The defining moments of Whitecaps 2011 part 2: coaching catastrophe

November 21, 2011 at 10:06 pm | Posted in Whitecaps Season 2011 | 8 Comments

If there was a colossal blunder of the Vancouver Whitecaps 2011 season, it was the firing of Coach Teitur Thordarson after the first  12 MLS games.  When Thordarson was fired, the Whitecaps MLS record was not great, but was respectable for an expansion franchise:  one win, 5 losses (4 on the road) and six ties for 11 points was not a bad record for  a starter club.  The Whitecaps were 13 goals for, 17 against for a minus 4 GAA.

Should have kept him on

When you look at two of those ties, the home matches v Kansas City and the NE Revolution, it was clear that Teitur could coach the team to some extraordinary football achievements. Better still, the team was scoring goals. At least the Whitecaps were exciting when under Teitur.

After firing Thordarson, the Whitecaps put Director of Soccer Operations Tom Soehn, a man whose coaching pedigree and tactical understanding was far inferior,  in charge of coaching the club after Teitur.  Sadly, in doing so, the Whitecaps had unwittingly thrown in the towel for the year.  The Whitecaps fared even worse after Soehn took over, and his record over the next 12 MLS games was worse than Teitur’s: 3 ties 7losses and two wins for  10 points.  During Soehn’s early reign the Whitecaps had goals for of 12, and goals against 23 for a minus 11 GAA.  The statistics don’t lie: the team was poorer under Soehn.

Whereas Teitur played what I would characterize as direct attacking football with solid simple defending,  Soehn had the team playing some kind of murky possession football which resulted in some incredibly dull matches and some embarrassing defeats, notably to LA and DC United, both lost 4-0.  Even if we fans had a hard time figuring out what Soehn was doing, the players themselves seemed to understand it even less, as the morale in the squad went South and never really recovered.

The player who Soehn brought in to play his shapeless game was Peter Vagenas.  Vagenas, whose historical accomplishments in Major League Soccer are considerable, is basically yesterday’s man, a throwback to when the MLS had less quality.  Vagenas had a very limited passing range, could not defend or score, and was incapable of actually running faster than a canter.  That Soehn actually put this man in centre midfield to define this new style of play was astonishing, and it took him near the end of the season to figure it out other players, such as Khalfan, could actually attack, cross the ball, score  and run quickly.

Soehn went about blindly putting players from the squad into games whom Teitur had recognized as second-rate.  Players such as Morfaw, Duckett and Nanchoff had runs out and were quite shockingly bad and below MLS quality.

The biggest mistake of 2011: Tommy Soehn

While it is all reading tea leaves at this point, I believe the team would have fared better under Thordarson.  The Whitecaps took the impatient approach and fired the man who, In my view, would have led the team to greater respectability.  Even if it is unlikely we would have made the play offs, I figure we were good enough to be at least level with Chivas USA, and we most certainly would not have finished in last place.  Even if Teitur was not the man for 2012, they could have kept Rennie’s appointment a secret and fired Teitur in the off season.

To make matters worse, the Whitecaps brass announced in Mid-August 2011 that Martin Rennie would be taking over as head coach, but not until the 2012 season.  This announcement rendered the hapless Soehn a complete dead duck, and the team responded by being beaten 4-0 by DC United in their worst performance of the season.  While the Rennie announcement was good for the club, it was terrible for the 2011 season, which was effectively turned into a string of exhibition games for the players to show who could stick around for 2012.  Some players, noticeably Hassli and Chiumineto, appeared to lose all interest in playing and were eventually replaced by young players of lesser quality who were more hungry for a 2012 spot.

All in all, poor and untimely decisions regarding coaching personel by our front office set the tone for a very poor season on the pitch.  Though the team went on to get five more wins under Soehn, Some of the performances later on in the season were a disgrace to the club, in particular the BC Place opener against Portland, and the last game of the season against Colorado.  Watching these games led me to the conclusion that much of the squad needed to be replaced, even some sacred cows such as Chiumiento.

The ironic thing about all of this is that you can count on Martin Rennie playing a style closer to Teitur Thordarson than to Tommy Soehn.  Thank god for that.

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  1. Hi i agree and disagree. I do not believe the record was repectable- 1 win at game 12 (1/3rd the season) was unacceptable by any standard and at the time i felt he should be fired. Im sure JES will post a reply stating how due to pts-per-game , possesion play etc soehn was “better” but the simple fact is soehn came forward at game 12 stating he “only needs to do a few tweaks to turn this season around”. He is a disaster , much worse than tietur for all the reasons you listed and should be sent home to the U.S.

