By Simon Fudge/whitecapsfc.com
It has been nearly two weeks since Vancouver Whitecaps FC ended a memorable 2008 campaign with USL First Division championship success at Swangard Stadium.
In a season that included a notable friendly result over David Beckham's Los Angeles Galaxy in Edmonton, Alberta, as well as a win and a draw versus Major League Soccer club Toronto FC in the Nutrilite Canadian Championship, the Whitecaps men capped the year by winning their second USL-1 title in three seasons with a 2-1 victory over regular season champions Puerto Rico Islanders on Thanksgiving Sunday.
It was a fine end to a season that had been considered by many to be a rebuilding year after the amount of turnover that took place in the men's team squad last winter. Yet, under the guidance of head coach Teitur Thordarson, Whitecaps fans were thoroughly entertained by the team's attacking style of play this term, as The Blue & White finished the regular season in second place after winning half of their 30-match schedule. Eventful playoff series wins over Minnesota Thunder and Canadian arch-rivals Montreal Impact ensued before Thordarson's men claimed USL-1 silverware with victory over Colin Clarke's talented side from the Caribbean.
The thrill of winning the championship in his first season in charge of the Whitecaps still remains with Thordarson. "I've been feeling very good lately," the former Iceland international striker told whitecapsfc.com. "I've been enjoying these days since we claimed the title, as it was a great moment for the team and the club."
With the 2008 season now concluded, Thordarson has been able to reflect on how his inaugural year in the North American game unfolded. The Icelandic tactician admits that the challenges his side faced were unlike anything he has seen in his professional soccer career. "If you include the number of games in a short space of time, the amount of traveling, and the amount of hot weather that we experienced during the season, then USL-1 has to be considered one of the toughest leagues in the world to play in," he revealed. "In other places in the world, you have tougher leagues in terms of the type of games you play and the quality of competition you face, but in terms of the whole package of circumstances we deal with here, I'm not aware of it occurring anywhere else in world soccer."
The excitement of winning the championship has quickly turned to thoughts for the 2009 season. Thordarson and his assistant, Todd Wawrousek, concluded end-of-season meetings with all members of the squad before looking ahead to several off-season events. In December, the pair will be in Charleston, South Carolina, for the USL Men’s Player Showcase before heading to Pennsylvania, where they will run a joint player combine with USL Second Division club Harrisburg City Islanders. That will be followed by a visit to the MLS Player Combine in January.
Thordarson outlined where his focus will be this off-season. "Since the end of the season, I've spent some time looking over our roster and looking towards next season," he said. "We are unlikely to make any decisions on the squad until the beginning of December, at the earliest. In the New Year, we plan to start preseason training around mid-January, so we can get the players in early. We may also plan to have a combine for local players here in Vancouver at the end of January."
For now, Thordarson is looking forward to spending some holiday time back in Europe next month. "I'll start my holidays by visiting my grandchildren in Norway and spending some time there," he said. "I'm then planning on going down to the south of France with my wife, as I have a place in Cannes. I'm looking forward to it, as it's always important to take a few weeks off and recharge the batteries before thinking about next season."
2009 Whitecaps season tickets are now on sale! Season tickets include all men’s and women's team regular season and playoff home matches at Swangard Stadium, Nutrilite Canadian Championship home matches against Toronto FC and Montreal Impact, as well as priority listing for BC Place and the proposed Whitecaps Waterfront Stadium. Book or purchase your season tickets now and receive early bird pricing, as well as the chance to win one of eight trips to Las Vegas or a trip for two to Toronto to see the Whitecaps play Toronto FC in the Nutrilite Canadian Championship next year. Click here for more information on our 2009 season ticket packages.