SANTA CLARA, Calif. – This time last year, San Jose Earthquakes president David Kaval was being inundated by fans requesting the same thing: Jettison coach Frank Yallop.
“It was hard to get the e-mails and the calls and hear the booing and people saying, ‘You’ve got to change everything out and change the people,’” Kaval said last month.
Presumably, Kaval found listening to his messages much more enjoyable on Tuesday after Yallop received the 2012 MLS Coach of the Year award.
Yallop, 48, won his second career Coach of the Year trophy for leading the Quakes to a 19-6-9 record and the Supporters’ Shield, their first piece of hardware since being re-established as an expansion club in 2008.
“I’ve got to thank all my players, coaching staff, front office, ownership group, everyone involved – Dave Kaval, [general manager] John Doyle – who supported me right through the harder times that I’ve had,” Yallop told MLSsoccer.com. “I’m just very happy to get the award this year.”
The only damper on the day was the fact that San Jose weren’t preparing to host the MLS Cup final, having been knocked out of their Western Conference semifinal series 3-2 on aggregate by the LA Galaxy, who face Houston on Saturday.
“It’s been a really fun season,” Yallop said. “Obviously, it could have been better at the end. Again, it was a great accomplishment for us to win the Supporters’ Shield.”
Yallop has overseen San Jose’s ascent from a sputtering rebirth to an offensive juggernaut. But even in this season when “Goonies”-mania swept the Bay Area and the Quakes’ happy-go-lucky locker room brimmed with chemistry and confidence, it wasn’t a push-button job.
“It’s not easy. Anybody who says coaching’s easy, I think they’re lying,” Yallop said. “But this group’s been fantastic. ... It’s been a real joy to coach them, a great group of young men that work hard and have respect for each other."
In some ways, the award brings Yallop full circle. He first took home Coach of the Year honors in 2001, his debut season with the Quakes. That year, San Jose won the first of two MLS Cups they grabbed under Yallop before he moved on to coach the Canadian national team and the LA Galaxy.
“It’s a very similar type of group that likes to work hard and likes winning,” Yallop said of the comparisons between the 2012 and ’01 Quakes. “It’s not often you get that.”
One of the biggest similarities between Yallop’s award-winning campaigns is that so much of the groundwork was laid during the preceding offseason.
In 2001, the Quakes brought in Jeff Agoos, Ramiro Corrales, Troy Dayak, Landon Donovan, Ronnie Ekelund and Manny Lagos to form the backbone of a title-winning club. Last winter, San Jose added Víctor Bernárdez, Marvin Chávez and Shea Salinas and retained key pieces Simon Dawkins, Alan Gordon and Steven Lenhart, paving the way to the Supporters’ Shield.
Gordon and Lenhart each set career bests in scoring, helping the Quakes rack up a franchise-record 72 goals, the third-highest total in league history. Bernárdez and Chávez, both Honduran internationals, provided critical pieces of the puzzle – Bernárdez as an anchoring force on the backline, Chávez with wing speed unmatched on the roster – and also brought lively attitudes to the locker room.
“In preseason, we got together, and it was a good vibe,” Yallop said. “Every coach will probably say the same thing; you feel pretty good about the new group, or new players. Two guys that spring to mind are the two Hondurans that we added, to kind of give us some joy and some flair, if you like. Both have really contributed very well this year.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.