Martin Rennie and his coaching staff will be racking up the air miles as they continue to look for that special player, that diamond in the rough, that player that could take them to the next level. To do so, they will be using all their contacts and scouts to get good leads on potential players that could make their mark with the ‘Caps in Major League Soccer (MLS).
I had the chance to sit down with assistant coach Carl Robinson who had six successful years playing in MLS and now has the chance to scout and help bring the right kind of player to Vancouver.
Carl has built up a great number of contacts around the globe through his playing days, which he relies on now to keep tabs on players throughout the world.
“We get maybe 50 players a week sent to us as foreign players realize more that North America is a great place to live and MLS is a good league to play in,” explained the Welshman. “We will go and watch a player four or five times before we make a decision.”
Building a team
When Whitecaps FC coaching staff head out to scout players they obviously have a plan. This isn’t just a one-off plan, its part of an overall map for the club’s success.
Robinson talked to me about their short, medium, and long-term plans.
Last year they worked off a short-term plan of getting the ‘Caps turned around from a last-place finish in the club’s inaugural MLS season. The goal was to make the playoffs. Mission accomplished.
Now they can move forward with their medium and long-term plans as they look to make the ‘Caps a team that makes the playoffs every year and starts challenging for the MLS Cup.
To do that, you need the right players, and that’s where scouting comes in.
What does it take?
Aside from the obvious requirements of talent and soccer-playing ability, many off-the-field factors determine whether a foreign player will have success here.
The first thing Robinson mentioned was the adjustment players have to make in coming to North America. It has been said before that MLS is very different to many other leagues around the world. It’s been called a very athletic league, and when you combine that with other challenging factors, you can quickly see why there are a number of good players that have had trouble adapting to playing in this league.
It can take players up to six months to settle down. First off, they’re in a new country with new teammates, and if they have a family, that adds another level of adjustment. From there players must conform to a different playing style, travel, time change, and different climates that they will play in.
So before deciding on whether to bring in a player, coaches will want to feel comfortable that he’s capable of making these adjustments.
To find that out, Whitecaps FC coaching staff will first talk to the manager of whichever team their targeted player is playing for. This allows them to do a background check on a player to see what his attributes and character are like. After all, Rennie has always preached that he wants to bring in character players.
What’s on the horizon?
With the offseason providing a window of time away from training and preparing for matches, Robinson will be doing some traveling as he continues to scout for talent, having already been to South and Central America.
A possible trip to Africa could also be on the cards. Robinson would hope to find another gem like Gershon Koffie, who had a solid 2012 season for the ‘Caps.
“You find that the young African players are usually very raw, but if you can find a player that is willing to listen and work hard to reach their potential you can find that special player.”
And if he and the rest of the coaching staff are successful in finding a diamond in the rough, it could help make the ‘Caps a cut above the rest of the competition.