The first week of preseason at Empire Field was not just a new experience for some of the Vancouver Whitecaps FC players, it was also a new beginning for assistant coach Denis Hamlett.
Earlier this month, the 41-year-old became the latest member of the 'Caps coaching staff, as the Blue and White prepare for their inaugural season in Major League Soccer. A former Chicago Fire head coach, Hamlett joins a technical team that includes a wide and varied combination of professional coaching experiences.
It is an exciting move for Hamlett, whose prior MLS coaching experience was a 12-year tenure with the Fire. "I first got together with the whole coaching staff at the MLS Player Combine in Florida, then at the SuperDraft in Baltimore," Hamlett told whitecapsfc.com. "It was good to sit down and work with the staff in identifying players at the combine and assist them with selections at the SuperDraft. Now I'm here in Vancouver for the start of preseason, so I'm really excited to get things going. Whitecaps FC are a storied franchise, so we're looking for good things to happen for us this season."
Hamlett's arrival brings invaluable knowledge of MLS to the 'Caps coaching staff. From 1998 to 2007, he was a Fire assistant coach before serving as head coach of the Illinois-based outfit in 2008 and 2009. "My knowledge of the league and how certain teams in MLS like to play - home and away - will hopefully be valuable to our coaching staff," he said. "I also have the experience of being with an MLS expansion team in Chicago in 1998, so having knowledge of that experience will hopefully be beneficial as well."
The Whitecaps FC coaching staff is an interesting blend of professional soccer backgrounds. Head coach Teitur Thordarson has over two decades of managerial experience - both in Europe and at the North American second division level. Fellow assistant coach Colin Miller has a very good understanding of Canadian soccer, having served as captain of the national team during his playing career, and having recently coached at various levels on the west coast. The resume of goalkeeping coach Mike Salmon includes years of playing and coaching experience in his native England.
Hamlett admitted that the combination of coaching minds at Whitecaps FC made his move to Vancouver an intriguing opportunity. "It's the thing that attracted me to the club," he revealed. "In soccer, everyone has a different opinion on how they see and evaluate the game. The important thing is that were all on the same page, as we move forward. The more people with MLS experience that you can have on board to help in the process of building a new team, the more beneficial it is, in the end."
Though he has been in Vancouver for less than a week, Hamlett has been impressed by his new team and the club. "The first thing that comes to mind is Vancouver is a first-class organization, from top to bottom," he said. "We're very detail-oriented as a club, and that makes it easier to do things the right way and make things clear. Everyone is willing to learn and work together towards a common goal of making this club the top organization in MLS and the whole of North America."