There are probably more than a few decisions Marc Dos Santos regrets during his time as the coach of the Vancouver Whitecaps. But I wonder if the one he regrets the most is the one he made before a ball was even kicked in anger?
For he inherited a squad that needed to be refreshed and decided instead to rebuild it.
With that decision he essentially turned himself into the coach of an expansion team and placed himself firmly on the back foot from day one.
From that point on Dos Santos always seemed to be slightly out of sync with his own vision and what he needed to do to bring that vision into focus.
The Whitecaps finished dead last in the Western Conference that year and the inevitable re-rebuild was disrupted and disjointed by a global pandemic (remember that?) and the inability for the Whitecaps to play in Canada for almost the whole of the year.
This season began with the team stationed in Salt Lake as their home, before they finally arrived back in Canada earlier this month and Dos Santos was given one game at BC Place and one road game in the Canadian Cup to prove his worth to an ownership that were clearly losing patience some time before the final decision was made.
Just reading that brief timeline can leave nobody in any doubt that Dos Santos had a rough ride in terms of circumstance. But, ultimately, he failed to rise above that circumstance and prove himself the man for the job.
The time spent in Utah must have been tough for all kinds of reasons, but that was a time where the squad was together for an extended period, yet still they looked uncoached and inert on the field.
Not being located in Vancouver doesn’t explain why they consistently failed to turn up for the first forty-five minutes of so many games and why they consistently displayed a startling inability to perform the rudimentary basics of the game.
Dos Santos clearly had a plan for how he wanted his team to play. He clearly knew what was wrong with the way his team was playing. He just didn’t have the ability to make those changes happen in any meaningful way.
Whitecaps history will remember him as a coach who always took the cautious option in his tactical approach, who always wanted to avoid the worst case scenario than reach for the best, who never really knew how to change the flow of a game with either tactical tweaks or a timely substitutions and who seemed to select players based on personal preference rather than how they were performing on the field.
But that history will also remember him as an immensely likeable presence who loved the game and and was clearly hurt by the failure to achieve his goals.
It’s a genuine shame he didn’t turn out to be right man for the job.