It was the worst-kept secret in Vancouver, and on Tuesday, Whitecaps FC made it official: Carolina RailHawks boss Martin Rennie was named as the new ‘Caps head coach, starting in the 2012 Major League Soccer season.
Rennie has enjoyed a brief but successful spell in the lower levels of North American professional soccer, having guided Cleveland City Stars to a United Soccer Leagues Second Division (USL-2) championship in 2008 and Carolina RailHawks to the USSF D-2 Pro League finals in 2010.
“We are thrilled to have Martin joining our club,” said Whitecaps CEO Paul Barber at a press conference at Empire Field. “Martin is widely recognized as one of the top young coaches in North America and has already experienced tremendous success in his coaching career. Martin possesses all the qualities we look for in a head coach and shares our club philosophy.”
Rennie’s RailHawks are running away with the North American Soccer League (NASL) regular season title with 44 points, 12 points clear of second-place Puerto Rico Islanders. The Thurso, Scotland, native will see out the rest of the year with the RailHawks before joining Whitecaps FC fulltime for the 2012 season.
Growing up in Falkirk, Scotland, Rennie supported the local side Falkirk FC as a child and was a ballboy at the club. He first learned of Whitecaps FC when he collected stickers of soccer players during his youth, and noticed that one of his heroes, Peter Beardsley, played an early part of his career in Vancouver during the 1980s in the original NASL.
“This is a club I’ve known about for a very long time, and it’s an honour to have this opportunity. It’s only a few years ago since I’ve come to North America to start coaching, but I want to thank the players, staff, and the owners of those teams who have given me this chance, particularly the Carolina RailHawks.”
Individually, Rennie has been nominated for Coach of the Year honours an incredible four seasons running, picking up the award at the USL-2 level in 2007 during his two seasons with the Stars.
In terms of his qualifications, he has a UEFA ‘A’ Licence, which he earned at the age of 26 following a knee injury, which ended his professional playing career.
“Playing wise, I like to keep possession of the ball as best we can,” said Rennie, whose RailHawks have employed a very aggressive 4W-3L-3D formation this season. “I like to penetrate when we get into the opposition’s half - not just keep the ball for the sake of it. I also want to make us very hard to play against. Teams I’ve coached have regularly been good defensively, hard to beat, and hard to break down - that’s the bedrock of all good teams - they don’t lose goals, they defend well, but they also try to build from the back and play entertaining soccer.”
Interim head coach Tom Soehn, who took over for Teitur Thordarson at the end of May, will finish out the 2011 season on the sidelines before moving back upstairs fulltime into his director of soccer operations position.
Martin MacMahon covers Vancouver Whitecaps FC for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter: @martinmacmahon