Players didn't train this week due to a collective bargaining agreement rule that prohibits non-playoff teams from practicing past Wednesday but most of the squad was still in town for exit physicals and individual interviews with new Director of Soccer and Head Coach Frank Yallop. As of today however, the offseason officially begins with players free to depart but the work is just beginning for Yallop.
The Fire's new top man will spend the next few weeks filling out his coaching staff. "I’m hoping that within two, three weeks, we’ll have a full staff on board,” Yallop said. "There's quite a few positions to get filled. There's going to be two assistants for sure, maybe three with a bit of a different role, maybe 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 now because I want to be on the field which is my job. I'll make sure I get the right people to do that. Hopefully ones that have experience in the league because it is complicated."
Yallop also plans to rework the club's scouting department but the framing of that reorganization is a work in progress. "You can hire companies or you can do your own. There will probably be a scouting director I would think, but I've got to sit down and figure out if it could be a dual role for one of the coaches," he said. That scout/coach will be an important part of things "domestically and internationally."
His immediate tasks also include adding up the numbers and working through the budgetary hoops that is MLS roster rules. "There's a lot of budget issues we've got to get to. Picking up people's options and all those things that come into the role I have. I'll be busy with that stuff," said Yallop. "The cap stuff with the league and options and re-entry draft, I could go on and on. There's a bunch of stuff out there that I've got to deal with."
Balancing the time between Director of Soccer and Head Coach seems like a daunting task but Yallop also made it clear that he plans to focus on coaching when the season begins next spring. In explaining what responsibilities his new position encompasses, Yallop offered this explanation. "It means that the last decision on the personnel and the players is mine. I'll have staff to make sure that runs smoothly but it basically means that I get to build the team as I see fit. Any players that we bring in or move out, the last decision will be mine."
Those decisions will be made with a technical director presumably doing a majority of the research. "The technical director will be doing all the underneath work which is all the time consuming stuff. I'm a head coach but the last call on players in or out is me. That's basically what the position is. Which is good for me," he explained. "I think it's exciting building from a blank slate. There's not many times you get to do that. I want to make sure that I put the right staff together for these guys and making sure it's not a rush decision and it's thought through."
Yallop doesn't seem to believe that a big overhaul of the current roster is necessary. After Logan Pause cited that the team boasted the best record in MLS since June, the new gaffer shed some insight on where he might be headed in terms of changes to the first team. "It's a good club and it's still set up to be good. I'm very excited about next year," said Yallop. "It's well rounded. There's always pieces you could add with a bit of quality in certain spots then you do that. It's not far off because it is difficult to win games in our league. For these guys to get that run going it says something about the squad."
He acknowledged that there won't be many changes but you can expect "just a few to make it a little more experienced with more fight and drive which is important in our league." Whether or not that experience will include a designated player level addition he wasn't so sure of. "I don't know. We'll see. I've got a lot on my plate at the moment so I'll work through it. I want to just try and have a good team come opening day wherever we're at," he said of the possibility that a big name may be added.
In the meantime he's concluding individual meetings with players, many of whom he is already familiar with but hasn't had the chance to see up close in training. "It's nice to sit down and meet them. I think that's important for me and the way I go about things. Get to know the personalities and see how they fit in with each other and the way I do things," he said.
- Yallop acknowledged that judging some of the younger players who haven't seen much first team action may be difficult without game tape to review.
- The player's offseason training program has been set with fitness coach Tony Jouaux, who was in attendance. Jouaux is a hold over from Klopas' staff and appears to be in line to stick around.
- Mike Magee played down a comment from Landon Donovan a few days ago calling him the league's MVP. He's still not happy with the ending to the year and says he hasn't thought about awards. "It's still a bad taste in my mouth from the season. Landon is obviously a good friend of mine so that may have been more of a friend comment so I'll take it for what it is. There's no thought into any individual accolades," said Magee.
- When asked about his view toward the US Open Cup, Yallop said he intends to "Try to win it. This club's won it I don't know how many times. It means a lot to all these guys and the coach. Any competition we are in we want to win. We don't take any competition lightly at all. I think it's important to try to go out and win the games and win the rounds."
- In not-specifically Fire related news, here's an SBJ article that highlights one area that MLS must focus on figuring out and improving if they are going to take a step up in class. TV ratings. Forbes points out that the league is still growing in popularity though.
- Here's an update on Kellen Gulley, who seems to have owned up to his failings while in Chicago and grown up a bit. He's still got a ways to go but realizing what went wrong is a good step forward.