BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- It may be offseason but new Fire head coach and Director of Soccer Frank Yallop admitted Thursday he has a lot of work ahead.
A week on from his hiring announcement, the new Fire manager has spent the last few days diving fully into the club’s soccer operations setup, holding a team and individual meetings with players to build the basis of the team he’ll put out come Opening Day next March.
“It’s just good to get to speak to all the players,” he said at the club’s media event Thursday. “You see them from afar, watch them while coaching against them, but it’s nice to sit down and meet them. And I think that’s important for me and the way that I go about things ‑‑ getting to know the personalities, how they’re going to fit in with each other and the way I do things.”
Yallop was joined at Thursday’s media availability by the team’s 2013 captains Logan Pause, Jeff Larentowicz and Mike Magee as well as defensive leader Bakary Soumare.
Asked if the players had told their new manager their thoughts one where the team needs improvement, Magee tipped his hat to Yallop saying, “I think he’s proven that he knows better than us. I think that if he needs a gist of what’s going, which I think he already knows, he’ll ask, but that’s his job and he’s proven that he’s great at it.”
“I think his pedigree and resume speaks for itself,” said Pause. “Having just gotten to know him personally over the last couple of days, I just have a level of respect for what he’s done. I’m really excited about moving forward and I think we’re all supportive and want to get back to winning ways here in Chicago.”
No training but still plenty to be done…
A new agreement struck between MLS and the Players Union meant Wednesday was the final day non-playoff teams could hold postseason training sessions, so the quick “get to know you” meetings and previous playing experience are a lot of what Yallop will have to go off of as he makes decisions for 2014.
While his first training session with the team won’t come until late January, he still admitted there was plenty for him to do.
“There are a lot of budget issues to get to -- picking up people’s options and all those things that come into the role that I have, so I’ll be busy with that stuff. [I’ve] got to get a staff -- It’s only me at the moment. I’ll need a bit of help around here.
"But I think it’s exciting building from a blank slate, and there aren’t many times you get to do that, so I want to make sure I put the right staff together for these guys and make sure that it’s not an irrational decision, that it’s thought through.”
The blank slate he speaks about came earlier this week when the club announced the departures of assistant coaches Mike Matkovich and Leo Percovich as well as Goalkeeping Coach Aron Hyde.
“There are quite a few positions to get filled,” he said. "There are going to be two assistants for sure, maybe three with a bit of a different role – perhaps a scouting role. There will be a technical director or someone to help me out with all the paperwork and all the things that the league demands because I want to be on the field, which is my job.”
While Yallop said he’d be looking for a Technical Director, he intimated that he would still have the final say on players coming in and out of the club.
The two-time MLS Cup winning coach also said that he was talking to potential assistant coaching candidates and hoped to fill the positions with those already experienced in MLS.
“I’m hoping that within two, three weeks, we’ll have a full staff on board,” he said.
The only member of Frank Klopas’ staff that was retained was Strength & Conditioning Coach Tony Jouaux who was busy this week going through offseason training regimens with the players.
In the interim though, Yallop stressed the importance for all players to take some time off to decompress
“These guys need mental breaks -- that’s for sure. It’s a tough season, a long season. Once they have a little bit of a break, they’ll start to get themselves going and be in decent shape when they come into preseason.”
U.S. Open Cup Importance
Near the end of Thursday’s media availability, Yallop was asked about his thoughts on balancing the U.S. Open Cup with MLS regular season play, with his answer being one that all Fire fans should value.
“[Our goal would be to] try and win it. I mean, this club has won it, I don’t know how many times, but it means a lot to all these guys and the coach. Every competition we’re in, we want to win. So we don’t take any competition lightly at all, and I think that’s important – Try to go out there and win the game, win the rounds.”