A Quick Word: Martin Rennie on Shoring up the Defense of the Vancouver Whitecaps

Martin Rennie, the Whitecaps new coach. (Photo Courtesy The Vancouver Whitecaps/Major League Soccer)

By Kevin Koczwara

The Vancouver Whitecaps (3-6-0, 9 pts.) travelled to New England today for tomorrow’s game against the New England Revolution and I got to speak with the Whitecaps’ (5-2-2, 17 pts.)new coach Martin Rennie via phone after the team settled up in its hotel about his first year coaching in Major League Soccer and his team.

Under Rennie’s leadership, Vancouver has become one of the toughest sides in MLS to score against and the team got its first road win in the club’s short MLS history. The Whitecaps defense has the second best goals against record in  all of MLS, only seven goals allowed in nine league matches, and sits fourth in the Western Conference with three games in hand over leaders Real Salt Lake and one game in hand on the San Jose Earthquakes.

The Soccer Guys:  How do you feel about your season so far going into this game?

Martin Rennie: I think we feel like we’re making good progress. We had a good preseason and started the season reasonably well and we’re on a good run at the moment — five wins in a row. So we’re looking to just keep improving and winning if we can.

TSG: What’s been the biggest culture change from moving from the USL to MLS?

MR: I think there are a few things, especially in Vancouver where it’s a big club and there are big attendances every week and there’s so much media attention and interest every day, so that’s definitely different. The resources around the club in terms of staff and front office people. Just in terms of the league and the operation that surround it is a lot bigger. Every game is a tough game. All the players are tough players. So there are definitely some differences.

TSG: When you were hired what was one of the first things you wanted to do with this team?

MR:I think make it more solid defensively and harder to play against. I felt last season the Whitecaps had quite a few good players and at times played good stuff and created chances, but I felt they let a lot of goals [in] and that cost them quite a lot of games.

TSG: What was the big shift that made you so stingy this year? Was it tactics or personnel?

Tactical and the players that we signed, they’ve made a big difference. Just the whole mentality of the team: to be solid defensively and hard to playa against. It’s been a couple different things.

TSG: You have a lot of potential goalscorers, when will these guys break out and what do you think needs to happen to have them break out?

MR:Part of it I think is that Darren Mattocks and Etienne [Barbara] have been injured, and so has Camilo [Sanvezzo], and those are some guys who have a lot of firepower.

On Wednesday night was the first night we really had those guys back and I felt, especially Etienne and Darren, made an impact with their pace and their movement. Now that they’re available I think they’ll help us a lot. The other guys like [Sebastien] Le Toux, I mean he’s scored five goals already, and Eric [Hassli] scored two in the last three games, so I think guys are doing well, making progress, obviously they have to take their chances when they come along and we have to keep creating chances. If we do that I think we’ll score goals.

TSG: What are you hoping to see from your team tomorrow to get three points?

MR: I think on the road you always have got to make sure you manage the game and defend well as a team. Everyone needs to defend well and we’ve got to make sure we do that. At the same time we need to make sure we keep the ball when we get it and take our chances when they come along. We know that will be a tough game tomorrow against New England, every game in MLS is tough on the road and we’ve done well on the road so we want to make sure we keep that going.

The Vancouver Whitecaps take on the New England Revolution tomorrow night, Saturday May 11 at 7:30 p.m. ET on Direct Kick (USA), CSN New England (NE), Sportsnet One (VAN).

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