Whitecaps coach Teitur Thordarson (TT) has accepted a new one year deal to coach the Whitecaps. TT has been a tremendous success when you look at his record. We won the championship in his first year in 2008, and he took us all the way to the final this year only to be cruelly cut down by poor refereeing in the final. While one could argue that he inherited a good team in 2008, he did select the team wisely and brought in some very good players, notably Charles Gbeke and Wesley Charles, who were key in winning the championship. His taking the 2009 team to the USL-1 final was arguably a greater achievement, because the team was quite poor in reality, especially defensively.
TT is popular with the fans and is a very likeable character. He coaches his team to play attacking and exciting football, which is what we fans want. The Whitecaps learned a lesson when it hired successful but conservative Bob Lilley as coach. Lilley brought us a championship in 2006 but played a pretty boring brand of football. He was let go after a dour and unsuccessful 2007 season, after which it was clear that the Whitecaps fans wanted a coach who would attack, attack, attack. After all, What is the point of playing boring football at our level?
I admire TT tremendously. He is a good technician, though his failure to organize the team defensively and to settle on a central defensive pairing this year caused me concern. While TT was hired to attack, what will make or break him in terms of success next year, or possibly in MLS the year after, will be his ability to get our defensive woes under control.
The newly formed NASL (North American Soccer League) struck another blow to the USL-1 today as the Rochester Rhinos opted to leave USL-1 and join the NASL. If the result of the war between USL-1 and NASL was ever in any doubt, I can’t see the USL-1 recovering from this blow. Rochester was the marquee franchise of the USL-1. Though it has suffered some financial blows and ownership troubles more recently, Rochester built its own soccer specific stadium at a time when many Major League Soccer teams could not get it together to do so. The NASL now has 10 teams in its league, and USL-1 only has four: Portland, Puerto Rico, Austin, and Cleveland. To further add to USL-1’s troubles, it also lost the Charleston Battery to its own second division.
Now that Rochester has come over to the NASL, look for Puerto Rico and Portland to come over as well. My guess is the stronger USL-1 teams will join the NASL and the weaker ones will follow Charleston down to the USL second division. The NASL will now essentially be division 2 in Canadian and American football to the MLS.
It looks like game, set and match for the NASL. Next year is looking much brighter indeed for Whitecaps fans. I won’t be entirely happy until I see Puerto Rico and Portland involved, however. These are keen rivals of ours and it would be a shame to miss out on watching them in our last year before MLS.
Today the Whitecaps set the tone for the future by hiring a new Chief Executive Officer, a fellow from Tottenham Hotspur, called Paul Barber. Remarkably, he is leaving his post as executive director of Tottenham to come to Vancouver. Leaving Tottenham Hotspur must have been no easy choice for Barber, who is 42 years of age. Spurs are currently a club on the rise, looking as though they might be able to attain fourth place in the Premiership and with it the holy grail of European football, Champions League qualification.
It is really a feather in the cap of the Whitecaps that they could attract such a fellow. I suppose the challenge of cultivating a football market which is ready to explode and a budding club structure with great potential must have proven tempting for a person of vision. The sky is the limit for the Vancouver Whitecaps, who will soon join Seattle and TFC as spectacularly successful freshmen in Major League Soccer. This must be an exciting prospect for a fellow like Barber. He will get on well with Steve Nash, one of the Whitecaps owners who is a Tottenham fanatic. I sense a friendly with the Spurs here in Vancouver may well be on the cards! I will place a safe bet on it.
The Whitecaps front office will also feature Bob Lenarduzzi as President and the very impressive and capable Rachel Lewis, who will be Chief Operating Officer. It looks like a great team and Paul will be a good addition to the Whitecaps.
Welcome aboard Paul Barber! Now we have to work on forgiving him for being a Spurs fan…
The Team Owner’s Association (TOA) has gone retro for its new league name. It is calling its new league the North American Soccer League (NASL for short), which was the name of the highest profile former North American footy league which went defunct in 1984. The former NASL was like a meteor which was brilliant for a brief time and then faded just as rapidly. It enjoyed its peak from 1977 until 1981 before going into steep decline and disappearing altogether in 1984.
How the TOA get its hands on the name? I am not sure if anyone owned the rights to the name, and, if so, how much did the TOA pay? Whatever it was, it was money well spent because many of us remember that name, and in terms of name recognition, the NASL already beats USL-1 in spite of being defunct as an active name for 24 years or so.
I wonder where all of this is going? I remember when the Whitecaps announced their stadium plans to a meeting of season ticket holders years ago, Bob Lenarduzzi said that he saw the USL as a kind of rival to the MLS, and that perhaps there might be a merger of the two leagues one day as happened with the National Baskeball Association and the American Basketball Association. While the NASL have applied to the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) for division 2 status, who knows what the ultimate ambition of the NASL is.
What the USSF will do is beyond me, because the USL-1 is already recognized as division 2 to the MLS. No doubt the USSF will face some stern lobbying and perhaps legal action from the USL-1 if it confers division 2 status on the NASL.
The TOA won a victory last week by coaxing the Tampa Bay Rowdies and Crystal Palace Baltimore into their fold, and I see the branding of their new league as the NASL as being another victory for the TOA. So far, the USL-1 has not been able to respond to the TOA in terms of marketing itself in its old form and seem to be caught flat-footed. The TOA, being new, can invent their league from the ground up. The USL-1 seems to be bogged down and lacking for new ideas. So far they have limited their actions to lobbying and the threat of legal action. They are in defensive mode.
So far the score is TOA 2 USL-1 0. But the game is not over yet…