Carolina RailHawks president Curt Johnson leaned forward and delivered a message that RailHawks fans had been expecting for about a year. Coach Martin Rennie will be coaching a Major League Soccer team next season.
In the middle of his third season at Carolina, Rennie has agreed to take over the Vancouver Whitecaps of the MLS in 2012. Per his wishes, the Scotsman will finish the 2011 season with the RailHawks.
"This is a key part of what makes this agreement and this opportunity for Martin so positive," Johnson said.
To date, Rennie is 52-22-26 in all competition at Carolina, and RailHawks are running away with the second-division North American Soccer League at 14-3-2 overall, outscoring opponents 40-16.
Rennie's current players weren't shocked when he informed them of the news on Monday. There had been published reports that Rennie was interviewing for another MLS job, and that talks broke down when the reported team -- the Montreal Impact -- wanted the coach to leave Carolina immediately.
The gesture of loyalty during a dominant season has drawn the admiration of his players.
"That's why he's a successful coach. Everything he's done, he's 100 percent committed," team captain Kupono Low said. "To finish out the season and turn down a job, that says a lot. That's one of the things all of us love about him."
Rennie's contract with the RailHawks expires after this season, so Carolina will not receive any compensation for his departure to Vancouver. Johnson said that Rennie will not split time between the two places while the RailHawks continue to chase the NASL championship.
The Whitecaps, a former league opponent of Carolina, are in their first season of MLS competition and are in last place of the western division at 3-11-9 overall.
"Vancouver has a rich soccer history, fantastic supporters, and is moving to a new state-of-the-art stadium in the fall," said Rennie at his press conference, which was taking place in Vancouver simultaneously as Johnson delivered the news at the Page-Walker Arts and History Center in Cary.
Carolina will begin compiling a list of candidates to replace Rennie, with a goal of naming the replacement at about the time the coach leaves for Vancouver. Johnson said he hopes for a coach with Rennie's similar characteristics: a good communicator who can bring in players through his various connections.
Johnson reflected some on this past year, which included an ominous start while the franchise changed owners and did not know if its league would be sanctioned for the 2011 season. Now, the team's success can be seen with a coach adding to the number of former RailHawks players who have MLS opportunities.
"It furthers the spotlight on our organization. We had the spotlight in the offseason for some challenging reasons," Johnson said. "Now we have the spotlight on our organization for positive reasons."
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