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Evaluation camp gives Whitecaps' Nolly shot at redemption

Jay Nolly of the Vancouver Whitecaps

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VANCOUVER, B.C. – Goalkeeper Jay Nolly has been with the Vancouver Whitecaps for four seasons. He’d like to make it five.

The 6-foot-3 Orlando native was a big part of the club’s success in the lower tiers of North American soccer prior to Vancouver’s move to MLS in 2011. He helped the ‘Caps claim a USL-1 Championship in 2008, and his individual excellence earned him the USSF D-2 Goalkeeper of the Year award in 2010.

But 2011 was a different story. When former head coach Teitur Thordarson lost his job, director of soccer operations Tom Soehn stepped in as interim head coach and benched Nolly in favor of Joe Cannon.

With Martin Rennie now at the helm and holding an evaluation camp this week, the 29-year-old netminder has a chance to get back in his coach's good graces.

“It’s always tough,” Nolly said. “You put yourself in a position to play and I got to do it in the beginning of the season, but things weren’t going the team’s way, so I didn’t argue with the decision when I was dropped. You want the best for your team, and now I’m in a role where I need to try and fight back to try and get it."

Nolly hopes a good showing in camp will convince the club to exercise the option on his contract and give him another shot at being the first-string ‘keeper.

The eight-day camp continues into this weekend, and players have been responding.

“You could tell the intensity was definitely high,” Nolly told MLSsoccer.com by phone on Wednesday. “This is a time where a coach is seeing what kind of players he has. He’s going to make decisions after these eight days. Everybody has a great attitude about things – they want to play, have fun and work hard, but in the back of their minds they know this little period of time means a lot.”

And perhaps even more so for Nolly. The 29-year-old has only started three matches since the Whitecaps’ coaching change in May, limiting the body of work the coaches can look at.

“The goalie coach [Martin Røvde] and everyone have been great with me about keeping a good attitude and working hard,” Nolly said. “I’ve gotten to play some of the reserve games as well. We do play a lot during the week – we do a lot of full-field games [during training]. I’m taking this as if it’s normal training and not worrying about what’s on the other side of it.”

In preparation of the camp Nolly put in some extra days with the U-18 team to try and give himself an edge.

“I have nothing bad to say about the organization over the four years I’ve been here, and that’s why I want to continue working for this team,” Nolly said. “Under a new coach, it’s kind of a clean slate for everybody. This is a good opportunity for us to show him our attitude and show him who we are, and what type of player we are.

“You can tell everybody would like to stay in this organization,” he continued. “It’s a great place to be a player and we just hope we can continue on and be better for next year.”

Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com.