.Memorable MLS

Earthquakes induct coach Frank Yallop into the Hall of Fame

In what now seems like the vanishing Wild West, the San Jose Earthquakes were winning Major League Soccer championships and setting records. 

With coach Frank Yallop at the helm, San Jose won MLS Cups in 2001 and 2003. Then when Yallop came back in 2008, he led the squad to the league’s best record in 2012. This weekend he returns again when San Jose inducts him into the club’s hall of fame during halftime at Saturday’s match.

Yallop’s first championship in 2001 was all the more spectacular because it was the league’s only complete worst-to-first turnaround. In 2000, the Quakes were the most abysmal squad in the US, finishing dead last with a 7-17-8 record, and scoring 35 goals in the entire 36-game season, a total embarrassment. San Jose’s leading scorer that year was Abdul Thompson Conteh, with a walloping eight tallies on the season. The team was difficult to watch.

As 2001 began, everything changed. Silicon Valley Sports & Entertainment, the business arm of the Sharks, took over the club. Frank Yallop was named head coach at the ripe old age of 36. He then called on Dominic Kinnear, 33, to assist him.

All of which I’ve written about elsewhere, but with Yallop now in the Hall of Fame, it’s impossible not to revisit that era. Those days were magical.

Going into 2001, it was not easy to be an MLS supporter in San Jose. Many believed the league wouldn’t last. A lot of people around here acted like they badly wanted MLS to fail, just so they could say, “I told you so.”

Their skepticism was probably justified. Even throughout the miraculous 2001 San Jose turnaround, tenth-generation rumors circulated that the league would ax two teams. (MLS is a single-entity structure, meaning, the league actually owns all the franchises, so it can do such things.) Some feared San Jose might get the boot, but after knocking Miami out of the playoffs, the Quakes then defeated the LA Galaxy to win the championship. Following the season, the Miami and Tampa Bay franchises were then folded by the league. Yallop’s unexpected success might be what prevented San Jose from getting axed after the 2001 season, and there would certainly not be a pro team in this town today, or ever again. This is just speculation, of course.

Yallop then led the Quakes to another championship in 2003, this time at the LA Galaxy’s brand-new facility in the suburban wasteland of Carson. The Quakes were the first team to win a title in that stadium. Even if LA wins 50 championships, the Quakes still won a title first, in 2001, and then were also the first ones to win the cup in LA’s own stadium, in 2003.

By then, I was writing adventurous insanity for a Metro column called Biter, so I grabbed a flight to LAX and covered the 2003 championship. To be as anti-LA as possible, I didn’t even rent a car. I bummed a ride from the hotel to the game, where the non-daily writers were put in the “auxiliary press box,” right above a few hundred screaming Quakes fans who made the trip. At that moment, I didn’t even want to be a journalist. I just wanted to be among friends, meaning, the fans, the players and the coaches.

Unfortunately, by 2003, the Anschutz Entertainment Group, who couldn’t even be competent mobsters if they wanted to, were now the syndicate operating the Quakes, and they viewed San Jose as a small-market backwater. They eventually relocated the team to Houston, a much easier place for them to finance a new stadium with someone else’s money.

Thankfully, we would not see the last of Frank Yallop. In 2008, the Quakes returned with Yallop at the helm once again. There would be no more championships, but the 2012 season provided similar thrills. San Jose finished with the league’s best record (19-9-6), the most goals (72) and the 2012 leading scorer Chris Wondolowski, who went on to become the league’s all-time leading scorer. 

Now the celebration continues. A huge party, open to all, will unfold at Enoteca La Storia in San Jose on April 21 from 6 to 8pm, with Yallop and former players in attendance.

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