Exclusive Interview: coach Marc dos Santos (Vancouver Whitecaps)

This is our exclusive interview with Marc dos Santos, Vancouver Whitecaps’ head coach. Thanks to Nathan Vanstone and Piccolo Ocampo of Whitecaps’ press office; and to Federico Montalenti for the transcript.

1) How did your passion for soccer come about?
My father was coach at excellence league in Canada, plus growing up in Portugal helped my passion.

2) What are the coaches that inspired your game model?
Coaching in Portugal was inspired by with two professors at university of Oporto Jose Guillerme Oliveira and Vitor Frad. The first internship at with Porto and with Jose Mourinho in 2004-2005 and with Former U19 Porto coach Illidio Vale.

3) In your career you have had numerous international experiences. Could you tell us what you learned from each of them?
I learn to fail a lot. In my opinion to understand the process, you need difficult time and Since I was a young coach I learnt that. In particular the time I was in Brazil was difficult as foreign. Coming from zero, reaching high level is not impossible, I leant that to have success you need to fail understand going through pain and not giving up.

4) You were the last coach to win NASL. What are your memories with San Francisco Deltas?
San Francisco is special city, the moment I was there was a “grey” moment, I was struggling, it was kind of tough but I was very focused with the Deltas. That kept me on the track developing a family, a group, even with the fall of the division we wanted to be the last to fall.

5) How was your impact with MLS as a head coach?
It shows that you can create a group regardless the background, sometimes i see so many different cultures, guys in ramadan, others in Christians, or atheist, black white, whatever you want to call it. We have players from Africa, South America, from Europe, from Asia, North America and when you look at all of that you say “wow” you could create the group, a good group regardless the difference and where you come from, so we want to be a little bit of an example to society and the team, and what glose everything together in our group is our common goals that we want to achieve together regardless where we come from, it’s special to be around this.

6) In Vancouver you have a roster consisting of a good mix of international players and US and Canadian players. How important is it to be able to count on this “melting pot”?
They challenge me a lot because it’s the highest level in North America. It challenges me to try to get at the level of the big clubs in the league because I think the league is not how it was 10 years ago. I think now you have this category of A teams that we are not at the moment in many different ways, then as a coaches, it challenges you if you are not a category A club, how close can you become that so mls has challenges me a lot and for sure it’s a league that can make me a better coach, a league where I’m learning with the others coaches, the other teams. It’s been a great journey till now.

7) Your game is very creative. Do you think the team absorbed your mentality?
In many ways yes. The way we build out of the back yes. In the way they understand what collective organisation means to me especially on the defensive organisation part I think many of those factors, the mentality, the attitude in games, the being hard to play against, all of that has been very good. Where we need to grow is in our offensive organisation, how we can get numbers in the opponent half, how we can keep better possession in the opponent half. These are things I hope we can grow in, and I hope we can become a better team so yes, the team has taken a lot of what I want but we’re still a long way to get to where we really want to as a coach

8) What results do you want to achieve with the Whitecaps?
Rather than reaching the final of the Canadian championship, making the mls playoff I want that the club is recognised as an organised club, as club that knows what that want, as club that has an identity when it comes to recruiting, when it comes to training, when it comes to the academy. I want people to look at the whitecaps an think “man this is tough club to play against, they have a good culture, a good model” that’s want I wanna be in about 2-3 years that people look at us as a club that has a very clear identity.

9) Would you like to have a European or South American top player? Which?
Depending on the position and availability. We’re very open with that.

10) How competitive is MLS in your opinion compared to international standards?
If you compare to Belgium or Luxembourg league we’re better, but with top championships are more competitive leagues, but MLS is growing and growing.

11) Carlo Ancelotti is on vacation in Vancouver where he lives when he is not in Naples. Will you meet him?
I hope, I was able to meet it, but was fast, I talked to a lot of players that played with Ancelotti the time was with Real Madrid and a lot of that said that they would go against a brick of wall for him.
He manages high level players and stars, he’s made for club that are great.

12) How much is soccer followed in Canada? Do you think that Canadian Premier League and 2026 World Cup will bring people closer to soccer?
It’s going to help grow the sport, there are countries that go some positive changes with the World Cup in the past. I’m more pessimist about how many games will be played in Canada and because of games in US and Mexico, it could become too vague. It’s different hosting all the competition, instead all the competition. I don’t know the repercussion, we don’t have enough young player playing the game, making the number one game in the country.

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