The Chicago Fire will boast a Canadian connection on the sideline this season, as Frank Yallop has pegged his fellow countryman Marc Bircham to be his right-hand man.
After an uninspiring year with club legend CJ Brown as his assistant, Yallop is turning to a familiar face in the former defensive midfielder to help turn the team around. Bircham brings with him 13 years of experience playing in England and an additional six years in the coaching ranks.
The Yallop-Bircham connection first started in 2004 when Yallop, then Canada's national team coach, called in Bircham for a World Cup qualification match against Belize. While that proved to be Bircham's final game with the national team, there was some mutual interest between the two in 2007 when Yallop was head man at LA Galaxy but nothing came to fruition for the injury-ridden Bircham who retired two years later.
Bircham still enjoyed a lengthy playing career, spending six seasons with Millwall before moving to Queens Park Rangers where he played for five years. It was at Queens Park Rangers where Bircham was more or less Dennis Rodman - a defensive specialist who dyed his hair blue and white on his way to becoming a crowd favorite. That alone should earn him some brownie points with Chicago fans.
In the interest of optimism, Bircham's coaching trajectory had him on track for an eventual managerial job in one of England's lower leagues. Bircham spent five seasons as a youth coach at Queens Park Rangers before being named assistant manager at Millwall in 2014.
At the time Millwall was looking for a manager, former Tottenham manager and current QPR manager Harry Redknapp endorsed Bircham for the job. In a May 2013 interview with BBC Sport, Redknapp said Bircham had the work ethic, knowledge and energy to lead a Championship side and could especially connect with young players.
Whether the high praise and promising resume translates to an efficient partnership with Yallop remains to be seen. I know only what I've read about Bircham, but I choose to be optimistic about the hiring. At 36, he could provide the youthful energy and connection to get the most out of young players and as a former defensive midfielder he brings experience to a position this team is going to need to significantly develop with Jeff Larentowicz now at center back.
He could also provide a sense of comfort to some of the players who have played in England and are now trying the MLS for the first time. In a best-case scenario, he could also use his connections with men like Redknapp to attract more European talent to the team.
It's all lofty expectations for now, but who could really blame me. It went incredibly well the last time a Chicago sports team hired a man with Canadian connections who spelled his first name Marc. In Bircham's defense though, he hadn't even visited Canada before his first cap with the national team.
For those inclined, you can follow the new Fire coach on Twitter at @marcbircham.