    Now i know people should not compare sports but the bc lions went 1-6 to start the season. That is the equivalent of starting approx 5-28 in hockey, 2-11-0 in mls and they stuck by their coach and finished 11-7 it can happen in sports. Tietur was no wally buono who proved he could win at the cfl level but tietur was a winner in his three years in the usl (sidenote Rennie  choked this year with the best team in the nasl in early rounds) and i feel i too may have been impatient.Rhm

  2. Well said….Before the 2011 MLS season started Tietur was interviewed and he expressed his dissapointment in how he was only signed on a 1 year deal , he said he had always signed 2 year deals at a minimum. So the writing was on the wall for him even prior to the season starting , unless we came out flying he was doomed. The way, the timing of all the Whitecaps hiring and firings of Managers is shocking ! Frankly Tom Sohen can move on as well ! Simply a case of to many cooks in the Kitchen, from Barber, to Lenarduzzi to Sohen. To bad to lose Kalfan in the Unprotected draft today , at least he had some creativity , when Sohen gave him some rare minutes!- Chris

  3. Aaahh, RHM you know me all too well. I won’t go into the details of why TT was a disaster for the Caps – we all know the argument but I will add 3 points.

    1) Every year under TT the Caps had a worse record – he took a cup winning team and drove it into the ground.

    2) Under TT the toughest team Caps played was Houston & Dallas. A full 8 of his 12 games were played against teams in the bottom 4 of the league (at the time we played them). This inability to get points against the bottom feeders of the league highlights how disasterous TT reign of errors was.

    3) TS stating he “only needs to do a few tweaks to turn this season around”. Very true. However it is also true that TT said just the exact same thing (virtually word for word!) the week before the New York game (his last game). To me this just demonstrates how similar TT and TS were.

    • you are suggesting that under another coach the whitecaps would have won the cup this year?

      • Not at all. They really needed another right back, if only for coverage and the desperately needed an attacking midfielder just to make us playoff material. But I do think that with coaching that was better than TT and/or TS we wouldn’t have got the wooden spoon.

  4. I won’t bother to pick apart every one of your statements but here are the highlights:
    “I figure we were good enough to be at least level with Chivas USA” But under TT we couldn’t even score a goal against them – at home. Simply not good enough.

    “they could have kept Rennie’s appointment a secret” Uhm, no they couldn’t. Both MR and Bobby L. said that it would have been impossible to have kept it a secret.

    TS “record over the next 12 MLS games was worse than Teitur’s” surely you jest? This is true only if you think that playing non-MLS Montreal on the road, NE, SKC, Toronto, Chivas, San Jose at home is equal to playing LA at home, RSL, SKC, Seattle, Colorado on the road. Seriously, can anyone say with a straight face that those 2 schedules are equal in difficulty?

    TS coaching “resulted in some incredibly dull matches and some embarrassing defeats” Yes but have you forgotten TT’s matches in Houston, Chicago, and Philly and at home to Chivas. Simply brutal. Please, please take off the rose coloured glasses.

    The real turning point of the season (though no one could have predicted it at the time) was the lose in New England. If TT’s ability to “coach the team to some extraordinary football achievements” had actually been real we wouldn’t have lost to such a crap team and we would have at least been spared the indignity of finishing last for the first time our history.

    • at one point the best starting center midfielders tuiter could muster were brovsky and harmse. blake wagner was a regular at left back. demerit was fequently injured. hassli was constsantly suspended. normally I would agree with you but I think the injuries/suspensions even it out. also for that new england game we basically player our second 11 because our staters needed to be rested for ncc.

      • True, during TT reign there were a lot of injuries to contend with but TS had injuries during his time & he did have to contend with the psychology of a team that had not won for almost 3 months under TT, so that has to be taken into account.

        And it is true that TT rested a lot of starters because of the NCC game and at the time I agreed that it was the right strategy but in hindsight it was the wrong thing to do. I am not slamming TT for this strategy but I will say that a lose on the road to a crap New England and a weak draw at home to a crap TFC casts a huge amount of doubt on TT ability to “coach the team to some extraordinary football achievements”. Sad results like these make the SKC game look more like a fluke than great coaching.


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