It has been five months since Frank Yallop and the Galaxy parted company after the most trying and turbulent of Major League Soccer seasons.
The dark circles under his eyes have disappeared. The fatigue that showed in every line on his face has vanished. The smile is back. The quips have returned. Yallop is a happy man again.
Regrets? There are none. He had charge of the Galaxy for 17 months and survived the tidal wave that was David Beckham’s 2007 arrival, the circus that was Beckham’s MLS road show, and the eventual meltdown caused in part by injuries to Beckham and others and in part by front office meddling beneath the glare of the global spotlight.
Tonight, Yallop brings the San Jose Earthquakes to the Home Depot Center to play the Galaxy in its home opener. Not the Earthquakes of old that Yallop led to two league titles -- that side relocated to Houston in 2006 -- but a team he has built from scratch since being named San Jose’s coach for a second time in November.
An expansion team in name only, they are well stocked with MLS veterans, including former Galaxy players Joe Cannon, Gavin Glinton and Ned Grabavoy and former Chivas USA players Preston Burpo, Jason Hernandez and John Cunliffe.
Add to them Ronnie O’Brien, Ryan Cochrane, Nick Garcia, Ramiro Corrales, Ivan Guerrero, James Riley, Kei Kamara and others and it is easy to see why the Earthquakes could make some noise.
It might not be tonight, perhaps, but it will be before the end of the season.
San Jose lacks a little depth. It could also use some more firepower up front. Overall, though, this is a team that could win as many games as it loses in 2008, which in MLS equates to a possible playoff spot.
That is one reason why Yallop is his old self.
“I don’t look back, to be honest,” Yallop said, his Galaxy days merely a memory. “When I was in it, I tried my best. I just put it down as experience. I got through it. I felt my head was just above water when I came out of it.”
The Galaxy went 5-1-2 in its last eight games under Yallop. A loss on the final day of the regular season was all that separated it from the playoffs.
“In the end, what I liked about it was that the players never gave up on me,” Yallop said. “That was important to me as a coach. I felt pretty proud of the way we got it together and nearly did it when everyone had written us off.”
Yallop also had a word for Galaxy fans, who did not blame him for two less-than-stellar seasons. “The fans were great to me,” he said.
How did Yallop and John Doyle, San Jose’s general manager, go about creating a team from the ground up?
“You’ve just got to go with your instincts,” Yallop said. “I wanted to make sure we were solid at the back and make sure we were difficult to play against.”
San Jose, clearly, is on the rise, with a new stadium in the works as well.
“The ownership group is fantastic here, as it was in L.A.,” Yallop said, “but it’s a completely different feel. That’s what I like about it. They let me get on with my job.”
vs. San Jose, 7:30, ESPN2
Site --Home Depot Center.
Radio -- 1150, 1330.
Records -- Galaxy 0-1-0, Earthquakes 0-0-0.
Update -- It’s the first of three games between the teams in 2008 but the only one here.