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Wileman: New coach Robinson learning quickly with Whitecaps

Luke Wileman
1/22/2014 10:10:11 AM
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At least Carl Robinson can still smile. Just a month into his time as Vancouver Whitecaps head coach, the former Wales international has had more than his fair share of issues to deal with, but throughout a period he describes as "crazy," he has showcased the level-headed and honest approach he promised when he was appointed.

Days after being handed the job, Robinson had to deal with his star striker Camilo walking out on the club in dramatic and unparalleled fashion. That eventually led to an in-person meeting with the Whitecaps leading scorer in Mexico and the resultant departure of the Brazilian. Then hours after his first MLS SuperDraft, Robinson's next task was to address the fact that one of his top ten picks is under contract with another club.

"Thrown in at the deep end I think is a fair thing to say," said Robinson. "It's not troublesome. It's a learning curve. It's my first job, but all the preparation I have done over the last seven years to get my qualifications has stood me in good stead for this. I didn't realize it would come this early but I've dealt with it professionally and honestly. I'm sure I'll be a better person from it and a better head coach moving forward."

There's been plenty of finger pointing throughout the Camilo saga. Was he led astray by his agent? Could the club have done more? Should MLS have taken the case to FIFA? The fact is the Brazilian just didn't want to be in Vancouver. There was no loyalty. His past talk about loving the city, the club and the fans was proven to be nonsense.

If he had any interest in playing for the 'Caps, Camilo would likely have been sitting down with the club this week to negotiate another new contract – his second renegotiation in three years – ahead of joining the team for preseason. Instead, he chose to pull on another team's jersey and force his way out of Vancouver. "I spoke to him 24 hours after getting the job, but I do believe by then his mind had been made up," said Robinson about a situation he has never previously encountered in 25 years of professional football.

"It got into a messy situation but we needed to work out a solution. It's a significant amount of money and it will help us rebuild this club over the next year. I'm looking at good players and good players cost money."

The problem is, Camilo's actions actually worked. He got what he wanted, and now a dangerous precedent has been set within Major League Soccer for any other players wanting to 'do a Camilo.' There's little doubt it will happen, unless the situation is quickly addressed by MLS headquarters. The league's relative silence through the whole issue was disappointing.

Transparency, or lack of it, has been a key theme in recent times in MLS. Commissioner Don Garber talks of the need to improve the situation, but both the Camilo saga and the handling of the Andre Lewis situation has shown there is still much work to be done.

As for the Whitecaps, they will open preseason training camp with many holes still to fill in their squad. Following Camilo's departure they should now have the resources available to ensure they have the players in place in plenty of time ahead of the season opener against New York Red Bulls on March 8 (live on TSN).

"Over the last few weeks we've had a lot to deal with, but we've been working hard in the background," said Robinson. "I've identified new players and hopefully over the next few days and weeks there will be a lot of players coming in.

"We've got some fantastic young players in place as well as the senior players already here so there is a very strong nucleus at the club. We're excited for the season ahead and the pieces we can bring in. There will be a number of signings coming in."

The re-signing of Captain Jay DeMerit was the first piece of positive news to come out of the 'Caps camp in 2014, but there needs to be much more to follow to ensure Robinson is given the tools he needs to succeed in his rookie year as a head coach.

Luke Wileman

Luke Wileman


Luke Wileman is an analyst for TSN's soccer coverage and his blog can be read on TSN.ca.

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