QUOTES: Transcript of Frank Yallop's Fire unveiling from Thursday, October 31

The transcript from today's press conference unveiling Frank Yallop as new Chicago Fire Head Coach and Director of Soccer, featuring Fire owner Andrew Hauptman.

Andrew Hauptman’s Opening Remarks…

HAUPTMAN: I’m incredibly excited to be welcoming Frank Yallop as the new head coach of the Chicago Fire Soccer Club. I have an enormous amount of respect for him – I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know him over some time and I have a real confidence in his soccer acumen. I have faith in his history in building incredible team spirit with all the clubs he’s been with. He has an impressive depth of experience and that’s exactly what the club needs.

I think his record speaks for itself. He has an excellent record – he’s won the MLS Cup a number of times, he’s won the Supporter’s Shield, he’s been Coach of the Year and coached on the international stage, not to mention he’s a first class human being with high integrity. I think his know-how to deliver is really the bottom line and I’m really excited to welcome him here. He got off an airplane around 1:00am this morning.

With that I want to officially welcome Frank to the club. It’s one with a lot of history and I have no doubt that you’re going to help take it to the next level and it’ll be exciting times together for many years to come.

YALLOP: This happened very quickly and I’m very excited about the opportunity to be joining the Fire, a great organization and just working with Andrew. He’s the one that really pushed it and made sure we’re going in the right direction. I’m very excited to get going. I can’t wait to get to work and I’m really looking forward to the opportunity…

On the timeframe of the announcement…

HAUPTMAN: Given the timeframe, it was very swift and given everything we were very blessed to make the decision as quickly as possible, to be in a position where we can have a seemless transition and really not lose a day of timing. I’ve been around a number of years now, I’ve had the luxury of getting to know different people across the league and Frank was one of the people I’ve gotten to know through the owner of the Earthquakes, Lew Wolff.

I made the decision quickly – it’s not something I made based on the particular result of this year but it was more about the body of work. I felt like after nearly six years of leadership from the team that had been in place, it was a natural time for change. It made sense and I feel like I had been patient through that period and I feel like there had been lots of good through that period as well. Those of you in the room know the kind of relationship I have with both Frank Klopas and Javier Leon so I didn’t take the decision lightly whatsoever but I think they did their best, they put their heart and soul into the club and I have nothing but gratitude for it. I just felt like at this point in the life cycle of the club and the amount of time that they had at the helm, it was time for a change.

On the amount of control Yallop will have over the players, coaches and other aspects of Soccer Operations…

YALLOP: I wouldn’t say it’s full control because Andrew obviously runs the club from his point of view but all player acquisitions will be my decision to bring into the club. Obviously working with the squad already -- it’s a talented team -- there’s no doubt about that but everything soccer-wise, I’ll be making the last decision on those things with help from the staff.

HAUPTMAN: It shouldn’t be lost on anyone that Frank’s title is Head Coach and Director of Soccer. I think that title speaks for itself and certainly Frank has all the necessary skills, experience and leadership to be able to take on that responsibility for the on-field product and for the leadership of the soccer program overall.

On the kind of identity Yallop has seen the Fire build over the club’s time in Major League Soccer…

YALLOP: I’ve always thought coming to Toyota Park was always a great atmosphere and the team itself was always difficult to play against. I feel the experience I have is really going to help the team on the field and obviously the main reason I’m here is to make sure the team is moving forward. I think the team itself with a bit of tinkering is a good squad. It happened so quick, I haven’t really caught up with myself yet but I’m excited to get to work and see what we have.

On the choice of Chicago over Vancouver…

YALLOP: My family is from Vancouver, my parents emigrated to Vancouver, I have a lot of family there but Andrew wanted me. He made a swift decision, he said, “Let’s do this.” I had to make a decision and I did.

On the timeframe of this decision…

HAUPTMAN: We all have complicated and difficult decisions to make. You come to the conclusion over time and I think that’s how it worked for me. It wasn’t as if midseason I said to myself. ‘You know what, I’m making a change and we’re starting the process.’ If I’d done that, you all would have known about it because there’s no information out there that doesn’t get leaked. It’s one of those things where you look at the body of work and you look at the period and you ask yourself, ‘okay, how have we done, could we do better, where are some of the challenges, where are the opportunities?’ and the other thing is, ‘Who is out there? Is there someone out there that I know or I’ve gotten to know or that I believe can really take advantage of the opportunities and can really drive the program forward?’ And I feel really blessed that we have Frank here for a million reasons that if you’ve seen the press release or seen his bio or seen his accomplishments, they speak for themselves.

