SANTA CLARA — What was supposed to be a homecoming for former Earthquakes manager Frank Yallop turned into a nightmare he won’t soon forget.
The San Jose Earthquakes routed Yallop’s Chicago Fire 5-1 on Wednesday night, scoring four goals in a 32-minute span that looked at times more like Brazil’s World Cup meltdown than anything San Jose has put together in 2014.
It seems the critics are correct: The Quakes do play better with Yallop on the sideline.
Yallop said he was happy for Mark Watson — his former assistant and good friend — but questioned his own team’s desire following the loss:
“If you look at the game as a whole we were really really poor. Really poor. I credit San Jose they played really well and got the goals — they could’ve scored more to be honest. Defensively all around it was flat. We seemed a little disinterested which is alarming in a game like this.”
With Steven Lenhart as a late scratch nursing a sore knee, Watson moved Yannick Djalo up top to pair with Chris Wondolowski. The duo did not disappoint, tallying two goals and three assists between them.
Watson talked about the decision to move Djalo into the striker role:
“I think that’s probably the position he does best at. Just underneath, getting in those little pockets and turning and running at the back four.”
This is one of the first times all season Watson has elected to play without a target forward. When asked why Alan Gordon was not in the squad, Watson said he was unavailable. When asked if Gordon was injured, Watson again said he was unavailable.
Djalo found himself in his traditional midfield position however for the first goal, when he lofted a looping first-timed ball from the center of the pitch to a racing Shea Salinas on the left wing. Salinas at full speed cut inside the left-back Lovel Palmer, and banged an unsaveable shot into Sean Johnson’s far post for his first goal of the season.
The goal would set the tone for the rest of the evening, with Quakes players and coaches raving about the importance of the spectacular finish just before half. This included the man credited with the assist, Yannick Djalo:
“Shea Salinas’ goal gave us the break we needed in the first half. He got us rolling to what was our best team performance of the year.”
Djalo set up another goal just seven minutes into the second half, putting Atiba Harris through on the right wing, who squared the ball to Wondolowski in front of goal. Wondo’s shot squirted under the body of the diving Johnson, leaving Harris in front of goal for one of the easiest finishes of his career.
Yallop’s homecoming looked spoiled by that point, but it turned rotten in the 62nd minute, when Wondolowski put the nail in the coffin with his seventh goal of the season.
Poor goalkeeping seemed to play a part in the third goal, as Wondo’s shot somehow found it’s way underneath Johnson despite an unfavorable angle.
It was under Yallop that Wondolowski’s MLS career flourished, with the striker winning the golden boot twice under his former coach in 2010 and 2012. Wondo had nothing but positive things about Yallop after the match:
“For me personally I have so much respect and admiration for the guy. He’s amazing. I’ll always hold a special place in my heart for him and I loved him as a coach. But I wanted to beat him tonight. On the field we’re gonna do our thing, but after the game I gave him a hug and I’ll always be grateful about what he’s done for me.”
The floodgates were officially wide open after Wondo’s goal, and San Jose continued to attack with a urgency that seemed to startle a shell shocked Chicago side.
The Fire managed a goal against the run of play when Grant Ward scored from an impossible angle to keep the game competitive in the 75th minute.
But back-to-back goals from Djalo and Cato in the 79th and 84th minute officially put the nail in the coffin, giving San Jose their first win since May 31.
Yallop made his return to San Jose only 13 months after departing the club he led to the Supporter’s Shield in 2012. The Earthquakes’ support group, The 1906 Ultras, were just a few of the 10,525 in attendance happy to see him back at Buck Shaw, exhibiting a banner behind the north stand that read:
“Only the best can put starts above the crest, respect, Frank!”
Yallop was at the helm the last time the team scored five in a 2012 5-0 defeat of Real Salt Lake. He talked about the emotions of coming back to his former club:
“It was pretty emotional. … I had some fantastic memories and times here. I’ll never forget those.”
San Jose will play in the final event ever at Candlestick Park on Sunday against Spanish champions Atlético Madrid before the legendary stadium is imploded into a pile of rubble. Watson said he is looking for a result in the friendly, but not at the expense of injury:
“It’s a fantastic opponent and the last event at Candlestick so we want to play well and win the game. We also have to think of the big picture and make the correct decision. If someone is struggling or has injury issues you’ve got to think about being smart in terms of our next league match.”