By Marc Weber
Tommy Soehn could tell you exactly where he's going these next two weeks, but then he'd have to kill you.
OK, so maybe he'd just get Martin Nash to boot spot kicks at your unprotected body, but the point is the Vancouver Whitecaps' director of soccer operations knows that sleuthing is a big part of scouting.
"There are some new markets we feel are beneficial and if I told you where pretty soon I'd turn around and there'd be three or four teams in the same area," said Soehn, the longtime Major League Soccer player and coach whom the Caps' hired in January to shape their MLS roster for 2011 and beyond.
"As we branch out, we want to make sure we're keeping to ourselves. We're probably doing more scouting than most right now."
The Seattle Sounders raised the bar for MLS clubs in many ways last season. Signing a 21-year-old Colombian named Fredy Montero was among their shrewd moves as he led the squad to the playoffs with 12 goals.
Soehn is currently in Europe. He admitted to spending time in Central America since joining the Caps, but wouldn't get into specifics.
It's a complicated time for the former D.C. United head coach.
Discussions continue with MLS over roster rules and ratios. How best to accommodate a move from one to two Canadian clubs (in 2009, each MLS team had eight international spots, but Toronto FC was allotted 13 international spots, five for U.S. players). How best to incorporate the Whitecaps residency program (the Caps sign all their kids to professional deals but MLS has a total roster cap of 24).
And all this while MLS and its players struggle to come to terms on a new collective bargaining agreement, delaying some clarity the Whitecaps would have hoped for by now.
Soehn must work within the Whitecaps current USSF D2 league framework while trying to predict where MLS rules are going.
The USSF D2 doesn't have its rules finalized yet, but it's expected to allow for seven internationals. The Whitecaps currently have five internationals signed, though Jamaican Dever Orgill, who's come through the residency program and is expected to see time with the first team, would make it six.
Head coach Teitur Thordarson is also taking a long look at residency winger/forward Cornelius Stewart, 20, while returning central defender Wesley Charles, 34, remains unsigned.
Both are from St. Vincent and the Grenadines and their fate could depend on what Soehn finds between now and April 15, when the international transfer window closes. Or perhaps what he's got lined up for the next window in July.
"Right now we have a couple of international spots on hold," Soehn said. "We're looking to fill those without rushing into anything -- make sure we bring someone in who will help us this year and in the future. We want to make sure we cover all areas and follow through so we're ready to go on something we're interested in."
He might not tell you where he is in the world, but searching for the next Montero, Soehn is happy to share what he sees as the key to success in MLS.
"You have to have a young solid core -- players that you feel can impact the game," he said, pointing to the crucial role the residency program must play in concert with scouting.
"That's always been important because your budget only goes so far. Those players are the difference between winning and losing in a lot of ways."
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