The smile has returned to Frank Yallop's face, and the weight of the world has been lifted from his shoulders. But a steely edge still creeps into his voice when he talks about the San Jose Earthquakes' first season back in Major League Soccer.
Many MLS fans and commentators believe the Earthquakes will struggle to make any impact upon their return to the league, citing the example of Toronto FC and its difficulties in knitting together a successful squad from scratch.
Yallop sees it differently.
"It maybe puts you at a bit of a disadvantage, but I don't want to use that excuse," the Earthquakes coach said Wednesday. "It is one which is trotted out all too often. You get a group of guys together, you coach them right and you let them get on with it.
"I am not going to come out and start shouting from the rooftops that we are definitely going to make the playoffs. But that is our goal and like every other team in the league we want to extend our season."
SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES
None (expansion franchise).
KEY MAN: Joe Vide. After being selected in the MLS expansion draft, Vide figures to be a key member of Yallop's squad. A tough and combative midfielder, it is hoped he can have a breakout year after a solid 2007 with the Red Bulls.
NEWCOMER: Shea Salinas. The 21-year-old is a warrior on the field and has already busted his nose in preseason after playing in the MLS combine with a fractured cheekbone. Salinas is quick and crosses the ball well, and he is likely to be used either on the wing or in attack.
OUTLOOK: Yallop is bullish about his team's chances, but there is no shortage of doubters predicting a tough and painful first campaign. Keeping players healthy is important for any team, but especially so for a side looking to build some momentum, continuity and fitness. If San Jose gets lucky with injuries, then the team may put up an unexpected challenge for a playoff spot.
Yallop's coaching situation in Los Angeles last season mutated from difficult to near-impossible. As he tried to keep up spirits in a weary and injury-depleted locker room, he also had to deal with the weight of the spotlight caused by David Beckham's arrival and without, except for five MLS games, the positive effect of having the England midfielder's services.
He correctly bears no ill will towards Beckham, who after all could hardly be blamed for the frustrating injuries which curtailed his season. Yallop was even pleased to hear that the 32-year-old won his 100th international cap on Wednesday.
Yet Yallop's comments clearly indicate he feels the overall situation could have been handled better at boardroom level. He has no such problems in San Jose.
"I felt that if I was allowed to get on with the job I would have enjoyed it more and we might have done better," he said. "Chuck a load of injuries on top of the fish-bowl atmosphere and it makes it tough. I felt the players gave me all they had and never quit on me once.
"I never look back. What happened (there) was a great experience for me and what I like about it here is that there are no outside pressures like in L.A. They just let me get on with it.
"I am more relaxed, I can be myself and it is a lot of fun, but I am here to win games, make no mistake."
While others around MLS may underestimate San Jose, the expectations from a public accustomed to success with the franchise's previous incarnation (the old Earthquakes won two MLS titles before moving to Houston in 2006) will be higher than usual for an expansion club.
Much will depend on Yallop's ability to get the best out of a group of players still getting to know each other, and he appears to be relishing the challenge. Experience is a valuable commodity in any new team, and the Earthquakes did not hesitate in trading away the No. 1 overall draft pick to the Kansas City Wizards in exchange for tough veteran defender Nick Garcia.
First up for the team is a tantalizing visit to the Home Depot Center on April 3 to take on the Galaxy. To suggest that Yallop might be simply looking forward to the occasion would be a drastic understatement.