Carl Robinson smiling - 2015

“The living, breathing example of how to set up a proper football club.”


That’s how Vancouver Whitecaps FC co-owner Jeff Mallett described Carl Robinson at the club’s midseason media roundtable back in July.


Robinson, who turned 39 last month, is the first to admit he’s still learning.


He’s not perfect.


But in just two short years, the Welshman has already established himself as one of Major League Soccer’s brightest young coaches. And on Tuesday, he was named one of three finalists for the 2015 MLS Coach of the Year award.


It’s a deserving honour.


Robinson’s resume speaks for itself.


He took over a team that had missed the playoffs and quickly turned it into a contender for the MLS Supporters’ Shield – the ‘Caps finished the season third in MLS and are set to host their first-ever MLS home playoff match on Sunday at BC Place.    


It’s even more impressive when you look at how he’s done it.


For starters, Whitecaps FC have the youngest team in MLS. And that’s not by coincidence.


It’s by design.

'The living, breathing example of how to set up a proper football club' -

Ever since he took over the ‘Caps head coaching job in December 2013, Robinson said he would give young players opportunities. “If you’re good enough, you’re old enough,” we’ve heard him say time and time again. 

And he’s lived up to his word.


We saw that last year when he threw a then 18-year-old Kianz Froese onto the pitch against Seattle Sounders FC in a Cascadia Cup-clinching derby at CenturyLink Field.


And we’ve seen it time and time again this year, too.


The numbers don’t lie.


Robinson is playing more players under the age of 24 than any team in MLS this season. Along those lines, Vancouver’s eight Homegrown players are the most of any team. Robinson signed five of them.


He has set this team up for success – not just in the short term, but in the long term, too.


"In any organization you need to have a plan about what you're trying to do,” Robinson told MLSsoccer.com earlier this year. “If you don't get that plan correct, you might be successful one year, two years, but you won't be consistent over a period of time."


“What I tried to do here 18 months ago was reduce the age of the squad,” he continued. “I wanted to give opportunities to younger players we had in our Residency program as well as finding top young South American and Central American talent that I knew would be affordable to us.”


Mission accomplished.


The Welshman has struck gold on several occasions – and he’s done so using different mechanisms.  


He acquired Matias Laba and Mauro Rosales via trade. He acquired the likes of Kendall Waston, Octavio Rivero, Pedro Morales via transfer and Cristian Techera via loan. And he unearthed a gem at the 2015 MLS SuperDraft in centre back Tim Parker, who has played himself into Vancouver’s starting rotation.


Just think about how much those players have meant to the team’s success.


That speaks to Robinson’s eye for talent, his network of contacts worldwide, and his willingness to simply “get his hands dirty” and put in the work.


“You've got to come out of your comfort zone a little bit as a manager and go and visit places and go and see games, which are probably in front of 100 supporters and on bobbly pitches,” Robinson told MLSsoccer.com. “When you go down there, it's important that you get your hands dirty.”


He did – and so far, it’s had the desired effect.

'The living, breathing example of how to set up a proper football club' -

Under Robinson, the ‘Caps have set new club records in points (53) and wins (16). They also won their first-ever Voyageurs Cup and qualified for the MLS Cup Playoffs in back-to-back years.

And they’ve done so with a new style of play.


Make no bones about it: Vancouver’s strength is its counter-attack and defensive prowess – the ‘Caps conceded the fewest goals in MLS this season and were the co-clean sheet leaders. But they’re are also averaging more passes per game and chances per game under Robinson than they did in the three years prior to his tenure.


Robinson has engrained a new ethos into this team – on and off the field.


Ask anyone who’s spent some time around the team over the past two years and they’ll tell you the same thing: this is one of the closest groups you’ll ever see.


Everyone is pulling for another – even though they’re fighting with each other for jobs.


Robinson won’t take any credit for that, but he deserves some. He brought these characters in and he has nurtured this environment. It’s often said that teams take after their coach. And as Russell Teibert said the day Robinson was hired: “First and foremost, Carl Robinson is a great man.”


Turns out he’s a pretty good coach, too. 




Whitecaps FC return to BC Place on Sunday to host Portland Timbers in the club's first-ever home playoff match in MLS. Be a part of history and secure your tickets today

'The living, breathing example of how to set up a proper football club' -

Be a part of the best sporting atmosphere in Vancouver! 2016 Whitecaps FC Season Tickets are now on sale. In addition to Season Tickets, Whitecaps FC offer a flexible range of ticket products, including Half-Season Packs, 5-Packs, a Youth Soccer Half-Season Ticket, and single match tickets. For more information, visit whitecapsfc.com/tickets.