WASHINGTON — When D.C. United and the Vancouver Whitecaps meet for the first time in league history on Saturday (7:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online), a very familiar face will be in charge of the opposition.
Former DC coach Tom Soehn has been a figurehead for the ‘Caps all season, serving as the technical director and now the interim head coach before the club welcomes Martin Rennie to the post for the 2012 season.
But before he was anything with Vancouver he was a success with DC, leading the team from 2007-09 and to a Supporters’ Shield in 2007.
And with current head coach Ben Olsen suspended after he was sent off during the club’s 3-3 draw against Toronto FC last weekend, Soehn will coach against his former assistant in DC, Chad Ashton.
“It’ll be a little awkward,” Ashton said. “We’re both competitive. It doesn’t matter if we’re playing checkers or we’re coaching against each other, we always want to win.”
Plenty of other DC players have ties to Soehn. Though there's been some roster turnover since Soehn’s tenure ended in 2009, players such as Clyde Simms, Chris Pontius, Dejan Jakovic and Devon McTavish are among those still around.
Forward Josh Wolff was actually teammates with Soehn in 1998 with the Chicago Fire.
“[He’s] very observant of what’s going on around him, knows how to try to get guys to succeed, get the best out of guys,” Wolff said.
Ashton and the rest of D.C. United aren’t going to take Soehn and his Whitecaps squad lightly, despite their 3-11-9 record and spot at the bottom of the Western Conference. The expansion club has been bogged down with fitness woes for most of their debut season in MLS, but they came to life last Sunday with a 4-2 win against the Chicago Fire.
“I think the biggest difficulty for them has been injuries,” Ashton said. “They’re a much different team when they’re healthy. You saw them play Chicago, they dismantled Chicago [last weekend].”
Travis Clark covers D.C. United, College and Youth soccer for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter: @travismclark.