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Rennie to move from Carolina to the Whitecaps

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Martin Rennie will take over as head coach of the Vancouver Whitecaps in 2012.

The club announced the move on Tuesday — even though Rennie won’t be able to take the reins until he sees out the 2011 NASL season in Carolina, where his RailHawks are running away from the pack at the top of the table and scoring an average of more than two goals per game.

“Martin will be doing his job, to try and win Carolina a championship,” said Whitecaps president Bob Lenarduzzi. But, he said that there will be a high level of communication between Rennie and the rest of the Whitecaps’ brain trust in the months leading to the Scot’s move to the West Coast.

“Ever since I was a kid growing up in Scotland, I knew who the Vancouver Whitecaps were,” said Rennie, who admitted he’s been champing at the bit for the chance to moce from Div. 2 to the MLS level.

Interim coach Tom Soehn, who replaced the fired Teitur Thordarson, will move back to his director of operations role when Rennie comes on board.

The timing of the announcement is awfully peculiar. It will be a distraction for both the RailHawks and the Whitecaps. Rennie and the Whitecaps could easily have signed a deal and kept it quiet until the end of the NASL season. Rennie and the brass could have kept their relationship behind the scenes.

For the last-place Whitecaps, the need to announce a new coach so quickly — even though he won’t be behind the bench until 2012 — is a sign of just how desperately the club wants to turn the PR tide. Even after Sunday’s win over Chicago, the Whitecaps are mired in the last spot in the MLS table.


As well, the news makes the rest of 2011 a lame-duck season for the Whitecaps. There’s an admission that a change in direction is coming next year, and the rest of 2011 is about playing out the string. Surely, the playoffs are an unrealistic goal for this club — but the Whitecaps have now put the focus on 2012, not the opening of B.C. Place for soccer and the rest of the remaining home schedule.

But, it’s clear that the Whitecaps wanted to get Rennie’s name out there to give something for the supporters to hang onto – even if it makes the present seem like the past.

For the RailHawks, who have run away and hid at the top of the NASL table with a 14-3-2 record, there is the harsh reality that a Division-2 side that’s having a great year will be picked over by other clubs.

Captain Brad Rusin has already left the team for Danish side HB Koge.

NASL leading scorer Etienne Barbara and his attacking partner, former Real Salt Lake forward Pablo Campos, were reportedly offered a lucrative package deal to join an Iranian side, but they refused.

Will Rennie be able to bring some of the RailHawks with him to Vancouver? Not necessarily.

Before coming to the Whitecaps, Rennie’s name had been linked to the Montreal Impact.

While Montreal didn’t get Rennie, through the discovery-pick process the Impact will be able to go to the front of the line when picking players from NASL clubs as it prepares its MLS roster. Whether he was pulling the name out of the air or not, Impact sporting director Nick De Santis raised some eyebrows at a recent press conference when he mentioned Barbara as a player on whom Montreal has first right of refusal.

The Impact will be announcing its coach for the 2012 MLS season at a press conference Wednesday.

Carolina has a 12-point lead on second-place Puerto Rico Islanders in the NASL table. The RailHawks have scored 40 goals in just 19 games, and have become one of the best stories in North American soccer, no matter the league.

“On behalf of the entire RailHawks organization and our owners, Traffic Sports, I want to congratulate Martin,” said RailHawks President Curt Johnson in a release. “This is a well deserved opportunity. Vancouver is getting a talented, driven coach and someone who will represent their organization with a high level of professionalism. The RailHawks organization is in a unique position as we move toward the end of the regular season and the playoffs. I know Martin and our players are very focused on performing at their best in this big moment. When the time comes after our season we will celebrate with Martin and wish him well.”

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