SAN JOSE, Calif. – At the start of this postseason, Frank Yallop was aiming to become just the second MLS coach to win three league Cup titles.
But with his San Jose Earthquakes eliminated in the Western Conference semifinals by the LA Galaxy, Yallop’s choice of who to root for Saturday in this year’s MLS Cup final is an easy one: former assistant and long-time friend Dominic Kinnear.
“Obviously,” Yallop told MLSsoccer.com earlier this week, “he’s the only person I want to lift that trophy.”
It was Yallop who pushed Kinnear, his former teammate on the Tampa Bay Mutiny, to retire as a player and join Yallop on San Jose’s sidelines before the 2001 season. The duo helped take the Quakes to the title that year and again in 2003 before Yallop left to take over the Canadian national team, leaving San Jose in Kinnear’s hands.
“Dominic’s demeanor is fantastic,” Yallop said. “He doesn’t waver on what he thinks. He obviously – and I know first-hand – gets his players to play for each other and for him. And I think as a coach, that’s all you ask for. You can talk about systems. You can talk about the way you set up [your formation], different things that are part of the game. The big thing is picking talent, and getting it to do what you want it to do. And that’s what Dominic does so well.”
This year marked the first time that Yallop, who returned to San Jose when the Quakes were reborn as an expansion side in 2008, and Kinnear led opposing teams into the playoffs. But a juicy storyline was scotched early on by the Galaxy.
“We always joked about it,” Yallop said. “We wanted to try to play each other this year in the Cup.”
Instead Kinnear, himself another two-time MLS Cup winner, will try to deny LA coach Bruce Arena a fourth crown in a rematch of 2011’s final.
Kinnear won his previous titles in 2006 and ’07 with a team primarily made up of holdovers from the club’s previous incarnation as the initial MLS Earthquakes. (The organization moved just after the 2005 season ended.)
This squad has been recast after a dismal 2010 in which the Dynamo slumped to a 9-15-6 mark and missed the postseason for the only time in their history. On this year’s club, Corey Ashe, Brian Ching, Ricardo Clark and Brad Davis remain from the 2006-07 era, a fact that impresses Yallop.
“Obviously, not making the playoffs, you’ve got to regroup and make sure that you come back stronger,” Yallop said. “The timing of the runs that Houston have gone on, especially this season, it’s amazing. They look really strong, together and in form. As we know in our league, and I found it out this year as a coach, timing is very important, making sure you’re firing on all cylinders [in the playoffs]. Dominic’s done a terrific job of making sure these guys are ready to go come playoff time. He’s done a wonderful job of motivating and getting these guys ready to play every playoff game.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.