Home MLS Vancouver Whitecaps Harris fits the bill for a Martin Rennie-coached team

Harris fits the bill for a Martin Rennie-coached team

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When the Vancouver Whitecaps announced Friday that veteran forward Atiba Harris would return to the club for 2012, there were probably more than a few MLS followers who had forgotten than the striker was even part of the team’s roster.

After a season of struggles, it might be hard to remember a time when the Whitecaps actually got off to a bright start to the season under then-coach Teitur Thordarson, playing a loose style of attacking soccer that saw them give up way too many goals, but also never be out of games. Harris was a big part of that. And then he suffered a knee injury that required surgery, and his season was done.

In five early-season starts, Harris had two goals and three assists.

In that thrilling 3-3 draw with Sporting Kansas City, which saw the Whitecaps come back from 3-1 down in stoppage time, Harris scored and set up Camilo’s equalizer. Harris did what he does best, chasing down what should have been a lost cause of a long ball up the pitch, gain control deep in the opposition end and then create a scoring chance.

Harris can be a brutal opponent to play against, tall and gangly, he is an energy player who saps the will from defenders. He doesn’t often score the goal himself, but his high-pressure game creates openings throughout the pitch.

And it’s no accident some of the Whitecaps’ best offensive days happened with Harris in the starting formation.

Harris scored in that season opening 4-2 win over Toronto, using his strength to beat a group of defenders to a scrambled corner kick. He also got an assist on Eric Hassli’s opening goal, the first marker in Whitecaps’ MLS history, when he deflected Davide Chiumiento’s cross into his fellow striker’s path.

If the Carolina RailHawks’ are a measuring stick, then we know that coach Martin Rennie likes big players who are tough for defenders to mark. He likes players who aren’t afraid to be physical. Etienne Barbara filled that bill in Carolina — and it means that players like Hassli and Harris could thrive under the new boss.

“Atiba is an experienced MLS player that does a lot of the little things right,” said Rennie in a release. “He is athletic, has a great work rate, holds the ball well, and forces defenders to make mistakes. He has worked hard to regain his fitness and we are excited to have him participating in full training sessions at the start of our January preseason training camp.”

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