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Dos Santos: on Theo Bair’s Evolution, the January 2020 Window, and How to Win a Wrestling Match

The Vancouver Whitecaps manager touches on a wide range of topics, including why Theo Bair has gone from zero to hero in just a few short months.

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps FC at FC Dallas Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

With the Vancouver Whitecaps just a day away from an all important matchup with Cavalry FC in the Canadian Championship, Marc Dos Santos took some time after training to chat with ourselves, as well as AFTN, about many of the things going on within the Whitecaps organization at the moment. Dos Santos has been much more reflective in his media appearances as of late and it’s obvious that he’s analyzing everything that has gone on over the course of this season, in order to determine the best courses of action going forward into 2020. While I don’t want to say that the rest of the 2019 MLS season is a write-off, it does seem fairly obvious that the primary focus of the club has shifted to preparing themselves to be far more competitive and well organized in 2020.

One of these preparations is looking forward to the January 2020 transfer window, and Dos Santos explained why this window might make sense for the club, as well as some of the factors they now look at while recruiting:

“The targets that we have right now are in leagues that it makes sense that window. So, it gives you a good idea of the leagues. We’ve evaluated very well the type of markets, and the type of leagues, that we have to watch when we recruit. A player that for 10 years, the only thing the he’s done in the majority of his time is play Saturdays, and he busses 45 minutes, 1 hour, 2 hours, to games, maybe we have to be careful with that type of profile. He might look very good when we watch him in his environment, but then it’s not realistic in our environment (in MLS). So these are the things that we’ve been evaluating a lot.”

Dos Santos also touched on his philosophy on the development of young players, and how Theo Bair has shown a remarkable improvement from the beginning of the season, not only in his play, but also through his mentality:

“Theo is starting again tomorrow. But I’ve said it so many times, he deserves it. His personality, his work ethic. I was so hard on him before. He had a meeting with me at the beginning of the season saying hey, I want to play and I want to be an important part of this club. But he wasn’t showing it in training, he wanted to be that in a way that was entitled. I got really upset with him that day, and I sent him to work with the Development Squad so he didn’t even train with us for a month. He didn’t say a word, but when we brought him back after the Korea trip his mentality was totally different. He was hard working, listened to every little thing and every little minute he got was gold. So he put himself in that position to deserve it. Simon Colyn, today, is not ready to get in - and Baldy [Baldisimo] has to show us more in training to get in. I just want to be fair. The message is not that because you’re an Academy player you deserve to play. [Other young players] They could go talk with Theo about what did you do and what was your mentality to get a chance and maybe Theo could explain to them. If they show some signs that they deserve it, there’s big chances that we’ll see another young player playing.”

Furthering the discussion on development, Dos Santos discussed his frustrations with the 2019 preseason training camp in Hawaii, as well as how plans are already in place for a much different look in 2020. Dos Santos explained that he’s even cancelled a family trip to Africa in order to make it happen:

“My kids had the dream to go to Africa, my father is in Mozambique, and I cancelled that trip. But this is how serious I am about what’s going to happen in the offseason and where I have to be. I’m excited. Our preseason right now [next year], is a 360 degree turn from what we saw this season. We can’t announce things right now, but it’s totally different, with a base of players, with targets that we want. I’m excited again about the future...Looking back, we rebuilt a full roster in a month and a half. We tried our best, and that’s why we used loans in order to protect the future of the club. But the preseason felt like a camp. Unfortunately that was the truth of the situation we were in. We had 15-16 year old kids, we were in Hawaii. It wasn’t good If we have to hold ourselves to high standards. The beach was good in the afternoon, but all the rest was not so good. And the preseason has to be focused on soccer, not the beach. I was very upset about that.”

Finally, the discussion turned to facing Cavalry FC on Wednesday, and how tricky it can be to dictate play against a team which is very direct, and playing with nothing to lose:

“When you play against a team that wants to disrupt you, in the the way that they play, and everything is very direct, and it’s not a possession oriented team. For example, every throw in on the right side, they play straight into the box. So [with those types of teams], you’re always in a wrestling match. So then it’s down to your ability as a team, as well as the players on the field to have the calmness inside that wrestling match. We need to play our football in a way that is higher than the level of the wrestling match. And it’s not always easy to do that. I had some conversations with coaches in MLS about how they’re able to dictate the play through possession. And sometimes there’s moments in the game, if they play teams that are more direct and physical, they get a little bit disrupted. It happens to teams. I think that’s what happened in Calgary. And yes, we hope that on our field, with the mindset that our guys have, that we will be able to dictate that play more. Now, I’ve always said that you don’t win games because you’re in a better league or because you have better players. I believe that we have better players of course, I believe we are the better team, but 90 minutes inside those lines, anything can happen, that’s football.”