BY IAN WALKER
VANCOUVER — The last thing Tom Soehn wanted to come across as earlier this week was anti-Olympic, but the newest member of the Vancouver Whitecaps couldn’t wait to get out of here in the days leading up to the Winter Games.
The team’s director of soccer operations only relocated from Chicago last Saturday, and not even the allure of sport’s grandest stage was enough to keep him in town for more than a few days.
It looks like the Whitecaps got a good one when they hired the 47-year-old American to shape the club as it builds toward 2011 and the team’s foray into Major League Soccer. Soehn easily could have got away with sticking around the city and hobnobbing with dignitaries — a social-scene wingman for club president and former Olympian Bob Lenarduzzi, if you will — and no one would have thought twice. Never again would there be such an opportunity to introduce himself to current and potential corporate sponsors along with the city’s jet set.
But no. Instead, Soehn opted to join his club for its training camp in Casa Grande, Ariz. Not a bad option, mind you, but we’re talking about the freaking Olympics here, baby!
"It was a tough decision, absolutely," said Soehn, before boarding the plane for his flight on Tuesday. "And for as long as I was here it’s been really nice to see all the excitement built around the Games."
So that’s how it’s going be then? All work and no play?
It’s quite the contrary, really. The trip will be as much about forging relationships as it will be evaluating talent. Think about that for a second after being reminded that head coach Teitur Thordarson is the No. 1 candidate to lead the Whitecaps into MLS, but before January, he and Soehn had never met.
"In this business, you count on each other a lot, so it helps when you work with a bunch of friends," said Soehn, who comes to the Whitecaps from MLS’s D.C. United, where he was the club’s head coach for the past three seasons. "We want to do everything possible so that when we do graduate to MLS, we know what we’re doing and how we’re doing it.
"In a lot of respects, I’m still getting to know people and understand how things work here. The other side of it is assessing the talent so we can look forward and address some of our needs."
The Whitecaps’ two-week training camp will include exhibition games against three MLS sides — the first of which comes Thursday against the Seattle Sounders. They’ll also play the Chicago Fire on Feb. 15, and the defending champion Real Salt Lake on Feb. 20. Vancouver will spend most of the trip headquartered at the Grande Sports World facility, where the team will train daily and play two of the games.
The Whitecaps return from their southern sojourn on Feb. 21, leaving Soehn most of the second week of the Games to get his Olympic fix. They will play an exhibition match against the Sounders at Swangard Stadium on March 6 before opening their first and only season in NASL-USL-1 Div. 2 at home against NSC Minnesota Stars on April 11.
"If I can, I’d love to enjoy the festivities once we get back," he said.
"I think the Games will really aid in the ability to bring in talent. Everybody will really have a good feel about what Vancouver is about from all the exposure and TV coverage of the city."
Easy now, Tom. You’ve already got the job.
CAP NOTES: Edmonton FC was announced at the NASL’s newest team on Tuesday, beginning play next season.
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