If we had listed the Major League Soccer managers in trouble after 14 weeks, Frank Yallop would barely be in the conversation.
It seems utterly perplexing that the San Jose Earthquakes management would dismiss Yallop – and yet that remarkable thing happened yesterday.
The players certainly weren’t expecting it. Chris Wondolowski, the league’s top scorer over the last three seasons, told MLSSoccer.com that he was left “speechless” by Friday’s stunning development. “No one saw it coming. That was literally the last thing we [expected],” he said.
Start with the fact that San Jose is fresh off winning the Supporters Shield, maning that San Jose had the league’s top record a year ago (19-6-9).
Eighth place among nine this year with a 3-6-6 mark is certainly not where anyone around Buck Shaw wants to be. (Especially since the Earthquakes have played more matches than most teams in the West.)
But are things really that bad? Especially considering so many injuries early in the year for Yallop’s men?
Yallop needed a good year in 2012 after missing the playoffs three of the previous four seasons. In all honesty, firing him after 2011 would have seemed justified. Again, missing the playoffs three times out of four, given Major League Soccer’s forgiving post-season structure, is fairly damning stuff.
But they didn’t fire Yallop then – and that’s the point. They kept him around, and the man rewarded that organizational faith by losing just six times over 34 matches. That’s an impressive number. In fact, there were a bunch of them in 2012.
They performed with a flourish, too, scoring tons of goals along the merry way. San Jose set a new franchise record for goals scored with 72, which was also the third highest total in MLS history. (And the most since D.C. United struck for 74 in 1998.)
Yes, they lost in the conference semifinals – but they lost to the Galaxy, the eventual champs, a team performing at top rev by the end of last season. It was no sin to fall to Robbie Keane, Landon Donovan, David Beckham, Omar Gonzalez and the rest – just as it was no sin for Vancouver, Seattle or Houston to be vanquished by a high quality Galaxy side.
Teams that fire managers at odd times (like Vancouver did so early in Teitur Thordarson first season two years ago) deserve extra scrutiny going forward. Because it looks like they don’t have a plan. Or if they do have a plan, they might be making it up as they go along.