SEASIDE – Finding a system that fits a first-year franchise, establishing combinations on the pitch that Clicked and building off their strengths, as well as weaknesses, were all part of the maturation process.
The Patience that Hall of Fame soccer Coach Frank Yallop preached prior to the start of the season never wavered through the growing pains for Monterey Bay FC in its Inaugural season.
“I’ve done this for quite a few years,” Yallop said. “I never get too high or low. We had to get the growing pains out of the way, get them in a good spirit and play some home games.”
One point out of the playoff Chase in the United Soccer League’s Western Division, the Union will play a rare Wednesday night game, hosting Phoenix at Cardinale Stadium at 7:30 pm
“It’s not ideal for the athlete (playing three days apart),” said Yallop, whose Squad set a team record with five goals in this past Saturday’s win. “If we play like we did Saturday, it will be an enjoyable night.”
Forced to start the season with seven road games while Cardinale Stadium was being renovated, the Union struggled to a 1-6-0 start.
Since then, the expansion franchise has gone 11-8-2 to climb back into the playoff picture, having won its past three matches at home.
The Union have taken advantage of an electric atmosphere at Cardinale Stadium, feeding off the crowds – two of which have exceeded 5,000 – to go 6-1-2 in their past nine matches.
“Unbelievable energy,” Yallop said. “Our players love the vibe in the stadium – just really positive. I believe the crowd feeds off us as well. I wanted to make sure we’d be a fun team to watch when I built this.”
Yallop, who is in the San Jose Earthquakes Hall of Fame after Guiding the program to two Major League Soccer Cup titles in 2001 and 2003, has been down this road a few times in building teams in the USL.
He helped shape Phoenix’s franchise when it entered the league in 2018, was the general manager for a year in Fresno and spent a season in Las Vegas during the 2020 Pandemic season.
“This feels more similar to Phoenix,” Yallop said. “The difference is I’m close to home. It’s fun to come to work each day. Coaching these guys has been an absolute joy.”
Yallop’s vision when he became the Union’s Sporting director and later the head coach was to build a foundation for the future, while being competitive in the present.
“When you start from scratch, it’s special,” Yallop said. “It’s important for the area to feel proud of the program. It’s very time consuming mentally. But it has rejuvenated me as a coach.”
Yallop found players that he believed fit the profile of what he wanted to establish, adding some local talent in midfielder Adrian Rebollar and forward Walmer Martinez, as well as bringing in Ramiro Corrales to coach with him.
Both Rebollar and Martinez were standouts at CSU Monterey Bay, with Martinez having played for El Salvador’s national team last summer. Corrales, a former Olympian who prepped at North Salinas, is also in the Earthquakes Hall of Fame as a defender.
“I’m building something beyond this season,” Yallop said. “I think we’re ahead of where I thought we’d be. I think we got some talented individual players that are playing well collectively. We’ve come a long way.”
As crucial as these final six games are, Yallop hasn’t changed his demeanor or approach. While there is a playoff-type feel in the crowd, it’s the performance on the field that he has his eyes on.
“I don’t want to put pressure on them that we have to win this game,” Yallop said. “I don’t get ahead of myself. These guys are already playing like they are fighting for their lives.”
What is in the locker room to serve as a reminder is the standings, where the Union sit one point out of the seventh and final spot – with one of those teams in front of them still on the schedule.
“I don’t think we’ve deserved to lose 14 matches,” said Yallop, referring to red cards having left them shorthanded in some matches. “But I never go backwards. We are playing some lovely football. It’s a project we’ll keep building on.”
The Union have not seen Phoenix – which is also in the playoff hunt – since a season-opening 4-2 loss in the desert on March 12.
“We are a completely different team from that first game,” said Yallop, a former MLS all star with Tampa Bay in 1997. “We figured out our system. We feel comfortable at home. But it won’t be an easy game.”
No question the Locker room has a different feel prior to each game. Even practices have been a little crisper in its push for the postseason.
“I’ve always been a positive coach,” Yallop said. “I’ve never wavered from that. But when you have results and play well, there is a different vibe in the locker room.”
During its current three-game home winning streak, the Union has outscored opponents 9-1, behind Sam Gleadle, who has four goals in his last three matches.
The midfielder shares the team lead with forward Chase Boone with seven goals, while defender Morey Doner has a team-high five assists.
“I put Sam in a position as the second forward and he has flourished,” Yallop said. “He interchanges with Chase. Both can play the middle or go wide. Sam is enjoying his role.”
So is goalie Anthony Siaha, who recorded seven shutouts, having not allowed a goal in the Union’s past two home matches.
“He’s been pretty impressive,” Yallop said. “But it starts with our defense, Hugh (Roberts), Grant (Robinson) and Kai (Greene) and have defended really well. I ask all my teams to help out. If you don’t, you can’t win games.”