BY MARC WEBER
VANCOUVER — Teitur Thordarson boards a plane for Oslo, Norway, Tuesday night, Whitecaps gifts packed away, secure in the knowledge his grandchildren will be dressed to cheer on the right team for at least another year.
The Whitecaps officially announced Monday that Thordarson, their Icelandic head coach, has signed a one-year extension with the club.
Beyond next season is Major League Soccer, and that means uncertainty for coaches as well as players.
“I have assurance that I will be one of the candidates (in 2011), and I am happy with that,” said Thordarson, 57.
“I’ve liked it in Vancouver and the people I’m working with are nice people. I’m very much looking forward to next season.”
He’s certainly made a strong case for a place in the organization.
Two seasons. Two league championship games. One title.
“What he’s done in the two years he’s been here, it was a no-brainer to sign him again,” said captain Martin Nash, who praised Thordarson for the way he handled adversity this past season.
After a 15-7-8, second-place regular season in 2008, the Caps struggled to an 11-10-9 seventh-place mark in 2009 before a strong playoff run.
At one point mid-season, the team was out of the playoffs, racked by infighting.
“He stayed calm and kept pushing everyone in the right direction,” said Nash.
Whitecaps president Bob Lenarduzzi said what stood out to him was how the team performed in the big games under Thordarson.
The coach was also able to mould a rebuilt squad into a championship contender this past season — a task he’ll have to try and repeat, to a lesser degree perhaps, in 2010.
Seven players, including league goal-scoring leader Charles Gbeke, have been released, and another, defender Geordie Lyall, has retired. Rookie sensation Marcus Haber could be on his way to English Championship side West Bromwich Albion.
The big difference, said Thordarson, is the type of player Vancouver will try to attract for 2010. Whereas last off-season was spent scouring player combines for young, raw, athletic talent, this time it’s about bringing in experience.
They’ve already added two potential starters in former Minnesota Thunder all-league midfielder Ricardo Sanchez and defender Chris Williams, who’s been capped three times for Canada.
“Last year we took players we felt had tools to go on,” he said. “Some of them have shown us that, others haven’t. Now I hope we can add some better, more experienced players. Players with a level that shows us clearly they’ll be able to bring something to it. Players who have played on the MLS level maybe.”
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