Frank Yallop, former Canadian international and national team coach, has his San Jose Earthquakes in first place in the MLS's Western Conference. And the 48-year-old Yallop has joined the select club of managers with 100 wins in MLS.
"He's proven himself to be one of the elite coaches in MLS," said Thomas Rongen, director of Toronto FC's academy who brought the former Ipswich Town defender into the North American league for its inaugural season in 1996.
The way Yallop has won in San Jose this year also stands as a blueprint for success. Ownership believes in him, the players want to play for him and the Quakes have shown a good eye for talent.
San Jose (6-1-1) won 2-1 in Philadelphia on Saturday, victory No. 101 of Yallop's MLS coaching career.
He reached the milestone the previous week in a 3-1 win over visiting Real Salt Lake, joining Sigi Schmid (161 wins), Bruce Arena (131), Bob Bradley (124), Steve Nicol (112) and Dominic Kinnear (102).
Not one to blow his own horn, Yallop sees victories as a measure of team success rather than an individual accolade. His pleasure comes from helping players progress. But he's proud to join the 100-win coaching club — and of the reaction he got in doing so.
"You realize how may friends you have in football and outside of football that contact you," he said.
Yallop's easygoing hand at the helm has earned him lots of loyalty over the years. He keeps things simple, establishes a system, boosts confidence and rewards in-form players with playing time.
"I think what he does best is he takes the pressure off of the players," says Toronto FC forward Ryan Johnson, who spent 3 1/2 seasons in San Jose with Yallop.
"He's always saying things like 'Just go out there and play. Do what you did to get you where you are. Work on what you're good at, where your strengths are. Elaborate on those things. Because weaknesses are weaknesses. But if you do what got you here, you'll be fine.'
"He gives you confidence to show who you are and express who you are as a player individually," Johnson added.
Said Rongen: "He's a players' coach ... he knows how to motivate people around him."
Yallop has had two stints as coach in San Jose (2001-03 and 2008-present), sandwiched around running the Canadian national team (2004-06) and Los Angeles Galaxy (2006-07).
He was MLS Coach of the Year in 2001 after taking over a San Jose team with a league-worst 7-17-8 record in 2000 and leading it to the MLS Cup in 2001.
He also won the MLS Cup in 2003, compiling a 41-2-8 record in his first three years in San Jose.
Yallop's golden touch did not manifest itself with the national team, which went 8-9-3 under his guidance and disappointed again in World Cup qualifying.
In his defence, he had little time ahead of the qualifying process and few games to prepare a player pool that chafed under the rigidity of former coach Holger Osieck.
Yallop did succeed in showing North American-based players they were welcome in the national team setup and helped make national team duty enjoyable again.
"We come here and we're not treated like kids," Paul Peschisolido said ahead of a World Cup qualifying game with Belize in 2004.
"A different vibe," added Nick Dasovic.
Still Yallop had his standards.
"Take care of yourself. You know what you need to do as a player," he said back then. "Because I'll see on the field if you're any good or not. If you're not playing well, you're not playing."
Yallop prefers to look forward rather than back when it comes to Canada, but it's clear he relishes the day-to-day challenges of club management.
"I like being around the game, I like being around people, I'm social, I do enjoy that," Yallop said. "I don't want to be sitting doing anything by myself, it drives me crazy. In five minutes I have to go out and start talking to somebody.
"If you ask the people I work with, I drive them nuts but I think that's part of my makeup. I do like social interaction, I like running teams, I like being around the fellows and trying to win games, I think that's what drives me on."
Yallop's coaching skills are shown in how he has built his current squad.
The Earthquakes finished seventh in the West last season with an 8-12-14 record. But he thought, with the right additions, the team was on the verge of something better.
It's a lesson struggling Toronto FC could learn from. TFC (6-13-15) finished just five points behind San Jose last season and thought great things lay ahead.
