VANCOUVER, B.C. — Getting a new coach is always interesting, but the fact newly appointed Vancouver Whitecaps coach Martin Rennie won’t take the reins until 2012 is sure to raise a few eyebrows.
The unconventional decision allows Rennie to compete for a North American Soccer League title with his current team, the Carolina RailHawks, after losing in the finals to the Puerto Rico Islanders last season.
“I haven’t heard of anything like that before,” defender Jonathan Leathers told reporters after training on Tuesday. “But you have to stay focused on the job at hand, and that’s playing your own game.
“[Interim head coach Tom Soehn] has a lot of wisdom. He’s been in the game and he knows soccer. I’m just trying to learn as much as I can from him right now and then, when [Rennie] comes in, it will be a different style. But then we’ll try to mesh the two together.”
Despite the unusualness of the decision to allow Rennie to finish the 2011 season in Carolina, the Scot was quick to downplay the significance of his delayed start at the Whitecaps helm.
“I don’t think it will be awkward,” Rennie told reporters at a press conference at Empire Field. “I’m in an exciting job right now [with the RailHawks] and I’ve got a lot to look forward to for next season. The team I’ve got right now has so much work to do and a lot to focus on, but at the same time, I’ll enjoy learning more about the Whitecaps before I get here, so I don’t think it will be awkward at all.”
Soehn will move back upstairs following the season to focus on his role as director of soccer operations, but for the rest of this campaign will continue in the role of head coach he took over from Teitur Thordarson in late May.
“The Whitecaps are in good hands with Tommy and the staff here, and it gives me a chance to learn more about the players and what we need to do going forward,” Rennie said. “At the same time, it takes a lot to win games where I am [in Carolina], so I need to make sure I keep doing that too.”
Rennie had a meeting with his new charges following the announcement, but kept it brief. Captain Jay DeMerit, continuing his rehabilitation from a series of groin injuries, has been through coaching changes before.
“We’re all here to do a professional job, and [Rennie] will be in the wings watching and analyzing us, and being part of the group without being a part yet,” DeMerit said before a reserve match on Tuesday. “He’s here to support us and be another part of the staff and club. What’s important now is getting the right people and the right faces in with the right mentality. It seems that he’s one that the club think will be the [right] guy, and if that’s the case, that’s good for all of us.”
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter: @martinmacmahon