Now that the off season is in full swing for the Chicago Fire, we are going to start a series of bi-weekly, topical roundtable posts on Fire related topics here at Hot Time In Old Town.
The premise is simple. Each week I am going to pose a question or two to the writers here at the site and aggregate their responses into a post here on the site.
The topic of the first HTIOT Off Season Roundtable is about the new head coach and director of soccer, Frank Yallop. The two questions posed to the staff were: 1) Do you like/dislike the Frank Yallop hiring and 2) why? What is one thing you hope to see Yallop do with the Fire this off season?
First up is Anthony Seymour, who briefly sums up the on-goings with the Fire and then give his thoughts on why he is cautiously optimistic about the incoming head coach and director of soccer.
Things have moved fast for the Fire since being knocked out of contention for the playoffs. I had just shrugged off my disappointment hangover and began to think about the future of the club when owner Andrew Hauptman signaled to fans that being edged out of the playoffs is not an acceptable conclusion to season. After the swift departure of Frank Klopas and Javier Leon, the Fire quickly scheduled the press conference for the morning of Halloween to announce Frank Yallop as the Fire's head coach and Director of Soccer. I applaud Hauptman with moving so fast in securing a legitimate MLS coach before the ink had time to dry on the 2013 season. If the Fire had waited even two weeks, fans would have stewed on the outcome of the season and raised questions about the club's direction. By moving quickly Hauptman generated early off season excitement and gave fans something savory to chew on through the long winter.
As a selection for head coach and director of soccer, I am cautiously optimistic that Frank Yallop will be a good fit for the Fire. As a head coach for the San Jose Earthquakes, Yallop seemed to be a defensive minded professional. With the Fire defense in 2013, and arguably for the last 3 seasons, being inconsistent, bringing in a defensive minded coach will help shore up the defense and stop some of the bleeding.
I think a case could be made that his defensive style of play may be less than exciting for Chicago fans. With low scoring games and the club going into defensive mode after going up a goal, Yallop might not present the fans with the most inspiring style of play. I think an increase in wins and points can quickly make that characteristic of his style irrelevant. I do think he has the depth of character as a coach to adjust his style of play to the talent he has rather than the style he prefers to play, so a lot could depend on who is brought into the mix this off season.
I think the value Yallop brings, even more so than the style of play, is his value as an evaluator of talent with his ability to acquire quality players. I am not going to point fingers at previous people involved with the club, but it is hard to ague that people like Rafael Robayo and Federico Puppo were the right fit for the very physical Major League Soccer atmosphere. In his first season as head coach of the San Jose Earthquakes in 2001, Yallop acquired: Jeff Agoos, Landon Donovan, Dwayne DeRosario, Manny Lagos, Ramiro Corrales and Ronnie Ekelund. That was all accomplished after being acquired by the Quakes just two days before the Superdraft. With all of the time Hauptman has given Yallop to form a club this off season, I think it is highly probable that he can bring some players into the fold that will bring about positive change in Bridgeview.
I 'm very excited to see how this all shakes out.
The only skeptical view comes from Adam Merges:
I’m actually on the fence about the Yallop hiring. Here is a coach that has proven himself in this league by winning two MLS Cups, a Supporters Shield, and two MLS Coach of the Year awards. On the other hand, here is a coach that has only taken his previous team to the playoffs twice in the past five seasons when he was in charge. I hope he brings another mindset to this team and, hopefully, can take this team further than the previous regime. I can see Yallop succeeding with the Fire just as long as he has support from ownership. During the press conference Andrew Hauptman said:
"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."
This is the biggest concern for me. Will Andrew actually support him or is this just another quote to make him look good? Only time will tell what happens, but I’m cautiously optimistic that anything will get better on the field over the next couple seasons. I do think that now having a "soccer guy" making the soccer decisions is nothing but a step up from having an investment banker making those decisions. Here’s to hoping that the new regime will be better than the last.
Ryan Sealock took the time to write in on what changes he hopes to see for the Fire:
On the surface, I like the Frank Yallop hiring. While he doesn't bring a pretty brand of soccer with him, he should instill a mental toughness that has been lacking on this team the past few years. I do find it sad to see Frank on his way out. He will always be a legendary figure in Chicago Fire soccer history. While I agree that an argument can be made of him being a scapegoat, unfortunately there is not anything that we can do about that now.
Yallop has come in and already started cleaning house (and a much needed cleaning it was). Now it's up to him to bring in the right people, especially in the scouting and youth development/academy areas. Those are two sorely lacking parts of the club that really need to be improved. While he supposedly has full control, it is Frank's show to run. He gets to bring in all his own people, so any successes and failures will fall directly onto his shoulders. Let's hope the number of successes greatly outweigh the failures. While this is sure to raise pressure on him, it's refreshing for Fire fans to finally know who is making the calls and what people have what responsibilities. This uncertainty has been a hallmark of the Hauptman era up to this point.
I expect to see some player changes made this off season too, as Yallop will look to mold the team into his liking. In the end for me, it comes down to this: if Hauptman truly does back away and let Frank run the show as he says will happen, this move could push the Fire back up from mediocrity and into contention again. If Andrew falls back into his typical meddling ways, it could negate a lot of the hope fans are feeling right now. Let's hoipe that Andrew has learned to stay back as an owner and let those he has hired do their jobs. The Fire will be much better off for it.
Ruben Tisch, who was at the Yallop press conference, seems to be pretty high on Yallop:
So, I was actually in attendance for the press conference (I actually asked the questions about player acquisitions, the budget and the academy), and Yallop unequivocally won the press conference - for those of you who keep score on preferences. I was impressed about what he had to say, especially when it came to his playing style. He wants to play fast and tight, one or two passes and quick runs while moving the ball on the ground. We know he can play that way - watch some Earthquake teams from 2001-2004 with Donovan, DeRo et al. The question is, will he play the players required to do so? Will he play Pineda, Corban Bone, and Yazid Atouba? And what of some of the other players who have been marginal at best? I won't prognosticate much, but everything he seemed to say gives me positive feelings (He also didn't make me feel like an Idiot. There's a reason they called it the "Hot Time Stare").
Lastly, John Jenzeh, who is also in favor of the Yallop hiring:
I like the Yallop hiring. He's a proven MLS coach, unlike the last few hires. His tactics and game plan throughout his career try and fit the talent he has. He doesn't try and fit square pegs into round holes for the most part. I'd like to see him rotate players every now and then to keep fresh legs - something Klopas didn't do. Similarly I'd like to see Homegrown Players like Pineda and Gulley crack the first time and get chances. Yallop seemed willing to do that in San Jose.
If you, the reader, have any thoughts on whether you like/dislike Frank Yallop's hiring and what you hope to see from him, please feel free to leave a comment below.