MLS Moves: Robinson stays with 'Caps, but changes coming

Three days after a 4-1 win over Portland ended a disappointing MLS season for Vancouver, the team ended speculation about the future by announcing a contract extension for head coach Carl Robinson and two of his assistant coaches.

Robinson, 40, just completed his third season in charge of the Whitecaps, who have qualified for the playoffs and won the Cascadia Cup twice during his tenure. This season Vancouver won its Concacaf Champions League group to qualify for the quarterfinals to be played early next year. He and the team had been discussing a new contract since midway through the 2016 season.

The former Wales international defender ended his playing career with the Red Bulls as a player-assistant coach in 2011 and joined the Whitecaps as an assistant to former head coach Martin Rennie in January 2012.

His contract has been extended through 2020. Assistant coaches Martyn Pert and Gordon Forrest have also agreed to multi-year extensions. Goalkeeper coach Marius Rovde will not return next season.

“The 2017 season started for us as soon as the final whistle went on Sunday,” said Whitecaps FC president Bob Lenarduzzi. “Today’s announcement is a statement that everyone is committed to the vision of our club.

“Carl’s body of work over the course of his five years at the club has shown that he is one of the top up-and-coming head coaches in North America. While this past season was certainly a learning experience for everyone involved within the club, we have complete faith in Carl’s continued vision in acquiring the necessary players to build a team that will compete with the best in MLS.”

Vancouver finished fifth in Robinson’s first season in charge and lost in the 2014 Knockout Round to FC Dallas. Last year it jumped to second place in his second season and tied for the league lead in fewest goals allowed (36), but was eliminated in the Western Conference semifinals by Portland, 2-0, on aggregate.

This year it plummeted to eighth place and conceded 52 goals while winning just 10 of 34 games. It had won 28 games in Robinson’s first two seasons.

“Things haven’t worked out this year for one reason or another,” said Robinson, was scheduled to leave Vancouver Thursday for a long scouting trip to South America. “We’ve got to be open about it and honest about it -- and we will, I will, the players will, the club will -- and get back to where we were. At this time last year, everyone was very excited.”

The team took some strides despite the poor finish in MLS. In its second season, the team’s reserve team, Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2, qualified for the USL playoffs and reached the Western Conference final. Alphonso Davies turned some heads while getting his first taste of first-team play at age 15. Marco Bustos, 20, a product of the club’s residency program and U-23 team, earned his third cap for Canada’s senior team.

“As we’ve said all along, we’re building the club for not only the short term, but the medium and long term as well,” said Robinson. “We’re excited to continue building our foundation. We’ve brought in a number of players who have contributed greatly to the successes that we have achieved so far. We have a comprehensive plan for 2017 and beyond; changes will be made and players will be brought in to give our fans the team that they deserve.”

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