Join Now  | 
Home About Contact Us Privacy & Security Advertise
Soccer America Daily Soccer World Daily Special Edition Around The Net Soccer Business Insider College Soccer Reporter Youth Soccer Reporter Soccer on TV Soccer America Classifieds Game Report
Paul Gardner: SoccerTalk Soccer America Confidential Youth Soccer Insider World Cup Watch
RSS Feeds Archives Manage Subscriptions Subscribe
Order Current Issue Subscribe Manage My Subscription Renew My Subscription Gift Subscription
My Account Join Now
Tournament Calendar Camps & Academies Soccer Glossary Classifieds
Tom Soehn heads back to the coaching grind
by Ridge Mahoney, June 1st, 2011 3:40PM
Subscribe to Soccer America Confidential

TAGS:  mls, vancouver whitecaps


By Ridge Mahoney

He was hired with the big picture in mind, but now Tom Soehn goes back to the 24/7 headache of head coaching in which any day could come disaster.

That’s a pessimistic, even fatalistic, viewpoint of course, yet the haunted, tortured demeanor that Soehn wore during his final months in charge of D.C. United bespoke of the pressure he felt as the 2009 season unraveled without a playoff appearance, just as had occurred the previous year.

In his first season, a first-round exit from the playoffs after topping the Eastern Conference with a 16-7-7 record soured a portion of the fan base, and discontent grew as United posted an 11-15-4 mark in 2008 despite winning the U.S. Open Cup. The following year, United won fewer games but accumulated more points: at 9-8-13, it finished in a three-way tie for the final playoff spot with 40 points, and lost out to eventual champion Real Salt Lake via tiebreakers.

When D.C. United dallied regarding a contract extension, Soehn removed himself from the process, and in January, 2010, took a role as director of soccer operations with Vancouver, which still had a season of second-division soccer ahead before it could join MLS. Whether or not team management has also hired him as a backup plan in case a coaching change was needed, that’s the job he has now, at least temporarily.

The Soehn Era starts Wednesday night at Home Depot Center against Chivas USA, which is in its own makeover mode. After a six-win season, management cut loose one former MLS defender, Martin Vasquez, and replaced him with another, the urbane and polished Robin Fraser, who when hired in January mentioned that converting a bad team into a good one is a 24/7 commitment until considerable progress is made.

Once the shock of Teitur Thordarson’s dismissal wears off, Soehn and the Whitecaps can prove that an 11-game winless run isn’t truly what they are, and rather than a bad team, Vancouver is just off to a bad start. There are some prized pieces to work with: forward Eric Hassli is a handful, as is winger Davide Chiumiento, and if defender Alain Rochat could be fitted into the same position game after game he might bring some stability to a rickety back line.

Soehn could do with some luck regarding injuries, as defender Jay DeMerit, goalkeeper Joe Cannon, midfielder John Thorrington, and forward Atiba Harris – all probable starters – have missed most of the season. When Thordarson’s dismissal was announced, team captain DeMerit remarked that despite the poor record, Thordarson hadn’t “lost the locker room,” declaring the players hadn’t tuned out the man in charge.

Vancouver tried to cut a new course when it moved up to MLS by retaining Thordarson, hired in December, 2007, as its head coach. When they made the jump, Toronto FC, Seattle and Portland all reassigned their head coaches to different positions, and hired other men to run the ship. Train-wreck Toronto has changed coaches several times since then, Sigi Schmid is on the hot seat in Year 3 with Seattle, and John Spencer has so far utterly charmed the Rose City. We’ll have to see what happens when Montreal graduates next year.

Thordarson won the USL title in 2008 and reached the final again in 2009, so he had a track record of success in North America. He consulted with Soehn and team officials regarding major decisions: the signing of DeMerit, the selection of 17-year-old Omar Salgado with the No. 1 SuperDraft pick, the choices made in the Expansion Draft.

Whatever role he played in the long-term future of the team, Soehn is now in charge of the here and now. He has experience as a professional indoor player and a long stint as an assistant coach in Chicago as well as his stint at D.C. United to draw upon, but in the relatively short history of MLS, no head coach has performed better the second time around.

He’ll do well enough to stabilize the squad and get it moving in the right direction as the Whitecaps prepare their move to a renovated B.C. Place in September. In the short term -- as coaches juggle their rosters to account for Gold Cup absences – after Chivas USA, Vancouver moves on to Salt Lake City, where RSL will be anxious to make amends after losing its first home league game since 2009. Then the ‘Caps head to Seattle for the first MLS renewal of a cross-border rivalry that dates back to the North American Soccer League days.

That rough run should reveal how much difference Soehn can make, and whether the season can be salvaged or it’s time to start thinking about the next one.

  1. David Sirias
    commented on: June 1, 2011 at 5:29 p.m.
    How is it that Vancouver's owners put Soehn in charge of anything? Who decided that the most of the USL Whitecaps could make a go of it MLS. Oh....Soehn, the great mind behind the great DCU teams. Oh, wait.. ...... My prediction. Soehn is gone by this time next year. It's a shame because Vacouver has some talent and can be entertainintg at times.

Sign in to leave a comment. Don't have an account? Join Now



Recent Soccer America Confidential
FC Dallas is adding to the tasks of Kellyn Acosta in Diaz's absence    
Several FCD players are stepping up their games in the absence of playmaker Mauro Diaz, who ...
Amercan soccer looks pretty good while looking back at past failures    
If you didn't see it, please check out the excellent story written by my friend and ...
World Cup is opportunity personified for game in Canada    
Just playing in the World Cup, which Canada hasn't done in more than 30 years, would ...
U.S. women strengthen their influence and power with new CBA deal    
Once the U.S. women's players had wrested control of their destinies away from a hired gun, ...
Three MLS teams in need of answers -- quickly    
The Union has yet to establish itself as a threat in the Eastern Conference, and after ...
Dempsey: Qualifying for the World Cup is bigger than breaking scoring records    
In his bid to "stay relevant" and in the plans of national team head coach Bruce ...
Bruce Arena makes the USA fun to watch    
Before Friday's game against Honduras, I wondered whether the U.S. national team would bring joy to ...
Michael Bradley: USA prepared 'to tilt the bar in our favor' early against Honduras    
As they train in San Jose for a crucial Hexagonal match against Honduras on Friday, the ...
Next move for Real Salt Lake is the most crucial in a decade    
The history of RSL is one of remarkable stability -- just three head coaches since starting ...
U.S. roster announcement: Bruce Arena's return marked by a singleness of purpose    
Multiply the left-back debate with a few more positions each with several candidates and you'll have ...
>> Soccer America Confidential Archives