To many, Jake DeClute is the one with the beard, the American, or the fourth guy. And quite frankly, the rest probably don’t know him at all.
And while he never played for Wolves, Sunderland, Hearts, or City, he did spend six years at Wheaton College, assisting Joe Bean, the winningest head coach at any level in American college men’s soccer history. In 2006, they won the NCAA Division III championship, and the number two ranking of the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA).
While others have come and gone, Jake DeClute has been a constant in Martin Rennie’s coaching staff, ever since their days with the Cascade Surge. "That’s where I started working with Martin in the summers, in a PDL team out in Oregon." That year, the Surge had a 12-2-2 record, good enough for sixth place in the 54 club PDL.
"That’s how we started to connect up. We kept together when he moved to Cleveland. I was his assistant at Cleveland City. Then I took a head job as a college coach where my sister and brother-in-law were there."
That would be the Fighting Scots of Gordon College.
"It was just a great opportunity to be near my family. So we were there for five years, it was a really fun project because it needed a lot of work, to fix a lot of things, but hopefully it’s on the right direction."
In his fourth year with the program, the Fighting Scots won the Commonwealth Coast Conference Championship. Just try and say that one three times fast.
"The job allowed me to keep working with Martin in the summers, down in Carolina, and from there is how I ended up here."
Despite splitting his time between coaching in the college ranks and assisting Rennie, he still managed to get his UEFA ‘A’ coaching licence with the Football Association of Northern Ireland.
"I chose it because it was the only one that worked with our schedule. It got a really good recommendation from a couple of coaches I trust that the level of teaching was really good. Some other guys who have gone through the program, Chris Coleman, Neil Lennon, all these different guys, it just made me feel good about a program that had produced good coaches."
"I think that’s kind of why, but the schedule was equally as important, because I could only go over at certain times, and the other ones require you to make many more trips, and I was paying for it out of my pocket. The club here has actually helped me too."
Here in Vancouver, he can finally take a breather. Gone are the days of his travelling between Oregon, Illinois, Ohio, North Carolina, and Northern Ireland. He can finally sit down and concentrate on trying to scout the North American continent. So much for the breather Rennie promised him.
"My title is the assistant and then I’m basically the head analyst. What I do, that’s kind of a couple of things. One is obviously assisting in the planning of practice and all the stuff kind of behind the scenes, and helping out with training."
"And then my other role is an opposition analyst. I do video scouting and different stuff on our future opponents. During the matches, I sit up high and am able to analyze from a higher perspective. Then I come in at half time with the observations I have. It’s feedback for Martin to take in, and what he wants to do with that. But that’s part of my job."
"And I guess the other role I did this year was scouting for the college draft. I was able to go down, watch Erik Hurtado, we were able to see him play multiple times, and all these different things. It was kind of putting together a little bit of a scouting network with different coaches across the country, and then trying to just organise our information."
"Typically I’ll give the information to Martin, say about an opposition, and then he decides what he wants to do with that. Some days it’ll be setting up the guys who are going to start against the non-starts in a certain shape, and I’m right there talking to the starters talking about, okay this guy does this so watch this or this, while the play is going on, or it’ll stop and I’ll just make a quick point."
"I get to work a lot with the back four. That’s one of the main jobs I’ve been able to do. A lot of that scouting information goes into working with the back four because you want to know tendencies and stuff like that. I like knowing who we’re going to play anyways as a coach, and having a little bit of understanding about it. It’s not foolproof and teams can change from one day to the next. You can’t put your full stock in it, but there are certain trends that teams can’t deny either."
"I think as a whole as a staff, the great thing about Vancouver is that the Whitecaps is not just a first team, but it’s a whole club. We just want to keep building and building and building, both the first team and the club. I think the successes of both help the other. If the first team does well, that’s going to trickle down into the academy guys, wanting to play in the first team; success kind of breeds’ success in that area."
"Our goal is that we want to build this club up into . . . I think Bill Shankly said a 'bastion of invincibility'. That is the goal. And we’ve got to really work hard. It’s going to take a lot of work, a lot of energy, staying together on the same page, but we have a really good owner and really good guys upstairs that are helpful and supportive."
With people like Jake DeClute, Marius Røvde, Mike Young, Jake Joachim, Graeme Poole, Jon MacGregor, Jim Bovard, Bob McCormack, Ed Georgica, Andrew Lichtenfels, and Steve Bridge feverishly working behind the scenes, doing what they do, day in and day out, "we’re getting excited about not only this year, but what can come in the future."