We’ve had as near as makes no difference the equivalent of a season’s worth of games with Vanni Sartini in charge of the Vancouver Whitecaps, which is ample time to make sweeping judgements abut the nature of his his tenure.
On the positive side of the ledger he’s the first Whitecaps coach since Teitur Thordarson to connect with the fans in a meaningful way.
While Rennie and Dos Santos were mostly locked in with their own internal demons and Robinson felt he was far too much a real football person to stoop to the level of pretending to care about a Canadian soccer team, Sartini lives every moment on the outside.
Too exuberant at times? Not really. Modern coaches have become shamanic presences as much as tactical masterminds and Sartini appreciates that he’s as much a part of the game day experience as any of his players.
That doesn’t mean he isn’t tactically interesting too.
He only wavered from his preferred three central defenders for a few games and has been willing to play just about anybody in those roles if needed. Almost never successfully of course, but Javain Brown is a much better defender with the game played in front of him than having to track back following a forward run.
Similarly his love of a wing back has led to the transformation of Ryan Raposo into a surprisingly disciplined left sided defender.
But Raposo isn’t a long term solution in that position just as Dajome isn’t a solution on either side of the pitch. The issues on the right side have been solved by the arrival of Julian Gressel and one suspects that the left side will be solved by acquisitions rather than coaching.
And the issues in the centre of the field have been solved by the arrival of Andres Cubas rather than anything that Sartini did tactically. And “issues” is a fairly unassuming description of the debacle the midfield had been until Cubas arrived (and still is in his absence)
The biggest problem by far however is the inability to get the team to play for ninety minutes.
This is a carry over from the Dos Santos era, but whereas the Dos Santos version of the Whitecaps seemed to be hamstrung by fear the Sartini version seem to be hamstrung by lack of intensity.
Constantly needing the shock of adversity to up your game isn’t a strategy for long term success and it isn’t indicative of “character” either and if Sartini doesn’t figure out a way to fix this problem then it will be his downfall in the long run.
Overall we are left with a mixed bag that mostly leans toward the positive and the Canadian Championship win showed that he could be single minded about an objective in a way that displayed admirable determination.
Sartini will probably turn out to be a coach who needs players to solve his problems rather than anything he does in coaching sessions but he’s still on a learning curve, he’s likeable and he’s achieved some success already.
That’s a huge improvement on his recent predecessors.