Looking to turn around their Major League Soccer season, Vancouver Whitecaps FC were back at training on Tuesday to prepare for their first match under new head coach Tom Soehn.
“It’s exciting to be back on the pitch,” said Soehn after training. “The one thing I can see immediately in the group of guys is the character of the team. It’s been a really difficult few days and everybody’s still together, and that’s so important.”
If anyone knows the personality of each player on the roster, it’s Soehn. As director of soccer operations, he built the Whitecaps FC roster, scouting and interviewing each player to ensure that they would fit into his plans. Now as the man in charge, he’ll have a much larger influence on those players he convinced to come to Vancouver.
“It’s no different than coming in the first day,” said Soehn, who last served as a head coach for D.C. United from 2007 to 2009. “Being here as coaches, you put a lot of pressure on yourselves to make sure you get results.
“We have to first fix our mentality to make sure we’re playing like we’re going to win, and that’s something that obviously when results haven’t gone your way, we need to turn that around and know that we’re in every game to win it. On any given day in this league, any team can knock each other off, so we’re looking to get some points.”
That mission will start in quick fashion for Whitecaps FC, whose next three matches are on the road, starting with Wednesday night’s encounter against surging Chivas USA (7:30 p.m. PT, watch live on Rogers Sportsnet ONE, listen live on TEAM 1410 or teamradio.ca).
“Ideally, you’d love to start at home, but in other ways it’s not bad to get away and focus on the group,” said Soehn. “Obviously it’s going to be different with a new staff and there’s a learning curve for each of us, for the team, for each individual and for the staff, and possibly getting away from distractions isn’t a bad thing. That’s the cards that we’re dealt, so we’re excited about our next opportunity.”
A new coach also means a new system and a new style of play, but the initial reaction from players was positive.
“Two definitely different styles,” said midfielder/defender Wes Knight, who had played under Thordarson since 2009. “I think this one can fit what we have as a team maybe a little better. I think this one is going to be much more possession-oriented.
“We’re going to look to stay compact and attack as a unit, instead of sometimes getting stretched out and attacking in small numbers. There’s going to be times where it’s going to be difficult for us to adjust in this period because guys like me have been used to Teitur, but I’m open-minded.”
In moving back into a coaching role, Soehn assumes immediate responsibility for the players he hand-picked, and he feels the team is supportive.
“Most importantly is that no one’s bigger than the team, and I think with this group you can sense that already,” he said. “Everybody’s pulling for each other.”