VANCOUVER, B.C. — Watch out, Michael Nanchoff.
There was a new No. 13 at Swangard Stadium during a Whitecaps training session on Tuesday, but the face was a familiar one.
Whitecaps co-owner and basketball star Steve Nash suited up with the first team to stay fit during the NBA offseason — one that could be extended due to the ongoing labor dispute in that league.
“It was good, it was a lot of fun,” Nash told MLSsoccer.com following Tuesday’s training session. “For me, it’s a great opportunity not just to meet the players as a fan — it’s fun to get to meet them and know them — but as an owner, it’s also fun to get the temperature of the club and how the guys’ spirits are.”
Nash played as a striker and midfielder in his hometown of Victoria, B.C., during his time in youth soccer before eventually deciding to focus on basketball.
“Everyone knows he’s a big soccer fan and plays the game himself,” captain Jay DeMerit said. “To not play for a long time and step in with this group of guys shows the quality he has.”
While the 37-year-old looked fit and didn’t look too out of place, he’s not ready to quit his day job just yet.
“By the way I played today, they’re not going to have me come back for a while!” Nash joked with reporters. “But we should all be really excited. There’s a lot of positives — we’ve got a lot of good players, a great residency program, and on top of that, we’re moving into a new stadium. We’ve got the third-highest attendance in the league, so everyone should be really proud of the efforts this year.”
The former NBA Most Valuable Player also provided insight into the level of his involvement with key decisions the club has made this season, such as the two coaching changes.
“I leave it up to the guys who are working on this day in and day out,” Nash explained. “For me to come in and add value where I can is my benefit at this point. [The club is] in good hands — they don’t need to call on me for every decision, but I’m here as a resource [if needed].”
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com.