Fire owner Andrew Hauptman introduced former San Jose Earthquakes coach Frank Yallop as the club's Director of Soccer and new head coach this morning at a press conference held downtown. Along with the newly created title, Yallop will have the final say on all player personnel decisions and will oversee the entire football operation from top to bottom. “One of the reasons I’m excited to have Frank in this role is because he’s proven the ability to identify talent and often within sort of financial parameters that have been more constrained than they have been at the Fire,” said Hauptman of the decision to grant his new hire full control on the soccer side. “Andrew obviously runs the club from his point of view but all player acquisitions will be my decision to bring into the club,” Yallop said. “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.”
The willingness to change the previous structure and appoint a top man with MLS experience and impressive highlights on his resume indicates that Hauptman has accepted that his previous regime's structure didn't work. "There's lots of different models out there. Some work better than others but fundamentally it's usually about the people and the choices that they make. I think in this particular situation there's no doubt in my mind that we have someone who can straddle both sides," said Hauptman. Yallop will work on the framing of the organization on the soccer side over the next few months.
Another significant item to note was the insistence that Yallop will be given the resources to bring in high priced talent if available. "We've talked about this," said Yallop. "Andrew, over the years has put a lot of money into the players side on this club. He's not afraid to do that. That's important to know as a coach and a technical director that if the right player becomes available and we feel that it's correct for us and the club, then we'll do that."
"One of the biggest challenges here and all across MLS is having an increase in our hit rate," said Hauptman when asked about DP failures and busts in the player acquisition department. The Fire will now apparently have one man clearly responsible for decision making and player acquisition.
The freedom and authority to decide his own fate as a manager on and off the field likely tipped the tables toward Chicago with Vancouver interested in hiring him but only as a coach. "I feel that with my experience in the league and my coaching throughout the years, I've learned a lot and the player decisions that I have here will impact me on the field just like anybody else's decisions will. Yes, I'll have a team of people working in getting to the same goal but in the end the final decision on who we get into the club will be me. That's something I was looking for and that's something I was really happy about," said Yallop.
Hauptman pushed for a decision yesterday and Yallop accepted with the deal going down quickly according to both parties. Hauptman was also appreciative of the efforts made by Frank Klopas and Javier Leon. ""Once I made the decision, and I made the decision quickly, it's not something that I made based on the particular result of this year but it was more about the body of work. I felt like after six years of leadership from the team that had been in place, it was a natural time for a change. It made sense and I feel like I had been patient through that period. I feel like there had been lots of good during that period as well and I have a huge amount of respect for both Frank Klopas and Javier Leon so I didn't take that decision lightly. I think they did their best and they put their heart and soul into the club and I have nothing but gratitude towards them. 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."
Yallop's San Jose clubs were known for long balls over the top and whipping in crosses from the wings but he says he's not particularly set on that style of play. "I like pretty soccer too," he said. "I adjust to the players I have. I had some very good forwards in San Jose and the quicker you could get the ball to them was good. I look at the Fire's roster and it's much more set up to play. I adapt to the players. What I like to do is recover the ball back as fast as we can in the opposing half and then go from there. I just want us to make sure we're playing at a high tempo and not allowing teams to dictate what we do."
"I think the team itself, with a little tinkering is a good squad," said Yallop of the current roster. He'll have a chance to see them first hand as the team will continue to train at Toyota Park for the next several weeks.
Now that Yallop is on board he will begin developing a plan for structuring his assistants, scouts, and staff. It's possible some of the current staff will stay on board. Hauptman added that Guillermo Petrei and Rafael Carmona, "for the moment remain with the club".
With a new era underway, Hauptman chose the best candidate out of those in the pool of rumored choices currently available. That's not to say there are some questions to be answered. Yallop's resume includes 2 MLS Cup victories, 1 Supporter's Shield, and 2 Coach of the Year Awards but his second and most recent stint in San Jose featured only two playoff appearances in five plus years at the helm. The MLS Cup victories also came in 2001 and 2003, when the league was much different. Regardless, this appears to be a step in the right direction. Whether it's a big step or a small one will depend on whether or not Yallop truly has the freedom to call all the shots.