Whatever’s happening or not happening with the Fire isn’t entirely on coach Frank Yallop. Coming off a busy offseason, this year’s team has struggled with injuries, and Yallop’s only 49 MLS games into a tenure with a franchise that’s steadily declined since losing in the 2009 Eastern Conference final.
Yallop, however, is 10-19-20 in league play midway through the second season of what’s believed to be a deal with three guaranteed years. Entering Tuesday’s Open Cup match against third-division Charlotte, the Fire have dropped four straight in MLS and are at the bottom of the standings and have effectively fumbled any momentum from an early three-game winning streak.
Fair or not, those unflattering numbers mean the questions about the future of Yallop and technical director Brian Bliss have to be asked. Fortunately for them, chairman Andrew Hauptman still has their back.
“You can imagine Andrew’s frustration, given the offseason acquisitions and promise that accompanied those signings,” team spokesman Doug Hicks said via email to the Sun-Times last week. “I can tell you with certainty, though, that this leadership team has his full support.”
Whether that means Hauptman will continue to back Yallop and the technical staff through another rocky season remains to be seen. Even without the injured David Accam and Shaun Maloney, the Fire should have enough to advance Tuesday, especially since Mike Magee is expected to start and Patrick Nyarko could return to the bench.
If they don’t – or even if the Fire squeak by like they did two weeks ago against fellow third-division team Louisville City – Yallop’s job security will continue to be one of the most prevalent topics around the Fire. After last Wednesday’s loss to D.C. United, Yallop acknowledged that he’ll be “under pressure” if the Fire don’t start winning.
That said, Yallop told the media Monday that he and Hauptman haven’t spoken directly about his job security. Like he has through much of the Fire’s slide, Yallop stressed “we’ve got to keep going, keep battling on and we’ve got to make the changes to the results” and that the team has the talent to do it.
“(Hauptman) wants to win and he has every right to ask and probe and try to get the best out of myself and the staff and all that because we all want to win in the end,” Yallop said. “He’s no different.”
Then is Yallop concerned about his job security?
If he is, he’s hiding it well with talk about working toward getting the Fire winning again, and also how one good game or one good win could get the team back in the right direction. In fact, he said his status can’t be on the forefront of his mind because “you won’t do your job properly, I think.”
Instead, he said he or any coach in the middle of a bad run has to keep going and try to make positive changes in the team.
“You can’t be worried about what might happen,” Yallop said. “You’ve just got to worry about you’re doing and what can happen.”