If Frank weren’t there I still would have made the decision and we would have effectively started the search, and if I didn’t have someone that I thought could absolutely step in from the get go.

On his departure from the San Jose Earthquakes…

YALLOP: Looking back, I was there for five and a half years, six years, and it felt right for both parties. We had discussions about moving forward with the club and I have a lot of respect for the people that own the club and that work for the club, and we’d come to the decision between the two of us that it was best that we part ways. Nothing was ugly or anything said from either side, and that was exactly how it was, that we both decided that the time was right and its’ worked out great for myself, and worked out great with the hiring of Mark Watson in San Jose, so it’s good all around.

On the dual role of Head Coach and Director of Soccer…

YALLOP: I feel that with my experience in the league and my time coaching that’s gone on throughout the years I’ve got, I feel that the player decisions that I’m going to have here are going to impact me on the field, and that’s not anybody else’s decision. Yes, I’m going to have a team of people working for the same goal, but in the end, the final decision on who will be getting to the club will be me. I think that’s something that I was looking for. It’s something that I’m really excited about. I think it’s what Andrew was looking for also.  

HAUPTMAN: There are lots of different models out there, some that work better than others, but fundamentally it’s usually about the people and the choices that they make. In this particular situation, there is no doubt in my mind that we have someone that can straddle both sides. The head coach always makes the decisions as to what takes place on the field and that’s always been the case at the Fire, no matter whether there was a dual structure as there was with Javier and Frank, or if you will, what we’re talking about right now. Frank is going to build his team the way he wants to build the team and the way that will help this team succeed best. There are only 24 hours in the day so he can’t be everywhere at once, so from that perspective, I’m looking forward to seeing how this team develops. We’ve been talking about what the structures and how Frank would like it to be, and I think we’re in a lot of alignment there.

On spending money to acquire talent…

YALLOP: We’ve talked about this. Andrew has, over the years, put a lot of money into the player side of this club and he’s not afraid to do that, and I think that’s important to know as a technical director that if the right player does become available and it’s the right player for the Fire, then we’ll do that.

On restructuring how the club scouts…

YALLOP: That’s up to myself and Andrew to build the club and structure the club how we see it. Scouting is a big, big part of MLS now. If you look at the successful teams in the league they have a very extensive scouting system. It’s not always one person, it’s a system, and I think that’s important to have. So we’ll make sure we get it right on that, to make sure we don’t miss anybody. And we make sure we find all the players on the field, off the field, all those things that come in to it. But the final thing is, ‘Is he right for us?’ and that will be the decision for myself.

HAUPTMAN: The Fire have been in the top three in number of DPs since the rule was created. The different question has been how well have we done? I’ve been on record before on some of these points, but one of the big challenges here, not just with the Fire but across MLS, is having the increase in our hit rate, having the ability to identify talent and having that hit rate increase. If you increase that hit rate, even marginally, the exponential benefit, we all know. And I think one of the reasons for I’m having Frank in this role and I’m excited about it is that he’s proven his ability to identify talent and often, within financial parameters that if you will, have been more constrained than what they have been at the Fire.

On the Fire Academy system…

YALLOP: I think the continuity of the way the Academy plays should mirror the first team, probably not exactly the same but with the right ideas and the philosophy on the game but for sure, I‘m looking forward to speaking with the director of the academy and the coaches and see what they’re doing, and make sure it’s what I think is correct. They seem to be doing a good job so it shouldn’t be too much tinkering but is something I’m going to step in to and make sure it’s correct.

HAUPTMAN: We’ve had really explosive, exponential growth with the Academy. We created an Academy program that’s fully paid for from U-10 and up. We’re the only Academy that starts at the U-10 level that’s fully paid for. So we have the Academy program and the Fire Juniors the combination of the systems, we’ve grown from 400 players to more than 10,000 and that growth has been fantastic and I give the team a huge amount of credit for building out that strategy, or ‘flipping the switch’ as I like to call it. Now that we have the scale of the program, which I see it continuing to grow, we now have clarity about the curriculum that we’re teaching, what the Chicago Fire way is, and I’m hoping that with Frank here, and with the team that he’s going to be building, there will be a deep and close connection between what goes on through the system all the way up to the first team.

