BURNABY, British Columbia – Vancouver Whitecaps FC preseason training camp kicked up a notch this week as two of the most prolific players in club history were welcomed back into the fold.
No, Dale Mitchell and Carl Valentine won’t be coming out of retirement. But the former Canadian internationals were on hand as guest coaches, running the attacking players through drills for the last hour of practice.
“It’s good to have them here with us,” head coach Teitur Thordason said. “They’ll be working closely with the strikers and wingers.”
Both coaches know a thing or two about putting the ball in the net. Valentine is third all-time in scoring for the Whitecaps with 65 goals and 69 assists, while Mitchell is the all-time leading goalscorer for the Canadian men’s national team with 19 goals in 55 games.
The local legends bring a wealth of coaching experience with them. Valentine coached the ‘Caps from 1994 until 1999, and last year coached the Ottawa Fury of the PDL. Mitchell also spent time coaching the Whitecaps, as well as the U-20 Canadian national team, and most recently served as head coach of the Canadian senior men’s national team.
The inclusion of Mitchell and Valentine gives the Whitecaps high-quality coaching at every position. While the guest coaches work with the strikers and wingers, former Canadian national team stalwart and current assistant coach Colin Miller will keep an eye on the defenders, and former team captain Martin Nash will be working with the central midfielders.
“We’ll see,” Thordason said when asked about Mitchell and Valentine's long-term future with the club. “At this stage, they’re just guest coaches.”
Monday’s session also saw the addition of Chinese striker Tan Long, whose rights were acquired in a midseason USSF-D2 trade with FC Tampa Bay.
“He’s an athlete, that’s a good start,” Thordason said of Tan. “He is technically good, physically quite good. I haven’t seen how he is tactically, so I need a longer time to see that, but his individual qualities are very interesting.”
Absent from the field was center back Mouloud Akloul. The Frenchman will undergo a third surgery next week as he continues to recover from a broken left ankle.