Nash named captain - The Province

Veteran back full-time in post
Marc Weber, The Province

Martin Nash revelled in his ratcheted-up role last season.

Reprising it on a regular basis will be even more fun.

The 33-year-old midfielder was named the Vancouver Whitecaps' captain Monday at a training session in Burnaby. He's the 19th in club history dating back to 1974 and he takes the reins from released veteran Jeff Clarke.

Clarke wore the armband from 2005 to '07 and again last season when initial captain Adrian Cann was sold to Danish club Esbjerg.

But Clarke was limited to 18 games due to injury and that's where Nash stepped in -- the normally low-key player showing a fiery side to match his pinpoint passing.

He challenged opposing players who were taking liberties, and he tried to pump up his own guys.

"I was probably captain almost half the games last year and I really enjoyed that," said the four-time all-league player, now entering his ninth season with the Caps. "It feels good. It's a nice honour to have ... and I'm looking forward to it."

Caps head coach Teitur Thordarson said he felt Nash raised his game last year when given the title, and he gushed about Nash's relationship with the younger players.

That dynamic will be crucial this season as the squad is undergoing another major facelift, and skewing even younger.

"It was, for me, an obvious choice," said Thordarson, who is entering his second season at the helm. "I like Martin as a player -- he has qualities in his game which we have to go to a very decent level in Europe to see, and he showed us last year when we made him captain that he does this role very well.

"What is very important is that he's a very nice guy and he gives to the young players. He helps them on the field and off the field, corrects them and gives the right instructions."

John Catliff was the longest serving captain in Whitecaps history, from 1988 to '93. Nash surely doesn't have six years left in him, but said that he wants to keep playing for a few more years.

The Whitecaps are hoping to be one of two successful bidders for Major League Soccer franchises by 2011, and Nash's NBA brother Steve is part of the prospective ownership group.

The league is expected to announce its 17th and 18th franchises in March or early April.

"I'm coming near the end of my career," Nash said, "but hopefully I have a few years left. I think it's a nice time, with the club growing, to be a part of it.

"We've got a new team and it'll be nice to be a big part of getting it to jell."

Returning goalkeeper Jay Nolly said Nash was a no-brainer from the players' perspective.

"Not only is he a vocal leader," he said, "but he's a player who shows by example and that's what the team needs. We figured it was him right away. It's just natural for him to step into that role."

mweber@theprovince.com