VANCOUVER - Having a first-hand look at his players during a mini-training camp has helped new Whitecaps coach Martin Rennie make some decisions about what the Major League Soccer team's roster will look like next season.
Rennie doesn't expect to announce any major roster moves until later this month but said the changes will be "somewhere in between'' minor tweaking and a significant overhaul.
"I think we do need to make some changes,'' Rennie said Thursday. "There will be turnover.
"Probably this year there might be a little bit more than normal just because it is an expansion team. We have a better idea of what holes we need to fill.''
Standing pat isn't an option for Vancouver.
The Whitecaps finished at the bottom of the standings in their inaugural MLS season with a 6-18-10 record. The team didn't win a game away from home. The 35 goals scored by the Whitecaps was the least in MLS and the 55 allowed was the third most.
The eight-day training camp was Rennie's first real chance to work with the team since being hired in August. He remained coach of the Carolina RailHawks of the North American Soccer League until the team's season ended.
Rennie was pleased to deal with the players in person after previously watching Whitecaps' games on television and video.
"You get to learn more about their personality and character,'' said Rennie. "Those things are very important.
"You get to see what the group dynamics are like. You can see their skill and technique up close. It was really useful.''
Watching the team in drills and two inter-squad games might have given some players who were on the bubble the chance to at least be invited back to another training camp.
"There were some guys I hadn't seen too much because they hadn't played on the first team or maybe too many reserve games,'' Rennie said.
"Some of those guys were a pleasant surprise.''
Some of the questions the Whitecaps face involve whether veteran Joe Cannon will return as a goalkeeper; the future of forward Davide Chiumiento, who saw his playing time reduced over the season; and what to do with Mustapha Jarju, the Gambian striker who didn't score a goal in 10 games after the Whitecaps signed him midway through the season as a designated player for a salary of US$426,883.
Rennie isn't afraid to shift players into different positions.
"If I think they can play better somewhere else I will start working with them on that position and see how it goes,'' he said. "There have been a few example of guys who have done pretty well in different positions.''
Rennie is excited about the future of striker Omar Salgado, the teenager Vancouver picked first overall in last year's MLS SuperDraft. Salgado appeared in 14 games, started five, and scored one goal.
"He's got a lot of potential,'' Rennie said. "I think we need to put together a proper plan for helping him develop.
"Over time I think he's a guy we can see big improvement from. He has a lot to offer.''
The Whitecaps must submit a list of 11 protected players by Nov. 21 for the league expansion draft that will be held Nov. 23. Generation Adidas players like Salgado and Michael Nanchoff plus homegrown talent like Russell Teibert and Brian Sylvestre are automatically protected.
Those not protected will be available for selection by the Montreal Impact who will join MLS in 2012.
"We have to see who doesn't get taken in the expansion draft,'' said Rennie. "Then we can tell players much more clearly what our plans are.''
There will be a brief league trading period after the MLS Cup on Nov. 20. Team officials are also planning trips to Central and South America to look at several different players.
"I think we can hopefully find at least one,'' Rennie said.
In January, Whitecaps staff will participate in a five-day MLS combine in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in preparation for the Jan. 12 SuperDraft. Vancouver will pick second overall behind Montreal in the two-round draft.
Rennie is the third Whitecaps' coach this year. Teitur Thordarson was fired just 12 games into the campaign and replaced by Tommy Soehn on an interim basis.Soehn has returned to his job of director of soccer operations.
Rennie was happy with how the players responded during the mini-camp.
"I've enjoyed getting to know the guys,'' he said. "I think they were very respectful and responsive to everything we've asked them to do.
"They have worked very hard considering it's the end of the season. It gives me a clearer idea on what we have to do to make the team better. I'm excited to be able to do that.''