By Simon Fudge/whitecapsfc.com
Much can happen in the space of a year. Vancouver Whitecaps men's team head coach Teitur Thordarson can certainly attest to that.
December 11, 2007, was another historical day for The Blue & White, as the 'Caps unveiled the Icelandic tactician as the club's sixth head coach. 12 months ago, few soccer fans in these parts knew of the 56-year-old nor what to make of him as a coach. By Thanksgiving Sunday, there were few complaints with his abilities after Thordarson led Vancouver to their second USL First Division championship title in three seasons after a 2-1 final victory over regular season champions Puerto Rico Islanders at Swangard Stadium.
It proved to be the momentous culmination of an intriguing first year in North American soccer for the former Iceland international captain, whose prior coaching experiences were with clubs in Scandinavia and Estonia, including the Estonian national team. "It has been a very interesting year for me, in terms of developing a new team and getting good results," Thordarson told whitecapsfc.com. "It has been especially interesting for me, in terms of a lot of new experiences, as I didn’t know what I was coming to when I joined the club a year ago."
Thordarson's unveiling as 'Caps head coach on December 11, 2007
Unlike many of his previous coaching roles in Europe, Thordarson encountered new challenges as a USL-1 head coach. He admitted to having some concerns at the start of the year. "When I arrived, I didn't know much about North American soccer, so I had to do some research to get a better understanding. In the end, I learned more from the experiences I had during the past year. For example, when I saw the match schedule at the start of the season, I wondered how we were going to get through so many games in a short space of time with a consistently high level of performance. In fact, I was apprehensive at how things would go, but I was very impressed by my players and how professional they were in approaching these challenges."
The past 12 months have also given Thordarson a high level of encouragement with the way the Whitecaps are evolving as a club. "I feel all departments in the club are dealing with their responsibilities in a very professional way," he said. "You can clearly feel it's a club that is developing and growing. I feel all departments are working very hard to develop and become better, and that is something that I like very much."
With several experienced players not returning in 2009, Thordarson is moving forward with his efforts to find new faces and plan preseason training for the New Year. "At this moment in time, we are looking into the player combines that we are attending, and the player talent that will be at those combines. We are also thinking about local players that are looking for a tryout with us, and those efforts may lead to some type of local combine here at the end of January. We are also preparing the schedule for winter training in the New Year and developing a preseason friendly schedule that is different from last year, in terms of playing games against better teams."
With USL-1 and Nutrilite Canadian Championship soccer on the menu next season, the goal to succeed on both those fronts remain essential to Thordarson's plans. "Having won the championship this year, we must keep that as a goal for next season, even if the team is going to look far different than this past season," he said. "As for the Canadian Championship, that tournament gives us the chance to get into the CONCACAF Champions League, which would be a fantastic opportunity for the team to operate year-round and play top games right through the winter months."
Of course, 2008 gave Thordarson and his family the chance to experience life on the Lower Mainland for the very first time. The Icelander has so far enjoyed his time on Canada's west coast. "I like it very much here in Vancouver," he revealed. "Unfortunately, I haven't had the chance to see more of things around the Lower Mainland, but hopefully, I will have more time to discover more of this city and the region as a whole."
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