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Big names to replace Arena, Yallop?
by Ridge Mahoney, November 7th, 2007 9:45AM

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TAGS:  mls

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All was merry and light Tuesday at the San Jose Earthquakes offices in Santa Clara, which are literally across the street (El Camino Real, for you cyber-map enthusiasts) from the entrance to Santa Clara University and the team's home for at least the next two seasons, Buck Shaw Stadium.

Re-installed as head coach of the reborn Earthquakes, which he led to a pair of MLS titles before he left to coach Canada and the team eventually shipped out to Houston, Frank Yallop spoke enthusiastically about operator-investor Lewis Wolff, director of soccer John Doyle, the South Bay market, Wolff's stadium proposal, playing at Buck Shaw in the interim, getting ready for the Nov. 21 expansion draft, and just about everything else.

He should be happy.

He's where he should be, which certainly isn't L.A. The Galaxy, and its Right Coast counterweight New York, are embarking on the tried-and-true "global search" for a megastar international coach.

Fabio Capello, Steve McLaren, Jose Mourinho, Juergen Klinsmann, the beat goes on.

Heck, why not Johan Cruyff? He's available, and once played in the North American Soccer League.

The only rumored name that makes any sense is that of ex-Metros coach Carlos Queiroz, who won a pair of world youth championships with Portugal and mentioned in September he might be leaving his current post alongside Manchester United legend Alex Ferguson.

Queiroz knows enough of the game in this country and the Byzantine ways of MLS to realize what he'd be getting himself into, which is either a powerful inspiration to stamp his persona on the American game, or strong motivation to find something else.

No less a coaching colossus than former Revs coach Frank Stapleton said, upon viewing the talent on display at the first MLS combine in 1996, "This is woeful."

More than a decade later, MLS is much better, but compared to the top teams men like Capello and Mourinho have coached, it might as well be woeful. There's a baseline of ability and experience and tactical savvy such men are used to, and most MLS players are well under that line.

Could Mourinho and Capello possibly "dumb down" their philosophies to suit the typical MLS player?

Surely they'd inspire and enhance the performance of Landon Donovan, David Beckham, Juan Pablo Angel, and perhaps a half-dozen others, but most players would be like first-graders listening to a dissertation on thermal dynamics.

It's not a question of intelligence or desire or ability or competitiveness, it's the issue of being steeped in the game and swiftly - in some cases, harshly -- moved through increasingly difficult tests of training, competition, and accomplishment, starting in the early teens.

"It's survival of the fittest, a somewhat Darwinian process," says D.C. United president and general manager Kevin Payne of his experiences with clubs in Argentina. "Each club does things a little differently, but I'm sure it's like that at most professional clubs around the world. At certain points the club has to decide which one or two players out of maybe a dozen or even two dozen they want to keep. The rest they get rid of. And it's like that at every level right up to the first team."

Yallop served as an assistant coach with D.C. United and Tampa Bay, where he concluded his playing career. By the time he took over San Jose in 2001, he knew the lay of the land, which is alien to most people, never mind a coach born and raised in Europe.

Some smart trades, shrewd use of the draft and salary cap, absolute refusal to even consider trading Landon Donovan, a few key foreign signings, and there perched San Jose among the league's elite - during Yallop's first Earthquakes stint.

McLaren, who coached mid-level English Premier League club Middlesbrough before taking over as England coach, might be more suited to the MLS level, once he gets up to speed on the American college game, youth-club politics and conflicts, salary-cap procedures and other financial strictures, allocation guidelines, player classifications, and the rest.

The league's combined salary cap of about $27 million might, just might, cover the Boro starting XI.

Klinsmann enjoyed his greatest, and only, coaching success working part-time -- out of his Southern California home -- with the German national team at a salary of about $2.5 million per year, plus bonuses.

Two sources who have spoken with Klinsmann say his interest in the Galaxy job is negligible. But anything's possible.

Red Bull and AEG are powerful, global, multifaceted corporations. They can certainly afford to hire any coach. Yet their teams play in Major League Soccer, a modest, ambitious, sensible operation that is good at producing competent players but incapable of luring more than a few very good ones.

The brightest and biggest names in the coaching hierarchy don't need the frustrations, aggravations, and flat-out inadequacies of MLS. Red Bull and AEG can talk big but they are best served by hiring smart. That doesn't mean aiming low, but it does mean shooting straight.

 



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