VANCOUVER, B.C. – The new boss is in town.
Martin Rennie officially took the reins of the Vancouver Whitecaps on Wednesday, addressing media for the first time since August when he was named as head coach starting in the 2012 season.
The 36-year-old was present for the first day of an eight-day evaluation camp he has set up to run the rule over his new charges.
“The first objective for me is to give these guys a fair chance,” Rennie said Wednesday. “They’ve been through a lot this season. As you build a team from scratch, it takes a lot of work and there’ll be a lot of ups and downs, but these guys get to show me what they can do over the next two weeks.”
Rennie told media he’s been watching matches from afar and going over DVDs of Reserve League matches while wrapping up the NASL season with the Carolina RailHawks.
While the Scotsman acknowledges the Whitecaps need to make adjustments, he says there’s a core he can build upon.
“We have to add certain aspects to our game and improve certain areas, and I think most people would agree with that,” Rennie said. “When it’s an expansion team after the first year, you would expect there to be additions that need to be made and changes that need to be made, so there is an element of that, but not quite like Carolina where I came in and only kept two players.”
All 28 players on the Whitecaps' MLS roster are taking part in the camp, in addition to residency players Bryce Alderson, Caleb Clarke and Ben Fisk, Premier Development League player Derek Bassi and trialists Ridge Mobulu and Omar Elmasri.
Rennie was frank following his first session with the squad.
“We need to improve a lot from where we are,” Rennie said. “Just being honest – it was the first day, so guys are obviously just finding their way with me, but we need to improve it considerably from where we are right now.”
Ritchie joins Whitecaps setup
Rennie started his Vancouver Whitecaps tenure on Wednesday without any of his own men on the coaching staff. On Thursday, that changed.
Paul Ritchie, Rennie’s assistant at the RailHawks for the last two seasons, will take up the No. 2 role in Vancouver. Like Rennie, Ritchie is a 36-year-old Scot relishing the opportunity to build something special in Vancouver.
“I’m looking forward to next season already,” Ritchie told MLSsoccer.com by phone Wednesday evening. “We had a few good results near the end of the season and that’s something to build on.”
The two hope to continue a fruitful relationship that has made the RailHawks one of the most feared sides in second-tier North American soccer. The pair navigated Carolina to a USSF-D2 playoff final last year, and an NASL regular-season title this season.
Ritchie emphasized the impressive Vancouver displays at the end of the season.
“There were a lot of good performances from a number of players,” he said. “The new stadium will be a fantastic piece for next year, so when we start our season next year we want to make that environment a place people fear to come to. We want to create an environment where people are fearful of Vancouver Whitecaps.”
Ritchie also believes he and Rennie have taken over a side who can compete at the top of the league for many season to come.
“There’s great potential here to have a great franchise which can compete at the top level of MLS,” Ritchie said. “That’s something that Martin and I are looking to achieve – we’re looking to take this club forward, we’re looking to make this club successful, and that’s something that’s very achievable here.”
Nizar Khalfan and Carlyle Mitchell have been called up for 2014 World Cup 2014 qualifying matches with Tanzania and Trinidad and Tobago, respectively.
Khalfan leaves on Thursday to link up with his country for a two-leg series against Chad in the African qualifying region, while Mitchell leaves on Sunday, hoping to help his homeland leapfrog Guyana in Group B of round 2 in the CONCACAF qualifying region.
Omar Salgado will also get a chance to pick up some more international experience, as he’s been selected for his first-ever US Under-23 squad. The Americans are preparing for London 2012 Olympic qualifying with a training camp in Duisburg, Germany, and will play a pair of friendlies against yet-to-be-announced opposition.
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com.