SAN JOSE, Calif. – To this point, Frank Yallop hasn't announced any plans to pursue a career in government after his coaching days are over.
Nonetheless, he certainly has the classic politician's answer when confronted with this hypothetical: What would happen if the four San Jose Earthquakes squads who have claimed league trophies – the 2001 and 2003 MLS Cup champions and 2005 and 2012 Supporters' Shield winners – met in a four-team, round-robin group?
"It's a hard one," Yallop said. "I think it'll be a four-way tie at the top. How about that? You can't separate them."
That lack of separation is an apt description, and more than just as a politically correct answer to a reporter's trap.
To some extent, the Quakes' past glory years share a common blueprint with this year's model, which makes sense given that Yallop coached the 2001 and '03 teams and laid the foundation for the '05 version.
That's why assistant coach Ian Russell (above, left), who played on all three of San Jose's previous hardware-winning teams, has no trouble drawing parallels all over the field.
Steven Lenhart and Alan Gordon are reprising the target forward roles originated by Ronald Cerritos and Brian Ching. Simon Dawkins' work as a tucked-in left winger is reminiscent of Manny Lagos. Sam Cronin's field coverage in the center of the pitch gives Richard Mulrooney a run for his money, so to speak. And, of course, Chris Wondolowski fills the free-roaming second forward spot once manned by the likes of Landon Donovan and Dwayne De Rosario.
"It's pretty crazy how similar everything is," Russell told MLSsoccer.com after filling out an entire starting lineup, past and present. "And I'm sure I'm missing people. That's just off the top of my head. It's pretty interesting."
The similarities aren't just physical, either, but to some extent psychological. This year's Quakes reached back to a 1985 cult classic for their "Goonies" theme, but a more direct comparisonmight be to their 2003 edition. That club blasted five unanswered goals in 75 minutes to snatch a two-legged tie from the LA Galaxy 5-4 on aggregate, then came back twice against Kansas City to earn a spot in the MLS Cup final.
"I know in 2003 we showed a never-say-die attitude by coming back, especially in the playoffs, but these guys have done it the whole season," said Russell, who notched an assist on Rodrigo Faria's tie-winning goal against the Galaxy. "I just think these guys' propensity to score late goals has been amazing."
The 2012 Quakes have a chance to do something that no San Jose club has ever accomplished in MLS: Taking the double by capturing the Supporters' Shield and MLS Cup in the same season.
If these Quakes can run the table, Russell was asked, do they get bragging rights over the franchise's other top teams?
"I would say so," Russell explained. "I would let them brag as much as they want if they did that."
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.