Instead, Toronto has stumbled to a league-worst 0-7-0 start, although the dire record does not do the team justice.
"This league is a funny league," said Yallop, who opted not to discuss Toronto FC's predicament directly. "It's not easy to pick teams in and to win in. Sometimes there's a very thin line between winning and losing.
"I felt we played well last year. We only had eight wins, 14 draws. Turn eight of those draws into wins and all of a sudden you're like 'We have a great team here.'"
Yallop remade his roster wisely, bringing in midfielder Shea Salinas (Vancouver), Honduran defender Victor Bernandez, Honduran midfielder Marvin Chavez (FC Dallas), Colombian midfielder Tressor Moreno and midfielder Jean-Marc Alexandre (Real Salt Lake).
American defender Ike Opara is back from injury. Forward Steven Lenhart, named MLS player of the week Monday for his two-goal performance in Philadelphia, is back from personal leave after the death of his father.
And forward Chris Wondolowski continues to be a goal machine. While he was kept off the scoresheet in Philadelphia, he has eight goals in eight games this season. And prior to Saturday, he had scored 16 goals in 16 games.
"Unbelievable," said Yallop.
There are no designated players in San Jose, a franchise that watches its pennies while it awaits a new stadium.
Yallop credits San Jose's ownership and front office for showing faith in him.
"You work better under good circumstances — and when you are wanted and supported."
That showed last August when a struggling San Jose came to Toronto and emerged with a 1-1 tie after an 87th-minute goal by Wondolowski.
The Quakes (5-10-11) had lost four of their last five outings coming into BMO Field and the Toronto tie still extended the Earthquakes' team-record MLS winless streak to 13 games.
Still Yallop, comfortable in the knowledge that ownership had his back, saw the positive in his team's fightback that day.
"What I liked about our squad was we kept going. That's a good trait to have as a team,'' he said after the game. "We've done it all along. We've not quit, we've not given up.''
San Jose president Dave Kaval praised Yallop in a statement last week after the Quakes scored two stoppage-time goals to defeat Real Salt Lake for the coach's 100th win.
"We are fortunate as an organization to have such a great leader. Frank leads with confidence and integrity and everyone associated with the club is proud to have such a presence in the locker-room."
Yallop credits former Ipswich managers Sir Bobby Robson and John Lyall, now both deceased, for influencing his style on the sidelines.
"I just go back to how I was handled by certain managers. There are certain ones I thought, 'You know what, that's fantastic. No matter what, you still feel part of it. He's explaining why.'
"I think it doesn't always come natural to people, but I felt it did to me. I just felt comfortable talking to players, not snubbing them and just giving then an answer or explanation of what's going on.
"Every time I start a season, my door's wide open, I don't even close it, so please come in and talk and chat. I'll give you every bit of information I can on what's going on at the club and what's going on with you as an individual.
"I think the open communication's there. I enjoy talking to players, I really do."
His approach to coaching also includes sticking to your guns during the down times.
"Make sure you never lose faith in what you're doing as coach, and I never did. Eventually you kind to get to the team you feel is capable of winning games in MLS."
Again, it's advice that makes one think of Toronto.
Yallop was 34 when he returned to North America to join Rongen's Tampa Bay Mutiny team, looking to "play for a few years and enjoy my football without the stress of the competitiveness" of the game in England.
He started work on his coaching badges, becoming an assistant in Tampa in 1999 before joining Rongen at D.C. United.
"It was clear during his playing days that he would make a very good coach," said Rongen, citing his leadership, convictions, soccer smarts and people skills.
Yallop is typically self-deprecating when asked what led him to coaching.
"Well probably because I'm not very bright," he said. "I hate to say it that way but educationally I left school at Grade 10 and I didn't finish high school or do anything. I took my O levels, English and math in England, so I didn't think I would a rocket scientist, that's for sure. But I felt I'd stay in football in some capacity and it worked out that way.
"I like being around the game."Suggest a correction