For the first time since the San Jose Earthquakes returned to Major League Soccer in 2008, the club will take the field on Saturday at Dick's Sporting Goods Park against the Colorado Rapids with a new head coach.
Frank Yallop was let go last Friday after the team began this season with only three wins from its first 15 matches. But despite the slow start, the news still came as a surprise to his players.
"No one saw it coming," Earthquakes striker Chris Wondolowski said of the decision to fire Yallop. "That was literally the last thing we [expected]. For me personally, Frank has done so much. I wouldn't be where I am without him. He brought me here, had faith in me. I know for players too, they loved him. He didn't lose the locker room, that's for sure."
Taking Yallop's place on the sideline will be assistant Mark Watson, who knows he must find a way to turn things around with the club having earned just one win in its last 11 MLS matches.
"The team's not in a good situation, record-wise," Watson said. "So my job is to turn things around and get some wins. We'll work with different scenarios, different lineups and try to find the right mix to get us that win to kind of turn the tide for us."
San Jose's last outing in league play was a 3-0 defeat at Real Salt Lake, and Saturday's game will mark the third in a four-game road trip, which has already started with two defeats.
The Rapids are headed in the opposite direction as the club is riding a six- game unbeaten streak following a 2-2 draw with conference leaders FC Dallas last time out.
Forward Atiba Harris scored both goals in the second half for the Rapids, giving him three goals in his last two matches.
After a tough two-year stint in Vancouver that saw Harris score just two goals in 12 appearances while battling injuries, the 28-year-old seems to be seizing his opportunity this season.
"He's such a professional player, he's always working and he knew that he didn't have a good year last year," Rapids head coach Oscar Pareja said. "[It's] an opportunity that the club is providing to him, he's embracing [it] and doing a great job. I'm very happy for him."