In part one of our five-part season roundup series, we looked back at 2019. In part two we direct our attention to the manager of the Vancouver Whitecaps Marc Dos Santos.
We start our questions about Marc Dos Santos with the most straight forward: “what grade do you give MDS for 2019?”
At the conclusion of the season, MDS gave himself a 6/10 (I think…I forget and can’t find the exact quote). Our writers were in the same realm. Ian_Jones, Samuel_Rowan, Caleb_Wilkins, and Jitsuo all gave him a C- (technically, Sam gave 5/10) while Andrew_Bahl was a bit higher with a C.
Delving deeper into the analysis, Ian felt “he’s got the right ideas and occasionally had the club playing positive football, but it was far too sporadic.” Caleb pointed to Ali Adnan’s desire to stay and “Erik Godoy publicly [declaring] his desire to make his loan move permanent at the player’s awards” as evidence that MDS is doing something right in the eyes of important talent. Jitsuo felt that MDS “was able to plug in players from within the squad and…everyone knew what their role was, even if they hadn’t played in a month.” However, Andrew did express some concern that while “MDS did, in fact, start to develop a tactical identity by season’s end. The problem is, I don’t think the composition of the squad makes the 4-3-3 a particularly effective choice long-term…”. Andrew does “give him a lot of credit for admitting that he underestimated the degree to which the club needs to weight the capacity of a player to succeed in MLS.
What about you though? What grade do you give MDS for 2019?
When giving a manager a grade it is important to consider what he should be graded on and what he should not (i.e., what might be out of his control). Therefore, we asked our writers these two questions: What should MDS be graded on? What should MDS not be graded on?
Caleb argues that “You can grade Dos Santos on whatever you like. Just so long as that grading comes with the understanding that he wasn’t put in a position to succeed. At the end of the day what’s more likely to you: MDS had a 10 year career filled with nothing but accolades and praise from everyone he worked with (including some of the top MLS managers in the league’s history) and he was actually a fraud the entire time and needed to come to Vancouver for that to be revealed, or, a chaotic situation and structural impediments prevented him from showing all he’s capable of? I’ll concede that option A isn’t totally impossible, but I have to say I find option B a lot more compelling.” Understanding the “structural impediments” to MDS’ success in Vancouver, Caleb concludes that “When you ask a first time MLS head coach to rebuild an entire team, and give him the lowest budget in the league AND don’t have any scouting staff in place, then the result is going to be…well you all watched it. The thing is, by my count of the signings he’s made, nine area at least a pass and six are misses. That’s a 60% hit rate. If you only needed to add, say five players, that’s not too bad a hit rate. But when you need to replace 14 with no scouts and no money…again, you watched it.”
Andrew echoed Caleb’s sentiments, saying that he doesn’t blame MDS for “the cheapness of ownership, some (but not all) of the recruitment issues, the tone-deaf PR that resulted in an attendance dip, Ali Adnan’s failure to track back on defense and the fact that many players simply stopped giving a damn with a couple months left in the season.” However, Andrew does believe MDS’ grade should include his ability to “…establish a tactical vision going forward, get the players to buy into said plan, and develop a base to serve as a springboard for next season and (hopefully) a more competitive team.”
For Ian, MDS’s tactics were also at the heart of how he should be graded, stating his “…tactics and roster management, both of which will definitely need to improve. MDS inherited a club that demanded the planting of crops in scorched earth. He built an OK roster at the start of the season, considering the timeframe and budget he was working within, but the international break, for example, revealed how dangerously thin it was.”
While Caleb felt that Marc did well with his player acquisition, Sam seemed to disagree somewhat arguing that MDS should be graded on “Some of his talent acquisition, although he had to deal with a truncated offseason, there were definitely a lot more misses than there were hits. Also, his in-game tactics and substitutions left a lot to be desired at times. I was especially annoyed when he didn’t use all three subs and it felt like he was clearly outcoached by Tommy Wheeldon Jr in the Canadian Championship.” However, like his colleagues, Sam recognizes the role of the organization in building an entertaining team. This means MDS should not be graded on “The ability to reel in a ‘big name player’ – no matter how much MDS insists he has the ‘green light’ from ownership, I’m not sure that’d really be the case when it came down to it…Dos Santos was also asked to wear far too many hats in 2019. The complete lack of a modern scouting staff and the failure to hire a technical director is most definitely not his fault.”
Finally, Sean believes that MDS should be graded on a “…combination of things. From an organizational standpoint, how well can he continue to bring through the likes of Bair, Mukumbilwa, Colyn, and Baldisimo? Are they continuing to develop? The other major thing…is the overall team performance improving. Sure, the 2019 version conceded eight fewer goals than the 2018 Whitecaps, but they also scored 17 fewer goals. That makes for painful viewing. This is supposed to be entertaining at the end of the day, and if it’s going to be grinding out results week after week, I’m sorry, but it’s not sustainable.”
The final question posed to our writers was: “What confidence do you have in MDS to turn things around?”
This is a difficult question because it could be that you don’t have confidence in MDS or that you don’t have confidence in the organization and thus MDS cannot succeed. As a result, our writers’ opinions ran the gambit. Ian believes he is “More than most!”. Andrew is “actually pretty confident in MDS’ abilities…A lot of it will come down to the decisions made in the front office and whether he will have the resources to build a team that both fits the mold he is looking for and can succeed in MLS.” Likewise, Sam believes that “If he’s given the support staff needed to be competitive and continues to learn from his experience, I don’t see why not…if they do the offseason right, they could pretty quickly become a fringe playoff team.” Remember people, small steps!
Caleb and Jitsuo were a little less optimistic than their counterparts. Caleb was “Moderate? Like a 6/10”, while Jitsuo was “Tepid. I was high on the man when he was hired, and after I spoke to him the first time.” He also added that “A lot to determine his future, and the future of the Whitecaps, will come between now and the start of February and training camp.”
Regardless of your confidence in MDS, I believe Andrew reminded us well of reality: “I don’t think the Caps are going to be able to find a better manager out on the open market at this point”. This is quite likely true and something to keep in mind when complaining about the manager.
Those were our writers thoughts on how MDS performed this season, but now we are curious what your thoughts are. What grade do you give MDS? What should MDS be graded on? What should he not be graded on? What confidence do you have in MDS to turn things around? Let us know your answers to these questions and see if the majority are optimistic or pessimistic.