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New Fire coach Frank Yallop impressed with talent on roster

Chicago Fire Soccer Club new head coach Frank Yallop answers questions news conference after being introduced by owner Andrew Hauptman

Chicago Fire Soccer Club new head coach Frank Yallop answers questions at a news conference after being introduced by owner Andrew Hauptman, Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013, in Chicago. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

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Updated: December 9, 2013 11:06AM

The new coach of the Fire and key members simultaneously looked forward and backward in a news conference that functioned alternately as a regret-tinged summation of missed chances and a more optimistic consideration of what lies ahead.

Less than two weeks after the Fire’s season ended with a 5-2 loss to the New York Red Bulls that pushed the club out of the playoffs and prompted the dismissal of coach Frank Klopas, new coach Frank Yallop outlined the strategy going forward.

Yallop said he has had the opportunity to individually meet with the players and support staff. The one-on-one interaction has proven beneficial, he said.

“You see them from afar, you’re coaching against them, and it’s nice to sit down and meet them and explain how I go about things,” Yallop said during a Thursday morning press conference at Toyota Park.

Star forward Mike Magee was joined by teammates, midfielders Logan Pause, captain Jeff Larentowicz and defender Bakary Soumare. The players’ mood remained subdued after the Fire missed out by one point of making the Eastern Conference playoffs.

“If we’re honest with ourselves, we’re disappointed that we felt short,” Pause said. “We know the way the league is structured and the importance of every game. In the beginning, we dug ourselves a bit of a hole. From June on, we had the best record in the league, which is great but we still fell short.

“If you ask any of these guys, we want to be in the playoffs.”

Magee, who returned home to Chicago following a May trade with the Los Angeles Galaxy, scored 15 of his league-leading 21 goals with the Fire to capture the Golden Boot title. He downplayed a recent public comment by Landon Donovan as a leading contender for the league most valuable player.

“It’s still a bad taste in my mouth about the end of the season,” Magee said. “At that point I’m not even thinking about individual accolades.”

Yallop admitted the players needed a mental break from a grueling season, if for no reason than to break from the past. “This year’s gone now,” he said. “You can’t do anything about it. It’s hard to watch the playoffs because you feel you should be there.”

Having had time to review game tape, Yallop admitted he has inherited a talented roster. “It’s well-rounded,” he said. “There are some places where you could add a bit of quality, but if you look at it as a whole, [the Fire] had a great run with that group. In general, from an outsider looking in, we have a very good squad.”

As the equivalent of a coach and general manager, Yallop is the new face of the franchise. It is daunting though also exciting the power of shaping the team in his image and personality. Yallop said he is currently putting his coaching and organizational support staff that includes at least two assistant coaches and a technical director. He expects to have a coaching staff in place within three weeks.

Yallop said he has final authority on personnel decisions. “It basically means I get to build the team as I see fit,” he said.

That unity is crucial for a franchise that has now missed the playoffs three times in the last four years. “We’re excited about what’s to come and moving forward,” Pause said

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