Whitecaps Management Review
It has been simply a turbulent year for management and coaching in the Vancouver Whitecaps organization.
The team opened its first official season with high hopes, following a great deal of success (including two titles) in the lower tier United Soccer Leagues division.
The Whitecaps early season confidence was based on a strong infrastructure citing their presence in a passionate soccer market with considerable attendance, dedicated ownership, a soon to be totally refurbished home stadium, and what was believed to be at the time a decent first year squad.
In owners Greg Kerfoot, Steve Luzco, ex-Yahoo! president Jeff Mallett and BC native and NBA star Steve Nash, the Whitecaps have a local devoted unit with deep financial pockets and athletic knowledge and acumen.
Club President Bob Lenarduzzi , a very notable past player, also brings a sense of history and connection to the team’s successful NASL past.
However, the management decision to stick with Icelandic head coach Teitur Thordarson, who had led the team previously in the USL, including their 2008 championship, backfired with but one victory in the first three months of their campaign.
That win came in their first match versus Canadian rivals Toronto FC, which saw an adventurous 4-2 outcome to the good.
Eventually however, Thordarson was unable to overcome the limits of a squad constricted by injury, suspensions, and most critically MLS inexperience.
The previous Iceland international did not help himself either at times with a rigid approach to tactical deployment of his players, even when forced to insert replacement players in his line-ups.
After the first 12 matches, Vancouver’s director of soccer operations Tom Soehn, who had previous MLS head coaching experience with DC United came onboard as interim leader.
He managed to extract a better overall effort from the team, garnering five more wins and a total of 19 points, as opposed to the 9 points gained under Thordarson.
He also took advantage of the opportunity to blood some of the more inexperienced players on the roster, to see what they were capable of doing at the MLS level.
This elevated the competition for spaces and maintained the interest in game performances, even as it became increasingly apparent that the team no longer stood any chance of making the playoffs.
However, Soehn’s appointment was always intended to be a temporary position and new head coach Martin Rennie’s place was announced a few weeks prior to the end of the regular season.
Whether Rennie will be able to in some way emulate the achievements of fellow iconic Scottish coaches Alex Ferguson of Manchester United, Kenny Dalglish of Liverpool, and David Moyes of Everton in the English Premier League remains to be seen.
Next week, we will take a closer look at the methods of Martin Rennie and what could be the keys to future success.