By most fans expectations, the Vancouver Whitecaps offseason has gone slowly, with little (positive) news. Despite missing the playoffs and having glaring holes in the lineup, rumors and actual roster moves were minimal. Most importantly, until the end of January the subtractions (Aird, Kudo, Morales, Perez, Smith, and Carducci) outweighed the additions (Greig, Richey, and Williams). However, one of the most destressing subtractions did not happen at the Vancouver Whitecaps level. It happened with the Vancouver Whitecaps II (ThunderCaps).
On December 14th, the Vancouver Whitecaps announced that ThunderCaps manager Alan Koch had left the club to become the director of scouting and analytics, and assistant coach, with FC Cincinnati. For some Caps fans this appeared to be a puzzling move. Why would a head coach of a USL team leave to become the assistant coach of another USL team? What probably played a role in that decision was FC Cincinnati’s ambition to become the next MLS team.
While it comes as a bit of a surprise, today Alan Koch was named the head coach of FC Cincinnati, as John Harkes was relieved of duty, rumored to be the result of a power struggle between the head coach and general manager and president Jeff Berding. And so, after two months, Koch is back as a USL head coach, but with the opportunity to a) manage a professional squad rather than a farm team (note: this is not meant as a slight) and b) potentially manage a MLS squad in a few years. Although we all wish Koch well and understand his decision to leave, the decision came at a great cost to the ThunderCaps.
As of today, the Vancouver Whitecaps II roster 8 players, with their first preseason match set for March 3rd and their first regular season match scheduled for March 25th. Despite being just over a month away from competitive matches, the team does not have enough players to field a Starting XI, let alone an entire squad, and more importantly have no head coach.
Of course, the roster will get filled out and at least a couple of those players will come from the senior Whitecaps squad, but the most destressing component is that there is no head coach in place. As I write this and reflect, I am torn as to my reaction to this. On the one hand, the ThunderCaps are a farm/developmental team for the Whitecaps and this delay creates a disconnect between the lower division ThunderCaps and the higher division Whitecaps. That is, the ‘pipeline’ is clogged. On the other hand, a rushed implementation of a head coach may be a bad idea given that the team is, essentially, a developmental squad. That is, Carl Robinson needs to hire someone that shares his vision and philosophy. Someone that he feels he is on the same page with and can communicate effectively. If you are wanting to develop players for your squad, you need to trust that the person developing said players is following your vision and desires. That could be a tough thing to find. Then again, other teams manage fine.
This may be getting into conspiracy theory, and it is important to note that I have absolutely no evidence of this, but I feel it is worth discussing. With the difficulties in landing talent this offseason combined with the inability to find a coach for Vancouver Whitecaps II, AND the departing of multiple coaches this offseason for jobs that look more lateral than steps up (Koch, Mark Watson, and Marius Rovde), it begs the question whether players and coaches are not believing in Carl Robinson or his vision. Are they finding him too difficult to work with? Too stubborn? Again, I have nothing to base this on except conjecture, but it is an interesting hypothesis.
What are your thoughts? Are you concerned that the Vancouver Whitecaps II do not have a head coach yet (2 months after the departure of their previous coach), given the importance of the team to the development of Vancouver Whitecaps players? Do you feel that this may be a sign of something more problematic under the surface?