#cf97 Off-Season Weekly #1: Yallop Settles In

The gaffer and his vets played Q&A at Toyota Park this week (photo: @ChicagoFire)

The gaffer and his vets played Q&A at Toyota Park this week (photo: @ChicagoFire)

#cf97Withdrawals led OTF editor Scott Fenwick to muse on the news from Fireland this week…

Frank Yallop certainly hit the ground running.

Within days of inking his contract to become Chicago Fire’s Director of Soccer and head coach, Yallop sacked assistant coaches Leo Percovich and Aron Hyde, reassigned first assistant Mike Matkovich to an academy position, and showed Scouting Director Rafa Carmona his walking papers less than a year and a half after he was brought in from club partner Atletico Madrid. Surprisingly, after a season in which many players’ fitness wasn’t up to snuff, head physio Tony Joueax remains. 

This week’s presser revealed Yallop will bring in a technical director to oversee scouting and push paper, a signal that Gui Petrei’s days are numbered. In the meantime, the Fire’s front office shadow man will keep the files warm for the new guy.

A manager in the true sense of the word, Frank Yallop’s got a lot on his plate, but coaching is where he’ll devote most of his efforts. 

“I want to be on the field, which is my job,” said Yallop.

True, and there are only 24 hours in a day. After all, the Director of Soccer is only one man and he will have much to oversee.

That said, a key member of Yallop’s new technical staff will be his first assistant. Like Dave Sarachan to Bruce Arena in LA, Yallop’s right-hand man must be a seasoned, experienced coach who’s capable of leading the charge on the training pitch. The gaffer will need time to watch and evaluate. Remember what Sir Alex said about the power of observation…

Regarding his new field technical staff, Yallop said he’ll look to have his assistants in place within the next few weeks. 

“I think it’s exciting building, not from scratch, but kind of a blank slate, if you like. Not many times you get to do that, so I want to make sure that I put the right staff together for these guys,” Yallop noted.

Indeed, and a fresh start means lots of film-watching and stats analysis lies ahead.

Roster-wise, Yallop indicated there won’t be “too many changes. Just a few to make it maybe a little more experienced, a little more fight and drive.”

Sounds like a plan. And since the new Frank’s still getting acquainted with his squad, here’s a bit of friendly advice…

Five to keep

Quincy Amarikwa (F) – The Fire’s 2013 bargain basement surprise ($46.5k) needs a raise and a contract. A smart, young guy who does his job well. Tap into Amarikwa! 

Dilly Duka (MF) – Dilaver was on high salary this year ($273k), a result of his Generation Adidas status. Apparently, that contract has expired, but a 2014 option is on the table. Pick it up. His potential has yet to be reached. Plus, he’s handsome, and the Fire need all the marketing help they can get.

Patrick Nyarko (MF) – The Fire’s heart and soul still has the wheels and touch to drive defenders crazy. Pick up his option, give him a Petr Cech helmet, and turn him loose. 

Sean Johnson (GK) – Pick up his option and use MLS “retention funds” to keep the Milkman around for another year or two. Then, sell him abroad, make some $$$, and let him blossom.

Alex (MF) – The young CM paired well with Jeff Larentowicz this season. Their partnership was a key component of the Fire’s summer turnaround. Alex still has room to improve and can likely be had for just a bit more than the $120k he earned in 2013. 

Five to unload

Arevalo Rios (MF) – As painful as it is to say it, the pragmatist in me says it must be done. With word that Juan Luis Anangonó will occupy a Designated Player spot in 2014 (we thought the seven figure transfer fee wouldn’t be amortized; he’s on $120k salary), and a glut of defensive midfielders (including the under-contract Jeff Larentowicz), Yallop must not pick up the Uruguayan international’s two-year option.

Rios will be 32 in January, will likely miss a significant chunk of the 2014 season on World Cup duty, and would occupy the club’s second DP slot. Moreover, given the back line’s sorry state and the need for a play-making center midfielder (and perhaps another striker), the Fire simply can’t afford to keep El Cacha around.

Logan Pause (MF) – Not much to say here. 2013 showed us it’s time to send this stud to the glue factory. He was a great servant and captain, but it’s time to go – unless of course he’s willing to take a 75% pay cut. Even then, I’m not sure he’s worth an on-budget roster slot.

Maicon Santos (F) – Another fine example of the old regime’s boneheadedness, striking overlord Mike Sanders ranked 11/30 on the Fire’s salary sheet in 2013. Time for him to do what he does best: move on. Adeus.

Wells Thompson (MF) – “El Diablo” (I prefer “El Liability”) made $113k in 2013. Need I say more?

Corben Bone (MF) – Free him.

