“We needed that push”: Vancouver Whitecaps hoping Marc Dos Santos firing keeps team on track despite Canadian Championship elimination

The Vancouver Whitecaps parted ways with head coach Marc Dos Santos on Friday. Here’s some reaction from the ‘Caps after the move.

The fallout was nearly immediate. 

After the Vancouver Whitecaps were eliminated by Pacific FC in the Canadian Championship on Thursday night, one had to wonder if there’d be any consequences that would stem from that result, as the ‘Caps were eliminated from the Canadian Championship by a Canadian Premier League team for the 2nd time in 3 years. 

And that question would quickly be answered on Friday, as the ‘Caps announced that they and head coach Marc Dos Santos had parted ways, bringing an end to the Canadian coach’s 2.5-year tenure as head coach of the Whitecaps. Subsequently, they also announced that their Director of Methodology and U23 head coach, Vanni Sartini, would take over as interim head coach, while current assistant Phil Dos Santos would leave with his brother, while fellow assistant, Ricardo Clark, and goalkeeper coach, Youssef Dahha, would stay in their respective roles. 

“It’s not a fun day today,” ‘Caps CEO and Sporting Director, Axel Schuster, said shortly after the news dropped. “I feel very sad for this development, and what we had to decide this morning, so I all I really want to say is thank you to Marc and Phil Dos Santos for their work that they’ve done for 2+ years.”

“This morning I was coaching the U23s and Axel asked me if I was available to help the club in this moment,” Sartini added. “And I didn’t have a 2nd thought, because what we want here is what’s best for the club and the city, and for us at the club to give 100%.”

For a team in the midst of a decent run of form at the MLS level, undefeated in 8, and in 10 of their last 11, it’s a curious decision, but with their 2nd Canadian Championship upset in 3 years, that proved to be the final straw for Dos Santos’s time with the Whitecaps. Plus, although the ‘Caps had been trending in the right direction as of late, they still have just 3 wins in their last 16 games, as wins have just been all too hard to come by recently, leaving the ‘Caps to float along in neutral. 

It’s a tough decision for Dos Santos, who has certainly had quite the rocky ride as a Vancouver coach, spending his 1st season rebuilding before having to endure much of the next 1.5 seasons away from home due to the pandemic, but unfortunately, the ‘Caps feel it’s time to look in another direction. 

“I am very grateful for my time with the Whitecaps and appreciate the support I received during a challenging two plus seasons,” Dos Santos said in a club statement. “There are a lot of great people at this club, who work extremely hard, and I’m thankful for the time we shared together. I am also especially thankful to the players, technical and support staff and wish everyone all the best. I am very excited about the future.”

With a record of 22W-37L-18D (84 PTS) in MLS, results have just often proved to be hard to come by for Dos Santos in his ‘Caps tenure, leading to this decision. 

From Dos Santos’s standpoint, hopefully he can land on his feet after this, as he’s been nothing but class as head coach, but things just didn’t work out in Vancouver, with this Pacific loss just being the latest example of that. 

So now, it leaves the ‘Caps in an interesting position with 14 games left in their MLS schedule. Eliminated from the Canadian Championship now, all they can do is focus on those 14 games, as they’re very much in the playoff hunt with how things have shaped up in the Western Conference.

Just 3 points off of the 7th and final playoff spot as of writing, with a game in hand over 7th-place San Jose, they have the opportunity to make the playoffs if all goes right, but it’s going to need a special end of the season to do so. 

But with a solid roster, one that has gotten a big boost from the acquisition of new DP #10 Ryan Gauld, who already has 3 goals, 2 assists and 1 penalty won in just 1 start and less than 180 minutes of action as a Whitecap, this team has the talent to go on a run, with Gauld as the centrepiece.

According to the Whitecaps, though, they just felt that they couldn’t do so as things stood from a coaching standpoint, which is why they’re instead electing to see what Sartini can do for now, while looking for a new coach that can fit the vision that they’re looking to implement long-term. 

So while the decision to fire a coach with the playoffs still very much on the table can certainly be questioned, the good news is that for whoever comes in, they should have a pretty solid roster to tinker around with long-term. Sartini doesn’t know yet how much of that he’ll end up doing quite yet, as his main focus is just on keeping the ‘Caps season on track, starting with their next game vs Real Salt Lake on Sunday, but for whoever does end up being Dos Santos’s replacement long-term, he should have a pretty good set of players at his disposal. 

“It’s true, we’ve got work to do,” Sartini said. “The work to be done in the next few days is not big tactical work, because there’s no time to this (yet), so for now we’re understanding who are the guys who can play Sunday.”

So now, it’ll be interesting to see the fallout from these moves. Obviously, the loss to Pacific was going to be felt for a while now, especially so now seeing how Dos Santos was let go in response to that, so the team is going to have to find a way to remain on track despite these distractions. 

For a team without a rudder for so long during their tenure, it’s going to also be intriguing to see if this move throws them back into the wilderness, as they’d finally appeared to have found some stability as of late, so there’s that added layer to this, as well. 

But with about as stable as a footballing operations crew as we’ve seen as of late, with CEO and Sporting Director Axel Schuster at the helm, along with a Director of Recruitment Nikos Overheul, who will both be involved in hiring Dos Santos’s replacement, there is certainly a plan in play now. 

Can that plan be the one that turns around a ‘Caps team that has often found itself in the darkness in its time in MLS? Time will tell, but often moves like this were made with no plan in mind, so the hope is that this presence of a plan pays off in the long-term, something Schuster is currently banking on. 

“We decided this morning that this project needs another push,” Schuster said. “This project needs some new life, because our development isn’t going in the right direction yet.”

He added: “We think that we needed that push, some guys needed that push to get rolling, as we have a lot of home games ahead.”

Up Next: Vancouver Whitecaps vs Real Salt Lake, Sunday, August 29th, 2021, 19:00 PDT, 22:00 EDT (BC Place, Vancouver)

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