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Questions for Bob Lenarduzzi and Marc Dos Santos on TSN 1040’s Presidents Week.

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MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps head coach Marc Dos Santos Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

It’s presidents week on TSN 1040. Every day of the week one of the presidents of the Vancouver sports teams will make an appearance to be grilled by Matt Sekeres and Blake Price. Bob Lenarduzzi and Marc Dos Santos are set to appear on Wednesday the 21st. Last year there were fears that because TSN was the broadcast rights holder for the Whitecaps that the interview with Bob Lenarduzzi would be full of softball questions, but honestly I thought Matt and Blake did a pretty good job. The interview ended up being quite illuminating. But alas when Lenarduzzi and Dos Santos are onI will be on a plane. This means I won’t be able to tweet them any questions or call in. So since I will be out of commission I thought I would compile some questions and pertinent facts in an article that you can use if you want to call in. If Matt and Blake are reading then they are also welcome to make use of any of the material here.

Money:

I’ll be honest, I personally find debates about how much the Whitecaps spend pretty boring. But last year almost every single caller asked Lenarduzzi why the Whitecaps won’t spend money and during the ‘Caps recent loss to Cavalry FC the crowd started chanting for more money to be spent. Clearly this is an important issue to the Whitecaps fan in the street. So if you’re going to ask about money here are some facts that you can utilize.

  • At the start of the season the Vancouver Whitecaps had the second lowest guaranteed compensation in MLS (this has probably slightly increased with the permanent signing of Ali Adnan, but it is still very low so don’t let them try and wriggle out by bringing that up)
  • The Whitecaps have the lowest payroll they’ve ever had relative to the rest of MLS.
  • In 2014 the Vancouver Whitecaps had the 5th highest payroll in the league. Since then their payroll has increased by approximately 2.6 million but the payroll of the median MLS team has increased by approximately 8.3 million
  • Not only is Vancouver’s payroll low compared to other MLS teams, it’s rivalled by certain individual players. I.E: Whitecaps (8 million), Ibrahimovic (7.2 million), Bradley (6.5 million), Altidore (6.3 million), Vela (6.3 million).
  • Giovanni Dos Santos, a player who was bought out by the L.A Galaxy this year, would have made about as much as 78% of the whole Vancouver squad.
  • LAFC recently spent more than the Vancouver Whitecaps’ entire 2019 payroll on the transfer fee for one player (10.3 million for Brian Rodriguez).
  • Rodriguez was the 5th player in the past two years to be signed for a fee greater than the entire squad payroll of the Vancouver Whitecaps in 2019. (Pity Matinez 13.2 million, Ezequiel Barco 12.28 million, Alejandro Pozuelo 9 million, Brian Fernandez 9 million, being the others. Alexandru Mitrita was signed for 8 million which is equal to the Whitecaps payroll)
  • One question I do have about spending: Would the budget Marc Dos Santos has to work with be the same, or smaller, if the Alphonso Davies money weren’t a factor?

Recruitment Strategy:

Marc Dos Santos recently said in an interview with AFTN that he and his coaching staff were learning more about the type of player profile that is successful in MLS. Why, after 8 years in MLS, was there nobody at the club who could advise him on this sort of thing?

Look, MLS is a weird league with lots of challenges that other leagues simply don’t have. It can take a while to figure it out. I remember before Tata Martino there was a not insignificant school of thought that managers without MLS experience of some kind couldn’t succeed in the league. I understand there is a learning curve but shouldn’t there be somebody at the club to help a manager adapt if it’s his (or her, am I right ladies?) first job in MLS?

The Whitecaps have made it pretty clear that they don’t plan to spend to the level of a TFC or an Atlanta United. Fair enough. But what are they doing to recruit more intelligently than those other teams?

The answer they will give will almost certainly point to the three scouts they have recently hired. So my real question is:

Are three scouts really going to be an adequate counterbalance when other teams are spending more than your entire annual payroll on individual players?

I’m sure those three scouts are really smart guys who know soccer well (N.B I am not sure of this at all but I don’t want the interview to be hostile). But even if they’re the three best scouts in the world they have a huge amount of ground to make up. In the docu-series “Sunderland till I die” Sunderland are in a similar situation to the Whitecaps. They are trying to find players who can help them compete but with a much smaller budget. Sunderland obviously failed, but they had eight scouts on staff. So how are three going to make the difference for Vancouver?

