[MLS SPOTLIGHT] If Vancouver head coach Martin Rennie goes about his business a little differently than most of his counterparts, that won’t bother team president Bob Lenarduzzi.
In the five months or so since Vancouver hired Rennie as its third MLS head coach, Lenarduzzi -- who coached Canada’s national team and several clubs after a 16-year pro playing career -- has learned many things about Rennie, including that the Scotsman likes his players to fit their positions. Literally.
“He’s pretty calculated,” says Lenarduzzi of the former Carolina Railhawks coach hired in August to replace Teitur Thordarson, who was dismissed after a dozen games and temporarily replaced by director of soccer operations Tom Soehn. “He has a plan and he knows exactly what he’s looking for with specific positions.
“Not just the type of player but actually even the size of a player he wants in a position. That was quite more detailed than what you would normally expect even for someone like me who’s coached before. My feeling always was if the player was good enough to play that position, size was irrelevant. He’s pretty adamant about what he’s looking for from a position-specific point of view.”
Prior to the SuperDraft, the Whitecaps signed a fleet of players, two of which -- former U.S. international Lee Nguyen and South Korean defender Young-Pyo Lee -- are on the smallish side at about 5-foot-9. To bolster the central defense, Argentine Martin Bonjour (6-foot-3, 190 pounds) has been added.
The 'Caps already have striker Eric Hassli, one of the biggest field players in the league at 6-foot-4, 200 pounds, as well as rather diminutive attackers Davide Chiumiento (5-foot-8) and Camilo (5-foot-7).
Neither of the Whitecaps’ two SuperDraft selections are physically extreme yet both come to the club well-regarded. Forward Darren Mattocks, the No. 2 overall selection, is a speedy 6-footer Rennie believes can supplement the strengths of his fellow attackers. Chris Estridge (5-foot-11, 160) is a right back who can also play in midfield.
The ‘Caps have nowhere to go but up: they won just six games in their expansion season and finished tied with New England at the bottom of the overall standings with 28 points (6-18-10). They also scored a league-low 35 goals.
“The tactics and everything will be different from before anyway,” said Rennie at the SuperDraft. “I’ve got my own ideas on that. I’m always looking for players who can get behind and stretch people and [Mattocks] does that. That’s his strength. He’s not necessarily the guy who always comes short for the ball, he’s the guy who goes in behind. In every league, it’s all about penetration and movement, and he’s got that.”
Aside from the size issue, Lenarduzzi is encouraged by the moves his head coach has made and believes the additions of Nguyen and Mattocks can pump up the attack. Last season, Camilo led the team with 12 goals and Hassli scored 10; the rest of the roster managed only 13.
“Martin in his previous coaching stints, he’s always been someone who’s very disciplined in terms of how he wants to defend but he likes to attack, so that’s a lot of attacking options to pick from,” says Lenarduzzi. “He’s very thorough and does his homework. I think that’s evident up to now; with players in and out, we’ve made 16 roster changes and there’s more to come.”