Scouting Week - Peru

Scouting Week: Tommy and Teitur’s flight in Peru

As we’ve seen in previous years, every offseason brings a certain amount of turnover for every MLS club – and that’s no different here in Vancouver. Whitecaps FC head coach Carl Robinson has already stated that there could be four or five "exciting additions" prior to the 2015 MLS season. With that in mind, we present you Whitecaps FC Scouting Week. This week, whitecapsfc.com will release a different scouting-related piece of content daily until Friday, December 19. Here's what is out so far: 

- Scouting Week Day 1: How Whitecaps FC landed Pedro Morales and Kendall Waston

Today, we take you back to 2010, when Tommy Soehn and Teitur Thordarson had an interesting experience on a scouting trip in Peru. 

Scouting for a professional soccer team, now that’s an awesome job isn’t it? Get a nice tan and experience different cultures while travelling the world to watch players from all walks of life. You could find the next Pedro Morales, Matias Laba, or Gershon Koffie. Pretty cool, right?

Cool? Yes you could say that. Glamorous? Not necessarily.

Today we take you back to November of 2010. The story features former Whitecaps FC director of soccer operations Tom Soehn, now an assistant coach with New England Revolution, and former head coach Teitur Thordarson, who was last at Norwegian second division club Drobak Frogn IL as head coach and sporting director.

The story follows the pair to Peru for a scouting trip leading into the club’s first season in MLS.

Those with Pteromerhanophobia (fear of flying) might want to abort reading.

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“How did you come to think about that story?” asked Thordarson when reached by phone in Oslo, as if to suggest that this experience should never be spoken of again.

It begins in Lima, Peru, where Tommy and Teitur had previously eyed a few prospects. After evaluating the local talent in Lima, they were scheduled to travel to Huánuco to see another player.

“We were talking to a coach in Lima and he said, ‘You’re flying in to Huánuco? You know that’s a tough flight,’” Soehn retold whitecapsfc.com.

Flying into Huanuco (courtesy of JustPlanes)

The location of Huánuco – a town in the Andes Mountains with a population of approximately 173,000 – makes it a difficult place to fly into. Getting to the town requires flying through a tight space, then just past an opening between the mountains the plane must drop downwards onto a narrow runway.

Despite the warning, everything seemed to be going fine for the ‘Caps contingent. After all, it was only an hour flight from Lima to Huánuco. But that relaxation surely started to evaporate when they found out that the pilot had never flown into Huánuco before.

In Tommy’s words, “we had no idea what we were getting into.”

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Despite a few nerves, Tommy and Teitur got on the flight. A leap of faith, perhaps.

After an easy start, the big moment came as they entered the Andes. As the plane squeezed between the mountains, the pilot came on the speaker and announced that there would be some turbulence. Still, Tommy and Teitur remained calm.

“It started to shake a little bit, which we thought was just normal,” remembers Thordarson. “Then, on the other side of the mountains, the plane started to go downwards into the valley. We also found that quite normal so we didn’t react in the beginning.”

But after a while, the plane began to nosedive.

“Not only that, but it started to turn and spin,” added Thordarson. “When we looked out the window we could see that the plane was going straight down, nose first. The motor was making terrible sounds and the whole plane was shaking. This went on for a while. It was absolutely a terrible feeling.”

In the midst of the turbulence, Soehn, Thordarson, and the agent they were travelling with all passed out.

After a brief unconsciousness, Tommy or Teitur woke first (depending on who you ask). What they both saw was everyone else around them still unconscious.

“My first reaction was ‘I just hope the pilot didn’t pass out’,” recalled an alarmed Soehn. “The agent we were with was just petrified.”

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Did the pilot pass out?

Luckily for everyone on the flight, the pilot maintained his consciousness. After heading for disaster, he was able to pull the plane out of the tailspin.

“I don’t know how that happened,” said Thordarson.

The trio were happy to be alive, but that flight never made it to Huánuco. Instead they were forced back to Lima.

Teitur's son is a pilot. Once they escaped their terrifying experience and landed back in Lima, the first thing he did was call his son.

“He explained to Teitur that [passing out] was actually from when the pilot pulled us out of the tailspin. The G-Force from getting out of that freefall, that thrust, forces you to pass out,” described a now-knowledgeable Soehn.

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Now back in Lima, it looked as if they might not see the player they’d come so far to scout.

But Tommy and Teitur were determined. They told the agent that they would need to book another flight the next day. The agent promptly replied that there was “no way” he would get back on that flight.

In the end, he was convinced.

“He sat in the middle again, literally shaking and panicking the whole way there.”

As luck would have it, the second flight turned out to be as smooth as could be – a beautiful day with no wind or turbulence, tells Soehn.

“It was actually pretty easy.”

They arrived safe and sound at the airport in Huánuco, “one runway and a shack”. But the adventure wasn’t quite done yet.

“We got into a car with one wheel in the front and two in the back. I’m not sure Teitur and I could fit without having our luggage with us, but we had three guys and our luggage,” recalls Soehn. “Teitur closed the door and it kind of fell off. The bottom of it was scraping on the ground as we were going the whole way there.”

“We just kind of looked at each other thinking, 'What did we get into?’ It was one for the record books.”

In the end, through all the turmoil, they finally made it to the field to see the player they'd come so far to see. And that's what's most important, right?

“The kicker of it all is that when we finally went to watch the player,” said Soehn as he took a deep breath and prepared to wrap-up the tale. “…he wasn't what we were hoping for.”

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