CARSON, Calif. – Frank Yallop was a victim of circumstance with the Los Angeles Galaxy, a good man whose spell as coach was ruined by factors largely beyond his control.
Nothing could have prepared Yallop and his players for the intense glare of the spotlight that accompanied David Beckham's arrival in Major League Soccer this summer. In the end, the attention proved to be too much.
Yallop walked away from the Galaxy on Sunday night with his head held high and his career pointed north to San Jose and the expansion Earthquakes and a different environment altogether.
It is difficult to apportion blame for L.A.'s spectacular midseason collapse. Beckham's injury problems, a gruelling road schedule and injuries to other key personnel all contributed in grinding down Yallop's will and ultimately hastening his exit.
If Yallop is guilty of anything, it is that he cared too much. His deep sense of responsibility toward his players meant that he tried to protect them from the ensuing flak and ended up bearing the brunt himself.
He is a man with manners, integrity and strong knowledge of the North American game, and the best thing to come out of this saga is that he will remain in MLS.
"We are disappointed that we have lost him because we felt he was the right man and a strong character," said Beckham, who formed a good relationship with Yallop since he joined the club in June.
"He is looking after himself and his family and that is what we would all do. We are sad to see him leave and we wish all the luck and all the best."
Heading back to the Bay Area makes sense for Yallop, who coached the Earthquakes from 2001 to 2004 and led them to the MLS Cup in 2001 and 2003. The pressure in San Jose for their first season back will be considerably less than in L.A., since expectations figure to be focused on gradual growth rather than immediate impact.
Yallop did not speak to reporters after Sunday's charity game against Hollywood United at the Home Depot Center, but sources confirmed he told the team of his departure in the locker room. The Earthquakes are preparing to announce his appointment as coach on Tuesday.
So who's next for the Galaxy? Expect the next few weeks to spawn a merry-go-round of rumors.
Jurgen Klinsmann's name will crop up, as will Jose Mourinho's. However, it is a stretch to see either accepting the job. Galaxy director of soccer Paul Bravo, who was promoted from assistant coach midway through the current season, could be another option.
A high-profile coach would make sense – someone with big-job experience who could deflect the extra attention caused by the Beckham factor rather than absorbing it personally. Whoever it is, the person will be luckier than Yallop, and he will know of the situation he walks into rather than having it foisted upon him.
Yallop's replacement will probably have a stronger team to work with as well. Owners AEG are aware it has to upgrade the squad this offseason. Moreover, the new coach will start the season with a fully fit Beckham and not have to constantly field questions regarding his star player's health like Yallop.
The next Galaxy hire will have a great chance to surpass Yallop's record from this season – a 9-14-7 mark that left L.A. 11th in the 13-team MLS and out of the playoffs. But he will be hard pressed to match Yallop's class off the field. In that sense at least, he stacks up against anyone.
- Frank Yallop