Thursday, June 9, 2011

Soehn Replaces Thordarson On The Hot Seat

The firing of head coach Teitur Thordarson came as a surprise to most following the Whitecaps and MLS as it’s very rare for an expansion team to fire anyone during their first year.  What made it more shocking is that there were no whispers that Thordarson was even on the hot seat.  The organization at the press conference named their Director of soccer operations Tom Soehn as their interim choice for the remainder of the season.  While many assume that Soehn will return to his front office position once the season ends which will allow him to search for a coach, it may be that Soehn is now on the hot seat for both of his current positions.

The Whitecaps organization has already proven that they are very impatient when it comes to making changes to the technical staff.  Prior to the start of the season they offered their head coach a one year contract with option and then only gave Thordarson twelve games before letting him go.  With the change at the head coach spot it is Soehn now in charge and of course he was the one who made the calls and assembled the players on this roster. 

Prior to joining the Whitecaps, Tom Soehn was an assistant on two clubs (Chicago and DC United) before taking over as the head man at DC where after the three seasons and a 36-30-24 record he decided to not renew his contract and left the club.  He was hired by the Whitecaps to be their technical director in January of 2010 for his knowledge of the MLS, its players and complex regulations.  It was a perfect opportunity for the Whitecaps to get a leg up going into the 2011 season as anyone they signed could be brought up to MLS without any complication.

During the 2010 season Soehn brought in a total of fifteen players, during the two transfer windows, to compete for spots on the upcoming MLS roster.  Of those players only seven players made the thirty man MLS roster which is less than a 50% success rate.  Not exactly the percentage when looking to run a successful team.  Who can forget the massive flops that were Jonathan McDonald and Willis Forko or the fact the club failed in trying to bypass the MLS rules by slipping Cody Arnoux onto the roster.

After making DeMerit their first ever signing the Whitecaps selected ten players, via the expansion draft, with MLS experience.  This is where Soehn was to be the valuable piece for the Caps as his time in MLS would allow the Caps to make the best possible picks in preparation of the 2010 season.  Of the five players four have been injured, with three of them for a significant period, for part of the season and the other, Cannon, only recently gained his spot as a starter.  Of the ten selected five were traded away the same day for a combination of allocation money, two international spots and a 1st round draft pick. 

We don’t know how valuable the allocation money was, thanks to the privacy rules of MLS, and the 1st round pick was Nathan Sturgis, who has rarely played for TFC, for Michael Nanchoff which will still be reserved for judgment.  However the trading solid MLS players like Alan Gordon and Sanna Nyassi for two international spots that have yet to be used has been a waste so far.  Of course Soehn could make up for it with a couple of signed players during the summer but where will the Caps be in the standings and will it be too late for them to make a push for the playoffs at that point.

Being the MLS expert in the front office, Soehn must have backed the hiring of Thordarson to be their first coach in MLS.  What made the hiring puzzling was that at the recent presser that announced Thordarson was let go from his position, the front office staff stated that the club, in addition their poor record, was not playing an enjoying style of football.  They had seen the tactics that Thordarson had used over the last few seasons in Division 2 and should’ve been aware that the Icelandic coach was very set in his ways.  Then why did they offer him job and then on top of that only a one year contract with an option that made a lame duck coach.

The team claims they wanted to play a possession type of game but none of the central midfielder that have brought in by Soehn would be classified at this point as possession type midfielders and are more of the holding midfielder type.  In the soccer world arguably the midfielders that keep possession the best are from Latin countries and how many Latin midfielders did Soehn bring into the squad?  If you guessed zero then you would be correct.  In fact the Brazilian striker Camilo is the only Latin player on the roster and he joined the team late in preseason

When their expansion partners, Portland Timbers, noticed some holes in their roster during the preseason they traded for MLS veteran Jewsbury and signed internationals Perlaza and Chara while the Caps only brought in Hassli.  While the Caps only brought in five players through the expansion draft, the Timbers traded for an additional five players, including Jewsbury, bringing their total of players with 2010 MLS experience to ten.  The Caps decided to go with the players they already had and when you look at the standings its clear which strategy is working so far this season.

Throughout the build up to their first MLS season it was regularly announced at pressers that their goal was to become a ‘Top 25’ club in the world.    The Whitecaps have based their decisions on the way to run their organization via the Seattle and Toronto FC expansion teams.  They definitely noticed how Mo Johnston was given too much rope which eventually hung the entire franchise through his four year tenure.  While TFC started from scratch the Whitecaps were not the typical expansion club as they had more than a year to prepare for MLS. The organization do not want to repeat that history of TFC and with their expectations it should come as no surprise that if Soehn does not turn around the season in a positive way he could be on his way out of the organization.

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