On the style of play he’ll institute with the Fire…

YALLOP: I adjust to the players I have. I had very good forwards in San Jose that needed feeding and figured the quicker you can get the ball to them, it was good. I look at the Fire’s roster; it’s more set up to play.

If you look at my teams I’ve had over the years – the first one I had in San Jose was a very good footballing team that moved the ball very well, Landon Donovan was involved in that, so I adapt to the players. I think this team is setup to play. What I like to do is recover the ball as quick as we can in the opposing half and then go from there.

We can talk about all I like – I’m not sure how it’s going to look in print but I just want to make sure we’re playing at a high tempo and not allowing the other team to dictate what they do. It’s about what we do. If you do that in any game, your chances are good.

On giving Yallop multiple years to produce a winner…

HAUPTMAN: Yeah, 100 percent yes. I don’t shy away from wanting to compete. I don’t shy away from wanting to win. But having said that I think it’s important to have patience as well. I think I’ve shown that through the first iteration of management, the first group we had over the six years. I always go into every situation assuming that it’s for the long term and with anything you learn, you get smarter and you make certain decisions with your heart, you make certain decisions with your head. I can say that with this decision, I’m making it 100 percent with my head.

When you go back and look at the performance of the team on the field, even with the challenge of this year, we still were right there. There were some weeks where it looked like we were jumping to second place or be able to fight for first place, and some weeks when it looked dire early on in the season. I give the guys credit for their accomplishments and give them credit for putting everything into the club and for bleeding for it. When you look back over these years, since I came on the scene, even with not making the playoffs the three years, generally speaking, other than one year, we have been right there. We’re talking about a game of inches. I talked to Frank Klopas often about just how “this is football; this is the way it goes.” I’m still proud of the work Frank and Javier Leon did; they’re dear friends of mine and will continue to be. I owe them a debt of gratitude and our fans owe them a debt of gratitude too for their service, commitment, their love and passion for this city, for the sport and for everyone in and outside the club.

On if there will be any other personnel changes in the front office…

HAUPTMAN: I’m incredibly happy with the front office that we have here. I think they are just doing an outstanding job. They’re firing on all cylinders, whether it be ticket sales, season ticket sales side, or our corporate partners and our success and their ability to be entrepreneurial with the growth of things like the youth program. One of the main drivers that we have for this club is that Atul Khosla [AK], our COO says, we need to own the soccer conversation in the city. Wherever soccer is played, taught, studied, and watched -- we need to be part of that story. I think that strategy has been a real driver for how we think of what we’re doing long-term and how we build a passion for the sport and for the club.

When you see things like us starting the Chicago Fire Rec Soccer League, now we have near 5,000 players playing every single week wearing our badge or our Fire Juniors program with 10,000 kids across seven states wearing the badge you see the ripple effect of the work that’s going on at Toyota Park and across the team and I’m really proud of that. It’s a young team and they’re very hungry, they’re ambitious and there’s a lot of stability there.

On if there will be further changes to the soccer side of the front office…

HAUPTMAN: We’re clearly in a state of transition. I think there really will be a deep evaluation of what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. With Frank joining, he has in my view a clean slate to build the way he knows how to build and to do it in the most complete way possible. For sure, there are going to be changes but in that sense, the big changes have taken place. The rest is going to be about building the strategy, understanding what the organizational chart ought to look like for Frank’s benefit and fill all those positions. Someone mentioned something about scouting. It’s a challenge out there – we’re dealing with a global market. Even in the time I’ve been here, just the last five years, you see the amount of work that needs to go into figuring out whether we’re bringing a player from Ghana, Argentina, Colombia or Poland or wherever. We can’t cover all that ground so it’s important that we think about how we build the capacities to succeed and also so Frank has as much available information to make the best decisions possible.

On if Guillermo Petrei and Rafael Carmona will remain with the club…

HAUPTMAN: Yes, for the moment they remain at the club. They’re good people. To be clear, Rafa’s role has been very specifically on the youth side of the club. Gui is VP of Soccer Operations and has been involved with the operational side of the program and controls some of the strategy and so on. But they’re not in an on-field product decision making capacity. They’re both good people and like you’d expect me to say, and I’ll say openly, everyone across the soccer program will be evaluated and its going to be a process but it’s going to be driven by Frank and the team that he will have around him and obviously in consultation with my team as well.