When Los Angeles Galaxy play Vancouver Whitecaps at BC Place, Frank Yallop will feel right at home in his surroundings.
Though born in Watford, England, Yallop spent much of his young life growing up on the Lower Mainland before embarking on a professional soccer-playing career in the land of his birthplace with Ipswich Town.
For the 43-year-old, the November 7 encounter is another chance for the Galaxy head coach to showcase a Major League Soccer club to soccer fans in Vancouver. “I’m really excited to be bringing the Galaxy back to my hometown,” the former Canadian international told whitecapsfc.com. “When I was with San Jose Earthquakes, I came up with my team to play the Whitecaps back then, so this will be a fun trip and exciting for the guys to experience Vancouver. It’s also nice for me to come back home.”
The timing of the international friendly will have come sooner than Yallop would have wanted after the Galaxy were edged out of the MLS playoffs on the final day of the regular season, despite Los Angeles putting together a late run of results. “Anytime you set out to make the playoffs and you fail to, it’s always a disappointment, no matter what happens in a season,” he said. “We had a real rough, tough, funny kind of season, where we couldn’t really get ourselves going and get any rhythm. We just seemed to struggle right out of the gate and never got going until right at the end. We then gathered our thoughts and got some great results in a row late on, but it was just a little bit too little, too late.”
For Yallop, injuries and a grueling schedule of league and exhibition games took their toll on his side, despite the fanfare and media attention that attracted the southern California outfit following David Beckham’s arrival back in July. “Having David here was an eye opener for everyone at the club,” revealed Yallop. “He really does have so much attention on and off the field, it’s amazing. It took us by surprise when he first arrived, but we got used to it and we just got on with things, as it proved in the last few games.”
An ankle and a knee injury to Beckham denied Yallop the ability to do much training ground work with the former England captain this season. However, the former Canadian national team head coach has admired the midfielder’s determination to overcome his injury problems. “What I will say about David is that he’s worked very hard both at the club and away from the club to get himself healthy and fit,” said Yallop. “He came back from this knee injury a lot sooner than we thought and he’s determined to do well. He has been frustrated not to be playing, and that’s hard on any player that wants to stamp his mark on a new team. I think if we had a healthy David Beckham and a lot of healthy players around him, then he would have really enjoyed this season with us.”
The Whitecaps friendly is not the only exhibition game that the Galaxy are playing following the end of their MLS campaign. Before 2007 comes to an end, Los Angeles will travel to face USL First Division club Minnesota Thunder on Sunday, November 11, before heading to Australia for a game with Sydney FC on November 27 and New Zealand for a match with Wellington Phoenix on December 1.
Though the 2008 season is just around the corner, Yallop wants his players to enjoy these friendly contests over the coming weeks. “These matches are totally exhibition games, so I’m just going to let the guys enjoy it,” he said. “We want to play well and enjoy it, but I will make lots of changes during these games because we’re not worried about results. We want the fans to enjoy watching our team, so entertaining and enjoying the game is what it’s all about in these types of matches. Both Vancouver and ourselves have had tough, grueling seasons, so we want to go out and enjoy ourselves, and hopefully put on a good show that the fans can enjoy.”
Yallop is also looking forward to the experience of coaching in BC Place, having had memories of watching the old NASL Whitecaps play in the stadium when it first opened. “I was there at the stadium’s opening when the Whitecaps played Seattle Sounders in 1983, so I really enjoyed that,” he said. “BC Place is a great stadium that can hold a lot of fans, so we are excited and looking forward to playing in it.”
Remember to stay logged on to whitecapsfc.com for more news, features, and reports on the latest happenings with Vancouver Whitecaps FC, as the club builds towards the 2008 season.