BURNABY, B.C. - Asked how the Whitecaps could help the Canadian men's soccer program, Vancouver head coach Martin Rennie indicated that he had plenty to say.
"That's probably a three-hour interview," said Rennie after his Major League Soccer club's practice Friday.
Canadian Soccer Association president Peter Montagliani has expressed a desire to work more closely with Canada's three MLS soccer clubs in the wake of the Canadian men's humiliating 8-1 loss to Honduras in World Cup qualifying Tuesday.
Coach Stephen Hart resigned following the debacle, which resulted after Canada needed just a tie to advance to the next round of qualifying.
"If they were really interested in my opinion, then I'd be willing to sit down with the people from the CSA and give them my opinion on how I can help," said Rennie. "I don't really have an off-the-cuff answer, but I would be really interested to try and help with it."
"If" might be the key word in Rennie's comment. Canada's national men's soccer development system has often been viewed by insiders an ongoing turf war between various national and provincial factions. Montagliani is preaching co-operation now that the country is home to the Whitecaps, Toronto FC and Montreal Impact.
Speaking to reporters Friday on a conference call, Hart also said there must be a working relationship between Canada's soccer federations, associations and pro clubs.
Canada's men's squad has not qualified for the World Cup since 1986. Whitecaps president Bob Lenarduzzi played for that team and also coached the Canadian squad, and he has made no secret of his desire to help the program.
The Whitecaps, operating on a European club model that includes men's, women's, reserve and residency-program teams, have repeatedly stressed that they view the development of Canadian national team talent as one of their primary roles. Whitecaps owner Greg Kerfoot has also helped fund a national women's training program in the past.
The Caps are also developing the new $32.5-million training centre, funded by the team and the B.C. government, at the University of British Columbia, which is branded as the National Soccer Development Centre. Canadian women's team coach John Herdman, who lives in Vancouver, has said his club will make frequent use of the facility, which is due to be complete in 2013, but it's not yet clear whether the men's squad will do likewise.
Toronto FC is also developing a training facility that the national men's team could use.
Rennie, a 37-year-old Scotsman in his first season with Vancouver, welcomed Montagliani's plan to get the country's MLS clubs more involved in the national men's program. But Rennie wants any talk that he has with the CSA to lead to action.
"I'd love to help Canadian soccer," he said. "I see that as an important part of what we're doing. But it can't be something that we just talk about. It has to be something where there's actually a formal process to try and work together. And if that happens, I'd be very supportive of that."
There's that word again. If.
"There's no point in me just giving an opinion on (how the Whitecaps can help the national men's program)," said Rennie. "It's got to be thought through, and it's got to be given a long-term plan."