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updated: 5/9/2014 1:29 PM

Frustration not lost on winless Fire coach

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  • When he accepted the job last December as the new head coach and director of soccer for the Chicago Fire, Frank Yallop knew getting his team to the playoffs would be challenging. Now, still winless after 8 games, he says he sees some light at the end of the tunnel.

      When he accepted the job last December as the new head coach and director of soccer for the Chicago Fire, Frank Yallop knew getting his team to the playoffs would be challenging. Now, still winless after 8 games, he says he sees some light at the end of the tunnel.
    Associated Press/2013 file

 
 

By now you figure Frank Yallop has realized it's going to be more difficult than he first thought to turn the Chicago Fire into an MLS Cup contender.

"Looking at results, yeah," Yallop said after training Thursday. "I really do feel that there is light at the end of the tunnel. I just think the way we've performed -- we've been punched in the face a few times and hurt -- and again, the group is what we had and there wasn't a ton of options to change a lot of things (because of the MLS salary cap) ... . Along that line we haven't won a game yet, and that's down to me as a coach.

"I'm frustrated as anybody to not have a win under my belt with this club. Six ties seems OK if you've won the other two. If you've lost the other two it's not so good. It's a long season. We've got to get going, obviously, to make the playoffs. But you never give up, you never say no, you never lay down and die."

Still, you have to think the first-year Fire coach and director of soccer was expecting this job to be a little less heartbreaking. Eight games, no wins, including Saturday's demoralizing loss at Toyota Park after a two-goal lead, plus the two games the Fire should have won on last-minute penalty kicks.

It's looking like another rough season for the Fire, which has been mired in a multi-year slump, having missed the playoffs three of the last four seasons.

Maybe Yallop should have looked harder at that Vancouver opening in the off-season; the Whitecaps are 3-2-4 and in a playoff spot for now.

"Saturday was a hard one to take," he said, "but it's over now. It's past us. We have to move on from that and put in a good performance (6 p.m. Saturday at New York Red Bulls, Channel 50) hopefully get the first win that we need."

Nearly a quarter of the season is gone, and his team sits dead last in the Eastern Conference of Major League Soccer, tied with Montreal for ninth out of 10 teams.

In all, it has been a rough two seasons for Yallop. His San Jose Earthquakes were 3-6-6 when he resigned as coach last summer. Those three wins are the only three wins he's had in the last 23 matches he's coached.

Because of the Fire's salary-cap situation, Yallop said there's a limit to how much help the Fire (0-2-6, 6 points) can bring in. More players have to follow Jalil Anibaba, Austin Berry and Chris Rolfe out the door before the Fire can look to make a splash on the transfer market this summer, he said.

"We've got to move something to get something in. We're working on that," he said.

But once there's room under the cap, he insists owner Andrew Hauptman will write the checks for whichever player Yallop recommends they sign.

So far, Yallop's personnel moves have received mixed reviews. Homegrown player Harry Shipp is a potential MLS rookie of the year, but he would've been signed no matter who was in charge. Benji Joya has been a nice, young, inexpensive pickup for the midfield. Greg Cochrane has taken over at left back for the injured Gonzalo Segares at a bargain price, and Lovel Palmer's $78,000 salary is in line for a right back.

Then there's Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Patrick Ianni, the defenders acquired from Seattle in the Anibaba deal. They make a combined $360,000, according to the MLS Players Union, expensive by MLS standards (Anibaba is being paid $159,620).

Hurtado has anchored a defense that has yet to register a shutout and has allowed 14 goals, tied for the most in the conference. Ianni has played just 23 minutes this season, though he seems likely to get a start Saturday if Yallop shakes up his lineup as promised.

Yallop insisted he has no regrets about that deal for Hurtado and Ianni.

"No," he said. "No. We had to get better in back. Jhon's played well this season. Patrick's not had a chance to play. But I think Jhon Kennedy's played very well. I think he's been a good pickup for us. ... When you don't win, everything gets criticized, right? It magnifies and the glass goes on everybody. I think Jhon's played well. I think Lovel's played solid."

But the problems remain. And wins remain elusive.

Follow Orrin on Twitter @Orrin_Schwarz

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