer, and before that – in an announcement almost as surprising as Brad Evans’s 93rd-minute winner for the Yanks – the San Jose Earthquakes announced they were parting ways with head coach Frank Yallop, the 2012 MLS Coach of the Year.
Where did the Yallop decision come from? Here are three theories:
The Hair-Trigger Theory
This was the one espoused by some pundits and many of Yallop’s former players, who took to Twitter to express their shock in the immediate aftermath of the announcement.
Why would San Jose split with the man who took them to within a game of MLS Cup in 2010 and who led them to the Supporters’ Shield in 2012, guiding a highly entertaining, never-say-die team that led the league with 72 goals?
Sure, the Quakes were sputtering at 3-6-6 this year, but they began the season without Steven Lenhart, Alan Gordon, Steven Beitashour, and Marvin Chávez. They also lost midfielder Simon Dawkins, whose loan was not renewed.
In addition to all those factors, San Jose’s leading scorer of 2012, Chris Wondolowski, got off to a slow start – on pace for less than half of the record-tying 27 goals he scored last season.
Speaking of Wondolowski, his response lent credence to the Hair-Trigger Theory, as it suggested that Yallop certainly hadn’t lost the locker room in San Jose. The 2012 Golden Boot winner described himself as “speechless” and “gutted” by the news about Yallop. “No one saw it coming,” he told MLSsoccer.com. “That was literally the last thing we [expected].”
Proponents of this theory believe that San Jose management made a knee-jerk reaction to a Supporters’ Shield hangover, pulling the plug on a successful, well-liked coach who still had a chance to salvage the Quakes’ 2013 season.
The Cracks-Were-Starting-to-Show Theory
Yallop’s 2012 Earthquakes not only led the league in goals and wins, but they also topped the table in wildly improbable, did-you-see-that, late equalizers and game-winners.
So, yes, they had a great season, but it was by the skin of their teeth. They weren’t putting teams away convincingly; they were scraping and clawing past them at the death, which involves almost as much luck as it does determination and grit.
All those game-of-inches wins and ties may have papered over some cracks in Yallop’s team – and his record in his second stint in San Jose (Yallop also coached the Quakes from 2001 to 2003, winning two championships) – because apart from last year, and 2010, when the Quakes were 13-10-7 (which put them sixth in the West), Yallop’s teams produced sub-.500 records in each of his other seasons in charge.
The Quakes finished in seventh place in the West in those three years, missing the playoffs each time. Yallop’s overall record with the team in his second go-round was 57-61-54.
Did Quakes management take those numbers into account, along with the team’s current four-game winless streak, and recent 1-5-5 slide, in coming to this so-called mutual agreement?
They say no, but many observers read between the lines and see a yes.
The Other-Shoe Theory
Is it possible that there’s something else afoot here, another shoe yet to drop?
Perhaps the club and the coach really did come to this arrangement by mutual consent, because Yallop wants to take on another challenge.
The first opportunity that springs to mind is the vacant head-coaching position for Canada’s national team. Yallop is a former Canadian international, and he has indeed coached Canada before (though not all that successfully: He was 8-9-3 in charge of the Canucks).
Or maybe there’s an opportunity elsewhere in MLS that Yallop wants to take on. D.C. United are currently rooted to the bottom of the Eastern Conference at 1-10-3 and it’s no secret that Ben Olsen’s job is in jeopardy (“It better be,” as Olsen himself recently remarked.)
In 2009, according to Soccer By Ives, the Black-and-Red sought to contact Yallop about their vacant coaching job, but were denied access by San Jose.
The seats under both Vancouver's Martin Rennie and Chicago's Frank Klopas have lately seen an increase in temperature, though Rennie received a recent vote of confidence from Whitecaps management, and Klopas got some new acquisitions to work with, so they both trail D.C. in the speculation pecking order.
Of course, of the three theories, this is the only one that will be tested: by an announcement, or lack of one, in the coming days.