Only a week-and-a-half has passed since Vancouver Whitecaps FC concluded their inaugural season in Major League Soccer, but today dawned the beginning of a new era and preparations for the 2012 season, as new head coach Martin Rennie took charge of a week-long off-season training camp at the Burnaby Lake Sports Complex.
VIDEO: TUESDAY'S PRESS CONFERENCE
Less than three months after being unveiled as the club's new MLS coach, the 36-year-old started his new role this week by meeting with Whitecaps FC officials on Monday and Tuesday before getting to work with the players this morning. "It's nice to get started, as it's obviously been on my mind for a long time," Rennie told whitecapsfc.com. "I've been watching a lot of games, thinking about the team and the players, but now I have the chance to focus on what we need to do to develop the structure of the club, in terms of sports science, sports psychology, etc. There's a lot of work to do, but so far, I'm really enjoying it."
Having successfully worked his way through the ranks of North American professional soccer, the native of Thurso, Scotland, has long awaited his start to life as an MLS head coach. "I hope to see the players work hard and be competitive, and that I see the quality that I know they've got," Rennie said of the week-long camp. "I've been evaluating the squad from a distance, but now I have a chance to see first-hand if anything stands out that might change my mind."
Having watched Whitecaps FC from a distance for the past three months, the former Cleveland City Stars and Carolina RailHawks head coach believes he is working from a solid foundation in Vancouver. "I think there are some very good pieces in place. There are some good attacking options, but there is work to be done," said the Scotsman. "The first thing we need is to not only get the best players that we can, but the best people that we can. If we build the team around the right characters, with the right leadership and attitude, then that will help us a lot."
Over the next week, Rennie will assess the 'Caps roster in five training sessions and two intrasquad matches, which are scheduled for Saturday and next Wednesday. He and Whitecaps FC will have decisions to make, as the club need to decide on which 11 players they will protect from selection by Canadian rivals Montreal Impact in this year's MLS Expansion Draft on Wednesday, November 23. "Hopefully, the evaluations I've made and the evaluations others have given me about the team all match up at the end of the camp," Rennie said. "You can get a feel for a player or a team by watching games on video. Yet, when you see players in training, you do see something else that makes you think that player can do more or possibly not fit into your plans. You draw an overall picture and make your decisions from there."
Having described himself as "structured and positive" as a coach, Rennie is looking to shape Whitecaps FC into an attractive and competitive soccer outfit, with Vancouver aiming to make considerable improvements on the pitch in 2012. "The teams I've coached up until now have always attempted to pass the ball and move the ball through midfield, as well as create chances as much as possible, while being very hard to play against when we don't have possession," he said. "We want to be organized and clear on where we press and how we win back possession. Hopefully, it's an exciting style of play where the fans can be behind it and be excited about it. I always like to play with a back four, but have variation in the midfield and forward areas."
Whitecaps FC 2012 Major League Soccer season tickets start at $329, plus applicable tax and a $10 processing fee per order. To secure a seat and for additional information about Whitecaps FC MLS season tickets, including loge seats and suites, call 604.669.9283 or visit whitecapsfc.com/protect.