The start of the Vancouver Whitecaps 2020 season is just around the corner. In preparation, our writing staff answered some questions about management, off-season moves, the up-coming season, anticipated 2020 performances, and some fun over/under predictions. We start with a look at Marc Dos Santos and the rest of the management team.
Part IV: 2020 Performances
Part V: Over/Under
In Marc Dos Santos’ first season, he was given a long leash with fans, especially the media. How long is his leash this season?
Andrew: I suspect the leash will be much shorter this year—areas of tangible progress will need to be shown, especially with the likely departure of Ali Adnan and/or In-Beom Hwang. MDS is never going to have as much to work with as the Caps’ Cascadia rivals so he needs to show he can out-maneuver them in other ways if he is to keep the trust of fans and, ultimately, the trust of the organization.
Caleb: Not particularly long. I have been a fierce advocate of giving him time and being understanding of the situation he’s in but at a certain point you have to show something. If there’s no improvement he should be gone. What constitutes improvement is the real question. If, for example, they were to miss the playoffs by a couple of points but win the Voyageaur’s cup would that be a success? It’s hard to say. I don’t think we’re going to see either clear cut success or clear cut failure from the team this year. I suppose it’s up to everyone to decide what an acceptable level of improvement is.
Ian: It’ll definitely be shorter, but not substantially. The upper management hirings will allow MDS to focus more on tactics, to the point where he’ll keep his job after a relatively strong season that falls short of the playoffs. However, I’d be worried about his job security if the ‘Caps suffer from any massive losing streaks.
Sam: Definitely shorter. With a full off-season and less player turnover, this year is a much better opportunity to see how MDS fairs as a tactician and game manager at the MLS level. In particular, the loss in the Canadian Championships was a low from a coaching perspective…I expect to see more from MDS this season. I don’t think Dos Santos has much to worry about job wise, at least this year.
AtlantisB: MDS is in a difficult position. There is an expectation of success, as he has had time to settle in. He is beginning to develop the framework around him with Schuster and the scouting team. However, the team is not much improved from last season, and there is a MASSIVE hole in the middle of the field. If the club is unsuccessful, I feel MDS will bare the brunt of that, as we all knew the holes heading into the offseason and they were not effectively addressed (if the club is unsuccessful).
Axel Schuster was named the Sporting Director in November. What are your thoughts on his hiring? How has he done in his short period so far?
Caleb: Although I haven’t been particularly blown away by any of his signings (that could change once I actually see them play) they all have a certain logic to them. One thing floating around at the back of my mind though, is whether or not they have allocated their use of DP slots effectively. Lucas Cavallini arrived with much fanfare and although I think he’s really good I can’t help but wonder if the team would have been better served spending that money in the midfield and getting a less exciting but perfectly serviceable striker (a trade for Portland’s Jeremy Ebobisse, who keeps getting stuck behind DP strikers despite being pretty good, could have been good). I suppose I will have to wait and see.
Ian: Having a Sporting Director was absolutely crucial, someone with soccer knowledge that can make executive decisions. Schuster is definitely saying and doing all the right things. I love the fact that he’s mixing it up at support group meetups, but the players he’s signed still need to perform.
Sam: While Schuster was brought in for his “connections”, we haven’t really seen this pan out yet with a big name signing. It seems that as many transfers this offseason have been initiated by Dos Santos as they have by Schuster. His true test will come this summer, especially if Adnan and In-Beom are on the move.
AtlantisB: I think it was a good hiring. The question will always be whether those put into positions in Vancouver will be given the opportunity to succeed without extensive meddling from the front office. It seems like that is more likely these days, with the recent changes. Having said that, I would have to put his first offseason down as a “C-“.
Andrew: I think Schuster has been looking in the right places to find talent but I also don’t think we can really properly evaluate player recruitment/front office direction until the much ballyhooed scouting operation is up and running.
In addition to Schuster, the Whitecaps have made several front office changes. Do you see this as a turning point for the club?
Ian: Absolutely. It’s like they’re a football club or something.
Sam: Mark Pannes looks to be a great hire, and it’s terrific to see him engaging with fans on social. These kinds of things at the organizational level take time though, so we might not see the full impact until 2-3 years down the road.
Andrew: Anything that moves the club away from the previous power structure (a virtual oligarchy of tone-deafness that served no one) is a win. I think this is the first time the Caps have really privileged the hiring of footballing professionals, whether that is to handle the business or sporting side of things. Ultimately, it will come down to whether the owners will want to make the continued, necessary reforms to bring the Caps up to MLS 4.0 but this is a start.
Caleb: I think everybody needed a change. Mark Pannes seems like a good guy but I will reserve judgement until he’s been on the job for a while.
AtlantisB: Hopefully. I mean, outwardly they are making the right moves. The key is internally though. Has the culture changed? Hard for us to judge that here.