VANCOUVER – While it might have been the worst kept secret in Canadian soccer, the Vancouver Whitecaps made it official Wednesday by naming Marc Dos Santos as its new coach.
Dos Santos, 41, replaces Carl Robinson who was let go in late September, and joins Vancouver after being an assistant coach for LAFC this season.
A native of Montreal, Dos Santos becomes the sixth coach of the Whitecaps, but the first Canadian-born to handle the duties since the club entered Major League Soccer in 2011. A highly successful coach at lower levels, Dos Santos said accepting the job in Vancouver was a no-brainer.
“Number one… it’s a Canadian club,” Dos Santos answered when asked why he decided to take on the role. “I have a passion towards this country. It’s the country that gave me an opportunity to start my career.”
He later added: “It’s a club that has a dream of continuing to build players through their academy. Working on that vertical integration was very appealing to me also.”
Prior to his time in MLS, Dos Santos worked his way up the professional coaching ranks with great success in Canada and the United States, as well as in South America. It began for him by coaching his hometown Montreal Impact to a USL First Division title in 2009. Six years later, he led the Ottawa Fury to an appearance in the NASL Fall Season Final.
In between those Canadian stops, he was on the sidelines for youth squads of some of the best professional clubs in Brazil, including powerhouse Palmeiras. Dos Santos’ most recent success came two years ago when he led the now-defunct San Francisco Deltas to a NASL Soccer Bowl title. That same season he also won the league’s Coach of the Year award.
“Marc is a confident, driven leader who has proven himself as a winner at every level he has been tested,” Whitecaps co-owner Jeff Mallett stated. “Bringing in Marc positions the club to meet our goals of competing with the best in the league and to win trophies for Vancouver’s loyal supporters.”
What should not be over-looked is the invaluable experience Dos Santos has gained the last two years by working alongside some of the best coaches in North America. This season, he assisted former U.S. national coach Bob Bradley in building a club from scratch and turning LAFC into the most successful expansion teams in MLS history.
He also worked closely with long-time Sporting Kansas City boss Peter Vermes in 2016 when he coached their USL affiliate Swope Park Rangers. Sporting KC has a reputation of being one of the best teams in MLS when it comes to retaining players and developing homegrown talent.
“With Peter in Kansas City, I learned a lot about how that vertical integration works between the first team and reserve team,” Dos Santos explained. “With Bob, he gave me a lot of courage in how I was looking at the game and to move forward as a coach. I feel blessed to have worked with him.”
While he has not spoken with all of his new players, Dos Santos did meet with a few of them working out at the training centre Wednesday, including Canadian internationals Russell Teibert and Doneil Henry. Even though he was focused on winning with LAFC at the time, Dos Santos is fully aware of how many Whitecaps players sounded off publically at the end of the season.
Claims of divisions within the locker room and criticisms of individuals being more concerned about themselves rather than the team made headlines across the league. Dos Santos knows having a strong culture throughout the squad will be a top priority.
“Wherever I’ve been, it’s been a concern for me to develop a culture in the locker room that is a winning one,” said Dos Santos, who is fluent in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese. “There are things that have happened in the past here that were very good and others that were not so good. I’m here to change that and try to bring it to another level.”
Regardless of which members of the current squad will return next season, the hope amongst fans is that Dos Santos will urge Whitecaps ownership to spend big money on new players to fill Designated Player spots. Kei Kamara, who led the team with 14 goals, was the highest paid player on the roster, at $1 million US. Dos Santos wouldn’t say one way or the other if the club will be a big spender this off-season. His main task is to get the most out of the players he will have at his disposal.
“In my career, I’ve always focused on maximizing what I have. You can waste a lot of energy talking about what others have,” Dos Santos said. “I prefer spending time on what we have. From that point of view, you build strong foundations. Then it could allow you, one day, to go after a player like that.”