This weekend's trip to America's capital will be a new experience for most of the players and staff of Vancouver Whitecaps FC. For head coach Tom Soehn, however, Saturday's match at D.C. United reunites him with his former club.
Before joining Whitecaps FC as director of soccer operations in 2010, Soehn spent six seasons (2004 - 2009) in the coaching staff at United. From 2004 to 2006, he first served as assistant coach to current Philadelphia Union boss Peter Nowak at the Washington, D.C., outfit. Soehn then succeeded Nowak ahead of the 2007 campaign and served as United's head coach for three seasons, amassing a record of 36W-31L-25D in MLS (55W-48L-31D in all competitions), before leaving the Eastern Conference side at the end of the 2009 season.
His time at United provided Soehn with a valuable understanding of coaching and managing in MLS. He admits that this weekend will be a unique experience. "I think it will be a bit strange because I'm used to going into the home locker room at RFK. This time around, I'll be going into a different locker room," he told whitecapsfc.com. "When you spend that much time in an organization, as I did in D.C., you leave behind a lot of friends. It adds to the competitiveness of this weekend's game because you want to leave a lasting impression."
Soehn has fond memories at United. As Nowak's assistant, D.C. won the 2004 MLS Cup title and the 2006 MLS Supporters' Shield as regular season champions. As head coach, Soehn guided United to a successful defense of their Supporters' Shield title in 2007 before leading the club to a Lamar Hunt US Open Cup title in 2008. He also led United through appearances in the first two editions of the CONCACAF Champions League (2008-09 & 2009-10). "Winning the trophies that we did were the biggest things that you remember," he said. "Those are the moments that stand out for me. To have the opportunity to work there and learn how they do things as a successful MLS club was of real value to me."
With the 'Screaming Eagles' supporters group sure to provide a passionate atmosphere on Saturday night, Soehn is preparing his 'Caps squad for a United side that are led by one of his former players in Ben Olsen. Though the former United States international will not be on the touchline because of suspension, the face that Soehn will see in United's technical area is his former D.C. assistant coach Chad Ashton.
Soehn knows full well what he and Whitecaps FC can expect from a team led by his two former colleagues. "Ben was a former player of mine, while Chad was my top assistant when I was head coach in D.C., so there are a lot of close ties for me," he said. "What I know about United is that they're going to be organized and compete like crazy. I don't expect anything less because Ben and Chad were like that as players, and many times in soccer, the personality of coaches is reflected in the teams they coach."
Saturday's match between Whitecaps FC and D.C. United at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., kicks off at 4:30 p.m. PT and is live on Rogers Sportsnet (Pacific, West, and East) and Bell mobile devices. There will also be a pre-game show on Rogers Sportsnet Pacific and West at 4 p.m. PT. 'Caps fans can also listen to Saturday's contest live on TEAM 1040 radio and teamradio.ca, starting with the pre-game show at 2:30 p.m. PT. TEAM 1040 will also have a two-hour post-game show, which will begin following the match at around 6:30 p.m. PT.