Caps go 'on attack' with new coach

Gary Kingston - Vancouver Sun

Keen to see his club play attacking, offensive-minded soccer while also incorporating talented teenage players into the lineup, Vancouver Whitecaps president Bob Lenarduzzi has turned to Europe to find a head coach he believes can deliver.

Teitur Thordarson, a native of Iceland who has extensive coaching experience in Norway and with the Estonian national team, has signed a two-year contract to replace the fired Bob Lilley.

"Football is about results and there are a lot of different ways to get results, but my philosophy has always been to try to play attacking football, so that is something we will try to do," said Thordarson, who made his first visit to Canada a couple of weeks ago to meet with Whitecaps officials.

He conceded that he doesn't know much about the United Soccer Leagues First Division. And he said the fact the season is short and players aren't together all year as they are in Europe "is a challenge" and something he'd like to see changed.

Thordarson said he was intrigued by the Whitecaps' desire to move to the Major Soccer League, North America's top league, by 2011 provided the long-delayed waterfront stadium is built.

The American-born Lilley, who had guided the Whitecaps to the USL title in 2006, was let go after the club endured a 12-game winless streak in 2007, scored just 27 goals in 28 games and was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.

"Over time you get jaded, you become cautious and it's time to shed that," said Lenarduzzi, who added that he expects to turn over more than half the 26-man roster.

"In addition to playing attacking soccer, I'm looking for our players, and it's something I've talked to Teitur [pronounced TAY-tour] about, just to show an urgency for 90 minutes ... to really demonstrate that they want to win that particular game," said Lenarduzzi.

He acknowledged that domestic candidates Nick Dasovic, an ex-Whitecap, and Colin Miller were the front-runners for the job until Thordarson, who was urged to come to Canada by Evan Pellerud, head coach of the Canadian national women's team, applied.

Lenarduzzi said he was swayed by Thordarson's national team experience in Estonia and the fact he coached Norwegian First Division teams with the kind of youth residency programs that the Whitecaps have instituted.

Thordarson said he will have no problem working the best young players into his squad. "You have to do that, especially when you are not so big that you can basically buy what you want."

"It's my belief that if you're good enough, you're good enough," said Lenarduzzi of promoting worthy teenagers to the senior squad. "Part of the problem we have in North America is the assumption that 16-, 17-, 18-year-old players are too young. That's not the case.

"So what we needed was someone at the top of our pyramid who is willing to play the younger players that are performing well in the residency [program], at the same time understanding that you need that core of senior players."

One of those core players is Jeff Clarke. The 30-year-old midfielder, who only met Thordarson for the first time at Tuesday's news conference, said he's disappointed Dasovic and Miller didn't get a chance, but he still likes the hire.

"For a lot of us, who've been subject to a similar style over the last five years, maybe this guy can come in and provide a contrast to that, could rejuvenate a lot of us," said Clarke.

As a player who got his professional start as a teenager, he also supports Lenarduzzi's desire to see good young players moved up as long as it's not just a public relations exercise or at the expense of team chemistry.

Lenarduzzi also said Tuesday that the club will take advantage of Thordarson's connections, particularly in Scandinavia, to look at bringing in players from overseas.

"We want to play as many Canadian, and particularly B.C.-based players as possible, but we can't afford to compromise the product in doing so," said Lenarduzzi. "While we're getting our residency program up and running, our objective is to make sure we're still winning championships at the top end."

gkingston@png.canwest.com
© The Vancouver Sun 2007