Kent Gilchrist - The Province
Whitecaps coach Teitur Thordarson preaches attack based on solid defence at Burnaby Lakes on Tuesday.
If you Google famous Icelanders you get Eric the Red (Eirikur Thorvaldsson) and his son Leifur Eiriksson, a pair of explorers who discovered and colonized Greenland; Halldor Laxness, who won a Nobel Prize for literature in 1956; Snorri Sturlson, a historical writer; and the only living one, singer Bjork.
Perhaps if Teitur Thordarson, the first-ever Icelandic coach of the Vancouver Whitecaps and, surely, the first in the United Soccer League or the MLS for that matter, wins a few championships so far from home, he has a chance to make the list.
When the Whitecaps introduced Thordarson in December, instead of either of the more likely frontrunners, Nick Dasovic or Colin Miller, the announcement came from so far out in left field it could have originated in Iceland.
The new guy and Canadian women's team coach Evan Pellerud are close friends who coached against each other for years in Norway. Since most of the national team plays for the Whitecaps women's team it would have been strange if Pellerud hadn't suggested Thordarson.
The expectations of the Whitecaps and their fans is in the stratosphere. Former coach Bob Lilley once told me: "With the Whitecaps, there's no room for failure." He was fired days later when his defending USL championship team failed to advance past the Portland Timbers in the first round of the playoffs.
"I think it's a fair thing to have high expectations," said Thordarson, Tuesday, a brilliantly clear, crisp day perfect for kicking the ball around with 13 players for the first time -- some of whom he will expect to perform at a higher level down the road. "I have them and I expect the players to have them," added the 55-year-old.
Thordarson, who has watched DVDs of last year's games to help familiarize himself with the top players in the Whitecaps, is impressed with the level of talent. He confirmed he will institute what should be a fan-friendly, attacking style, with qualifications.
"Definitely," said the former striker who scored 51 goals in 99 games when he played, "all my philosophy of football is to attack. But if you don't defend well it's impossible to attack. But as much as we can we will try to have a team that looks to attack."
He will have until April 12, when the Montreal Impact visits Swangard Stadium, to pick the players, introduce and install his system and have it ready to perform.
Until he began negotiating with the Whitecaps last October, he knew little about the North American brand of soccer. He'd never been to Canada until he came for his first face-to-face meeting with team president Bob Lenarduzzi.
Besides the weather (it was nice when he was here before, too), what has impressed him most is the size and commitment of the Whitecaps organization, which includes the women's pro team, the age group teams and the residence program.
"There's a lot of good players here," said Thordarson. "The only thing for me is I can judge my own team, but not against other teams. I don't know the other teams."
Thordarson has been in residence here since Jan. 7, so he knows an occasional overcast winter day or two is to be expected. The only other thing that is unusual for him is that not all the players will be available to him until camp begins officially March 3. In Europe it's different.
Luckily he played in Sweden and Norway, so he knows about hockey.