Chicago Fire head coach Frank Yallop will do something he’s never done before this week.
That is, coach against his former club the San Jose Earthquakes.
The first-year Fire manager spent two stints that amounted to eight-and-a-half years as manager in San Jose (2001-03, 2008-2013) but even when he coached the LA Galaxy in between that time, Yallop never faced his former team as the club’s first iteration moved to Houston to become the Dynamo in 2006.
“I never thought about that but you’re right,” Yallop told Chicago-Fire.com Monday. “It’s going to feel really different. You go back to a place that you were at for such a long time -- it’ll be an interesting feeling.”
Yallop was the most successful coach in club history, leading the side to two MLS Cups (2001 and 2003) as well as the 2012 Supporters Shield. He won his second MLS Coach of the Year award that season, 11 years after winning his first with the Quakes initial MLS Cup win.
Yallop says he has kept in touch with the entire coaching staff at San Jose, most of whom he hired but remains closest with former assistant and now Quakes head coach Mark Watson. The former Canadian international joined Yallop’s staff as an assistant in 2010 and took over the reins when Yallop departed the club by mutual consent early last summer.
“I’ll see Mark sometime today and say hello. Our families are very close and we speak at least once a week, especially after a game, we chat about each other’s matches and how things are going.”
“I have a lot of good memories of San Jose and good people there. I look forward to seeing them but of course I’m trying to win for Chicago.”
Wins haven’t necessarily come easy for the Fire in Yallop’s first season in charge though it hasn’t been for a lack of effort.
The team started the season with six draws from its first seven matches. In two of those games, failure to convert late penalty kicks saw the team earn only one point instead of three. Yallop’s side comes off another frustrating result on Saturday where a strong defensive and overall dominant second half performance was erased by a questionable penalty kick, forcing the Fire to settle for a 1-1 draw with Philadelphia.
“We’re feeling the frustration, I certainly felt it on Saturday,” Yallop said. “I felt hard done by -- we should have two more points. You factor that in with taking our penalty kicks earlier in the season vs. New England and Philadelphia and we’re much higher up the table.
Indeed. If the Fire had the six dropped points from those three matches alone, the team would be sitting at 6-4-8, tied with Toronto FC for third place in the Eastern Conference and knocking on the door of the top two.
“Those are the point swings. You hope they don’t come back to haunt you and we’ve put all those behind us. This is a fresh game. We want to come out in San Jose and get a result.”
Three wins in the league have been accentuated by the club’s return to the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup semifinals and while 11 draws from 17 matches aren’t ideal, they show the Fire as a very difficult team to beat, with the side going 4-0-3 across all competitions since last falling on June 7 vs. Seattle.
The fact remains, a win in Yallop’s old stomping grounds Wednesday would push the Fire into a tie for the fifth and final playoff spot in the East.
“There have been disappointments this year but we’ve persevered and we keep in mind that we’re three points out of the playoffs with games in hand on almost everyone in front of us. We have opportunity to make up ground Wednesday.”