SAN JOSE, Calif. – For the most part, San Jose Earthquakes coach Frank Yallop remains imperturbable when meeting the press, in keeping with his mantra of never letting swings between success and failure change his demeanor.
So it was surprising to see Yallop react strongly – for him, at least – when he was asked if the Quakes’ league-leading offensive numbers will put to rest the idea that he’s a defensive-minded coach.
“I don’t know where that came from, ever,” Yallop said after San Jose finished a 5-3 victory against D.C. United last week. “If you ask our guys, I don’t want us to defend in numbers and get behind the ball and sit back at all. I’ve never said that to any team I’ve coached.”
GOAL: Wondolowski makes it 10 for season
He’s not going to start now, with the Quakes humming along on an MLS-best 21 goals as they gear up to host Chivas USA on Sunday (7 pm ET; Galavision). San Jose have completed their transformation into the multi-faceted attacking side that Yallop had envisioned for years, even if it took the better part of five seasons to get there.
“It’s taken some years, but this is really his style,” star forward Chris Wondolowski said of Yallop. “As you can see, I think he’s really happy with the players that he has, likes being able to interchange them and it shows how good of a coach he is.”
Observers who only know Yallop from his time coaching the expansion-era Quakes from 2008 onwards could be forgiven for not recognizing this year’s edition. Building a roster from scratch, Yallop focused first on getting San Jose’s house in order along the backline mostly because it was easier to accomplish than trying to create a high-octane offense out of other teams’ spare parts.
“Something he does really well is that he coaches to what he has,” Wondolowski said. “I think in years past – especially when you’re an expansion team – you always try to go for defense first, try to clean it up in the back and make sure it’s locked down in there. Then you go [on the attack].”
As Rafael Baca succinctly put it: “Having the players that we have right now makes it easier to play this style.”
The new Quakes made their only MLS Cup Playoffs appearance in 2010 on the strength of their defending. San Jose posted a franchise-record 13 shutouts that year, but were held to one goal or less in 19 of 30 regular-season matches. This year, the Quakes have two or more goals in six of their 10 games.
“I think we’re growing as a team each game,” Quakes defender Justin Morrow said. “Our front six understands each other very well. Marvin [Chávez] and Shea [Salinas] coming in, they’ve been able to pick up on guys’ personalities really quickly. And the other guys have been here, and they know each other pretty well. I think that’s showing on the field.”
With Chávez (strained left hamstring) and Salinas (broken left collarbone) ruled out for the Chivas game, optimistic Quakes fans will see this as a chance for the team to show off another route to the opposition’s goal.
“My teammates are doing some amazing things, creating so many opportunities to where, if you miss a chance, another one’s coming a minute later,” Wondolowski said. “We can break down defenses in different ways.”
And they finally have the numbers to prove it.
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.