Former Carolina RailHawks coach Martin Rennie will return to the scene of his Carolina successes over the last three seasons on Sunday March 4th. But on this occasion he will be coaching the opposing side, the Vancouver Whitecaps of MLS, when they meet the RailHawks in the opener of Carolina’s preseason.
Rennie was announced as the new coach of the Whitecaps this summer, but stayed on with the RailHawks, leading them to the NASL regular season title before they suffered a season-ending slump and were eliminated in the playoffs by eventual champions the NSC Minnesota Stars. In 2010, Rennie coached the RailHawks to the NASL finals, where they were upended by the Puerto Rico Islanders and in his inaugural 2009 season at the RailHawks helm, the 36-year-old Scot brought the struggling RailHawks franchise to within two points of the USL -1 title after the club had finished in the league’s 8th spot the preceding two seasons.
“It is very exciting to have the opportunity to return to Carolina so soon after winning the NASL Regular Season Championship with the RailHawks,” said Rennie. “The game against the RailHawks will be the Whitecaps’ final preparation before the start of the MLS season and we know that we will receive a very competitive game that will help us prepare for a very important season.”
Rennie will have his work cut out for him with the Whitecaps. In their first season in the MLS, the club finished last in the league’s Western Conference with 28 points, tied for worst in MLS with the New England Revolution. Coach Teitur Thordarson was fired in May, with club Director of Soccer Tom Soehn coaching the club for the remainder of the season. Rennie was named head coach for the Whitecaps’ 2012 season in early August and officially took over the reins in early November. The Whitecaps struggled terribly away from home, failing to win a game on the road and only gaining five points in 17 road fixtures. But Rennie, well-known as an astute evaluator of player talent, has already begun making player personnel changes in the few weeks since he took over.
The March friendly between the RailHawks and Whitecaps will mark the seventh time the D2 side has faced an MLS team. The RailHawks have won three and lost three of those previous six encounters. The RailHawks were 2-7-3 against the Whitecaps when the two teams were D2 rivals.