Frank Yallop, head coach of the San Jose Earthquakes, was the architect that assembled the winning teams of 2001–2003, before the franchise up and moved to Houston.
In his first year, Yallop turned the last-place Earthquakes into champions, winning the 2001 MLS Cup. He added another title in 2003. Yallop is back, but this time the turnaround is taking a little longer.
The first two modern-era Earthquake campaigns ended without a playoff appearance. Both of those teams finished at the bottom of the league. The current version of the Earthquakes is 6-4-4 and in the mix for a playoff spot. “Defending is key to any successful team winning,” Yallop says. “Our team defending is excellent.” On the other side of the field, the Earthquakes are slightly above average when it comes to scoring goals. Yallop has not been pleased with the overall attack of the team. He says the whole team is not creating enough chances to score, and that he wants his team to be “more goal dangerous.”
Chris Wondolowski is the Earthquakes leading goal scorer and was a regular threat in the beginning of the year. But goals suddenly starting eluding the forward—he hasn’t found the net in five games. Part of the problem is that the team is not getting the ball to Wondolowski. Possession breaks down in the midfield far too often for Yallop, and the team has resorted to playing long balls in the hope of latching onto one, a tactic that results in more balls lost to the opposition. “We haven’t possessed the ball particularly well and that adds to chances against you,” Yallop says. “We’re just average at everything really.”
Performance has been excellent from the wing, especially from the left side patrolled by Bobby Convey. The MLS All-Star is second in the league in assists with eight and has been a rock for the Earthquakes this season offensively and defensively. Convey scored the go-ahead goal against the Los Angeles Galaxy July 22, but former Earthquake Landon Donovan equalized in the 90th minute, and the Earthquakes went home with tie. Convey bounced back from a disappointing campaign last year that saw him score one goal and record only two assists. He has been a consistent member of a team that is anything but consistent.
Yallop has been forced to field a different lineup almost every game because of injuries. Brazilian forward Eduardo was supposed to be an impact player, but multiple injuries have kept him off the pitch. Ditto for midfielder Andre Luiz. “It makes it a factor when you have a small squad and two pretty good players are out basically all year,” Yallop said. Yallop wants his team to play a more relaxed, attacking game, especially at home. “I want us to be more dominant at home,” he says. “We’ve got to be on the front foot and make it difficult to play against us.”