Roster breakdown - defenders

Positional outlook: MDS on defenders

Since taking over as Vancouver Whitecaps FC head coach on November 7, Marc Dos Santos has been working “day and night” at building his roster for 2019.

And on Sunday, December 9, the MLS offseason officially begins with a half-day trade window, kicking off a busy two weeks that will also include the 2018 MLS Expansion Draft, the opening of Free Agency, the MLS Waiver Draft, and the MLS Re-Entry Process – followed by the opening of the primary MLS Transfer Window in February.

This week on, Dos Santos is discussing the qualities he’s looking for in each position, which are all guided by the model of play he’s hoping to establish in Vancouver.

Today, Dos Santos discusses the defenders.


That’s the key word Marc Dos Santos used when describing the characteristics he’s looking for in his defenders – whether it’s his fullbacks or centre backs.

As part of his model of play, Dos Santos has made it no secret that he wants his teams to react quickly to losses of possession and to be “vertical” in attack. In other words, when Dos Santos’ team doesn’t have the ball, he wants them to win it back as quickly as possible. And when they do, he wants them to be purposeful in making a play towards goal.

The fullbacks have important roles to play in both regards.

“When we say aggressive, it’s not only in one v. one defending and closing down, but fullbacks who have the energy to go up and participate in the attack, to be an extra number,” he said. “Fullbacks who are also able to close inside when the ball’s on the opposite side, who have good awareness of that.”

It’s very much the profile of a “modern-day fullback” – not someone who tends to sit back and defend but a player who has the athleticism to make high-intensity runs in both directions.  

“You’re being asked to do two positions at once, whereas it used to be just one,” said former Tottenham and Liverpool director of football Damien Comolli in the Telegraph. “The demands are higher than in any other position. It’s the position where the distance in sprints required is highest because if they are in an advanced position they need to sprint over 30 or 40 yards to be back in a position where they can defend properly.”

Similarly, though not to the same extent, Dos Santos said he wants his centre backs to be comfortable taking  "risks” by playing higher up the field and covering the space behind them. For that reason, Dos Santos has said centre back is one of the toughest positions to play in his system. 

“We want centre backs that are courageous, that step up with the team when the team is high on the field,” he said. “We want very short distances between the forwards and the centre backs.”