Iceman cometh for Caps

Steve Ewen - The Province

The Vancouver Whitecaps kept things in the family with their first four coaches and the fifth was at least from their neighbourhood.

The sixth guy is from a different world.

By naming Iceland native and former Estonia national team coach Teitur Thordarson, 55, as their new bench boss Tuesday, the Whitecaps went outside the comfort zone for the first time.

The club had stuck with its former players as skipper for its first 18 years, going from Bob Lenarduzzi to Carl Valentine to Dale Mitchell to Tony Fonseca. They landed American Bob Lilley before the 2005 campaign, but he was already a mainstay in the USL First Division and had guided several of the Whitecaps on other squads.

Thordarson (pronounced TAY-tour TOR-dar-SUN) has his UEFA pro coaching licence, a credential common with top-flight European managers. He'd never been to Canada prior to interviewing with the Caps and running practices for some youth players a few weeks ago.

Adding someone like him gives some idea of much further the club wants to go. Lenarduzzi, the team's president, declined to comment on whether Thordarson is the highest-paid Whitecaps coach ever, but it's safe to bet that a guy with his resume didn't come cheap. It's a two-year contract.

"I had some different offers, both as a coach and a director," said Thordarson, who last coached KR Reykjavik, a team in Iceland's premier league, in 2006.

"But when I heard about here, I was very interested immediately. I like the philosophy of the club and the vision."

Part of what appeals to him is the Whitecaps' push to develop youngsters, highlighted by the residency program. He's worked extensively with up-and-comers, especially with Estonia.

He heard about the Whitecaps from Canadian national team women's coach Even Pellerud. Thordarson remembers first meeting Pellerud in 1988, when both were coaching men's club teams in Norway.

Pellerud has close ties to the Caps, since owner Greg Kerfoot also bankrolls the women's national side.

Lenarduzzi conceded Tuesday that Pellerud had "made us aware" of Thordarson and "we called him."

Thordarson also confirmed that Pellerud helped sway him.

"I didn't know anything about Canadian football," said Thordarson. "I spoke with Even quite a lot."

Through his connections he may bring Europeans players here. Lenarduzzi said this was being considered -- and also revealed that only 11 of the 26 players from last year's team are expected back.

"We want to play as many Canadian and particularly B.C.-based players as possible, but you can't afford to compromise the product in doing so," said Lenarduzzi.

Former Canadian national team defenders Colin Miller and Nick Dasovic were finalists for the top job.

Miller, an assistant with English Premiership bottom-feeder Derby County this season, is a former head coach of Abbotsford youth soccer. Dasovic played for the Whitecaps and has coached the reserves.

© The Vancouver Province 2007