VANCOUVER, BC – “Leadership is us.”
Those were the words Vancouver Whitecaps FC head coach Marc Dos Santos used this week when he met with the team ahead of Saturday’s season opener against Minnesota United FC at BC Place. Spanish midfielder Jon Erice will wear the armband on Saturday, he told the group, but Dos Santos doesn’t just want one captain.
He wants a team of them.
“One can wear the armband, but then we need a group of players that will hold themselves accountable,” Dos Santos told whitecapsfc.com. “You need more than one player to do that. You can’t put that only on the captain. You need a group of players to do that, and that’s what I’m looking for.”
Erice is one of the most experienced players in the young ‘Caps locker room, having played more than 300 matches between the top three divisions of Spanish football, as well as stints in Cyprus and Greece. The 32-year-old most recently served as a co-captain with La Liga 2 side Albacete Balompié, who are currently in line for promotion to the top division, helping the club post an undefeated record in his 18 appearances during the 2018-19 campaign.
On top of his on-field experience, Dos Santos said Erice is simply a player that leads by example through his daily habits and that his teammates naturally follow.
“He walks the talk,” Dos Santos said. “The way he trains, the way he carries himself, the way he interacts with all the players, I just think he’s here for the right reasons. He’s a team guy.”
And so too is Fredy Montero, who Dos Santos said will serve as an alternate captain. The 31-year-old striker, who led Whitecaps FC in scoring while on loan in 2017, has played more than 150 matches in Major League Soccer, in addition to stints in his native Colombia, China, and Portugal.
“Jon and Fredy might be the two guys walking on the field with the armband in different games,” he said. “But if both of them are not on the field, somebody else is going to wear the armband. My biggest concern, more than choosing one captain, is making sure that the group is always together, unified, and holding themselves accountable.”
From day one, Dos Santos has stressed the importance of the collective. It’s not one player that’s going to lead the team to success, but rather a group of players who come together and form a cohesive unit within the model of play.
And he has the same philosophy when it comes to leadership.
“I want fans to understand that the responsibility of leadership doesn’t only come from the captain,” he said. “When we’re talking about leadership, it has to come from me, it has to come from the captains, and from the older guys in the team. It has to come from everyone.”
Whitecaps FC open the 2019 MLS regular season against Minnesota United FC on Saturday at BC Place (3 p.m. PT kickoff on TSN 1/4 and TSN 1040 radio – visit whitecapsfc.com for ticket information).