Roster-wise, Yallop’s first order of business must be to address his thin back line. Finding a proper right back should be priority one. Next, add a third center back who can seamlessly rotate into the starting XI. All things equal, these two moves alone will drastically improve the squad’s chances to succeed in 2014 and remedy its most glaring deficiencies. A lack of depth doomed the Fire to ship 52 goals in 2013, tied for third most in Major League Soccer.  

In other news, OTF amigo Guillermo Rivera reported this week that Mike Magee “says he’s still not thinking about postseason awards [and] still has bad taste from New York loss.”

I hope he’s not the only one. Players completed their exit interviews this week and are headed home for a long winter of contemplation. Let’s hope they stay hungry and fit.

Lastly, after enduring the New Jersey beatdown in person and walking around in a haze during my week of mourning, I’m not too upset about watching the MLS Playoffs sans Fire. After all, it appears hardly a soul’s watchingif they’re able to watch at all.

Smartest thing heard this week:

“[Billboards are] a part of the 2014 [Chicago Fire] marketing plan. We will use digital boards to broaden reach.”

Stupidest thing heard this week:

“The Fire should sign Freddy Adu.”

Funniest thing heard this week:

“Robbie Rogers is about as useful as the cones sitting in the trunk of my car.”

Scott Fenwick founded On The Fire in 2012 and is its Executive Editor. Along with Brian Smith, he co-hosts the On The Fire Soccer Radio Podcast. Scott also contributes to the Guardian’s (UK) MLS fan previewsThe Cup.usPickles Magazineand is America’s #1 Rapid supporter.

6 thoughts on “#cf97 Off-Season Weekly #1: Yallop Settles In

  1. Right on the ” need to go ” list! And who the hell wants Freddy Adu in the Fire? The Fire does not need anymore salary cap taken up let alone a prodigy failure, 10 teams at the tender age of 24!?

    Scott what do you think of Segares? Should he go too? I mean I have seen him get burned one too many times this season although he does join in the attack. Who do you think the Fire should look into for the RIght back position or center ?

    • Sega’s under contract, so he’ll stay. His issue was fatigue. He’s still a good player, but needs to be rested once in awhile. He’s also a good guy & savvy veteran who can teach younger players. The Fire can’t afford to let him go right now.

      The Fire brought in Shaun Francis as a reserve left back. He played one game (Vancouver, when Sega was suspended). Jumper played one game at left back (New York, when Sega tweaked his quad or something in training). Klopas’s failure to rotate these two guys into the lineup from time to time (including USOC), made for a worn-out Sega in Sept. & Oct.

      I heard Steven Beitashour (San Jose) may be available. He would be a nice pickup at RB. I haven’t given much thought to CB. The problem with MLS is you never really know whose contract is up and whose isn’t. I imagine some trading could be done though, as Yallop could look to exchange some of his midfield depth for a defender or two.

      Re: the international market, I wish I had time to research it.

  2. Sir,

    If you believe that a RB acquisition is the first priority, I’m not really sure what to type. Although the defense as a unit does not possess a lot of depth, the starting RB position is in good hands with Anibaba. He’s still young, developing, and on pace to become a “plus” MLS right back.

    What the team really is in need of is an experienced center back, as you mentioned, but first and foremost there needs to a serious upgrade in midfield creativity and elite forward play.

    If we go out and get Steve Cherundelo, great. He will help us become a better team but we would still be no where near challengers for the most coveted trophies in North America.

    This is the Chicago Fire we are talking about, one of the biggest metropolises in the the Western Hemisphere. Where is the fucking offensive talent? Mike Magee had a great year but is he comparable to Stoichkov or Blanco?

    I ask this, a RB???

    • Steve Cherundelo is old and expensive. No thanks. Steven Beitashour, for example, would be a nice pickup. The Fire needed an additional right back in 2013. The Fire will need an additional right back in 2014.

      I agree the Fire needs a play-making midfielder and a third center back. I also think another forward would be helpful. That said, with a salary cap to navigate and three DP slots, no MLS team is ever able to get all that it needs.

      In my opinion, which is shared by many and bears itself out both qualitatively and quantitatively, the Fire’s Achilles heel in 2013 was its defense. A lack of depth led to fatigue. There was no rotation at all. In the end the Fire shipped 52 goals, tied for 3rd most in the league.

      So, as I said, all things equal, I think the first thing Frank Yallop should do is beef up his defense. If this team had an additional starting-caliber right back and center back right now, it might still be playing and Frank Klopas might still have a job.

      • You are missing the point.

        I want trophies, I want to compete in the Champions League.

        With the current offensive talent available for any coach, Klopas or Yallop or whomever, achieving those goals is not even close to coming to fruition.

        I repeat: the defense, while needing some additional help, is not the most looming problem on the current roster.

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