VANCOUVER - The struggling Vancouver Whitecaps swear they haven't given up on their first season in Major League Soccer but the team has already named a new coach for next year.
The Whitecaps announced Tuesday that Martin Rennie will coach the team for the 2012 season. Rennie, who brings an impressive coaching resume, will remain in his current job with the Carolina RailHawks of the North American Soccer League until their season ends.
Tommy Soehn will continue as Vancouver's coach for the final 10 games of this season, then return to his job of director of soccer operations.
The timing of the announcement may seem strange, but Whitecaps president Bob Lenarduzzi said the club needed to act quickly.
"There were other clubs that were interested in Martin," Lenarduzzi told a news conference. "That is why we made the move as early as we did.
"He is our first choice partially because he is someone that is consistent with our philosophies on how the game should be played."
Rennie doesn't see any problem finishing the season with one team while already thinking ahead to how he can improve another club.
"I don't think it will be awkward," said the 36-year-old native of Thurso, Scotland.
"The Whitecaps are in good hands here with Tommy and the staff they have here. It gives me a chance to learn more about the players and what we need moving forward. At the same time it takes a lot of work to run games where I am. I need to keep doing that too."
Rennie has the RailHawks in first place in the NASL with a 14-3-2 record. He led the club to a conference title last year before losing the championship 3-1 on aggregate to Puerto Rico.
He favours a ball possession game but also likes his team to score goals.
"I like to penetrate when we get into the opposition half," he said. "I like to also make it very hard to play against us.
"We looked to build from the back and play entertaining soccer."
Soehn, who took over as coach when Teitur Thordarson was fired just 12 games into the season, said he will be in constant contact with Rennie.
"It's still my job of building this team," said Soehn. "The main focus is we still want to achieve the maximum points we can achieve this year.
"We are going to continue to work very hard to achieve that."
For the Whitecaps players, it was business as usual as they prepared for Sunday's game against D.C. United in Washington.
"We all want to win and finish the season strong," goalkeeper Jay Nolly said after practice. "The players still have a lot to prove.
"Tommy is still our coach and he's still going to be part of the organization. Everybody wants to work hard for him."
The Whitecaps have had as many wins in their inaugural MLS season as coaches. The club sits last in the Western Conference with a 3-11-9 record.
Vancouver's record was 1-5-6 when Thordarson was released.
Soehn's second win of the season came Sunday, a 4-2 victory against a Chicago Fire team that is last in the Eastern Conference.
"It appears as though it is a lot of coaches in a short period of time," agreed Lenarduzzi. "If expectations is we just freeze and stay as is, I'm not so sure that is good either.
"It's a move that allows us to finish off this season on a high and look forward to an off-season of adding to the good core of players we have got."
Rennie said the Whitecaps have a solid fountain to build from.
"I think there are a lot of good players here," said the former midfielder. "I think there is a lot of potential on the field.
"It's not starting from scratch. That to me is very important."
Rennie has been nominated as coach of the year four straight seasons, winning in 2008 while coaching the Cleveland City Stars to the USL third division title.
His playing career was cut short by a knee injury but he obtained his UEFA 'A' coaching license at age 26.
There was speculation Rennie was one of the candidates for the head coaching job with the Montreal Impact, who will join MLS next year. The Impact is expected to name its coach for next season Wednesday.
"Over the last few months I have had quite a lot of offers from different clubs," said Rennie. "I don't think it's fair to talk about who they are.
"The most important thing is I'm going to have the chance to come here. This by far is my No. 1 choice."
Lenarduzzi isn't worried players may tune Soehn out for the rest of the season.
"If they do it would at their own peril," he said. "There is everything for them to prove.