Why is it only now that the club has seen fit to invest in a scouting staff?

If they weren’t going to be able to compete financially with TFC, Atlanta, LAFC, etc. then surely the need to get better at recruiting was obvious long ago? Why would they think they could compete with a lower budget and not have something in place that would give them an edge?

Marc Dos Santos has made it clear that the Whitecaps plan to target players from leagues with a similar level of travel to MLS and where the offseason is in the winter. Is this going to limit the pool of players the ‘Caps can draw from?

Despite the Whitecaps being towards the bottom of the table in spending there are certain players who’s salaries seem disproportionate to their contributions on the pitch. How do the Whitecaps decide how much money a player is worth and who is in charge of making that determination?

I am particularly looking at Lucas Venuto, who until recently was on 600k and Jon Erice on 752k. These aren’t bad players but you could get almost the same thing for far less money. Kekuta Manneh, who Whitecaps fans will be familiar with, has almost identical numbers to what Lucas Venuto put up before his departure, but Manneh was available for no transfer fee and around half the salary. Erice is a decent defender and a good passer but is he really worth more money than Osvaldo Alonso, Darlington Nagbe, Gustav Svensson and Bryan Acosta respectively?

Based on reports the club seems to be determined to bring in a DP striker. But the ‘Caps play the fewest passes into the final 3rd of any team in the league and have the 5th lowest average possession. Would any striker, no matter how good, be put in a position to succeed?

With a few notable exceptions, players typically leave Vancouver on free transfers. Isn’t not recouping expenditures a big problem for a club that doesn’t spend like the richest teams in MLS?

When asked about spending in the past the Whitecaps typically point to teams who have been successful on small budgets (Columbus, New York Red Bulls, Philadelphia, etc.). What specifically do Bobby and Marc feel these teams did that allowed them to be successful despite a low payroll?

Now, Matt and Blake, they will most likely bring up players like Davies (duh), Adekugbe, and perhaps players like Waston who left for lots of allocation money. But you must push back by pointing out that players like Cristian Techera, Lucas Venuto, Aly Ghazal and Matias Laba who left for free far outnumber those few successes.

Does the club use any form of analytics to help evaluate players? If so, which ones? If not, why not?

When, if ever, does the club expect to be challenging for MLS cup?

On Field Strategy:

We were promised a pressing style. This seemed to have been abandoned rather quickly (in fact there is data to suggest the team is more passive than it was under Carl Robinson), what needs to change to be able to play more aggressively next season?

Analytics, ya using em?

Player Development:

One of the biggest expenditures for the club is on the academy. But a graduate of the Montreal Impact academy has played almost as many minutes as Whitecaps academy graduates in 2019 for Vancouver. Surely this is unacceptable?

Is developing youngsters a part of the manager’s mandate?

Vancouver lost in the Canadian Championship to Cavalry FC, a team that prominently featured players who were previously on Vancouver’s books. Four of the top ten scorers in CPL were either formerly on the Whitecaps’ books or grew up in an area where the Whitecaps have exclusive MLS rights on youth players. Is the club able to properly assess the talent in their own backyard?

Also worth noting that the player who leads CPL in assists and is also one of its top midfielders is literally the brother of a former Whitecap.

Does the development strategy change now that CPL clubs can compete for player’s services?

Now that other teams in MLS have more established academies, is Vancouver’s academy program becoming less of a competitive advantage?

Culture:

Reviews by former employees on the website Glassdoor.com accuse the Whitecaps of variously being nepotistic, having no clear vision with priorities changing constantly, and of not providing adequate benefits for employees. Do the Whitecaps have a strong enough and positive enough culture to be a top class organization?

In addition to the much publicized abuse scandal in the now defunct women’s program and the sexual assault in the academy in 2017, the Whitecaps have had a number of players on their books over the past 5 years who have had run ins with police and faced charges of domestic abuse, sexual assault, or been questioned in relation to the death of teenagers. Are the Whitecaps doing enough to ensure that they provide a safe working environment for all of their employees?

These are my questions. Feel free to contribute any of your own in the comments down below.