New style starts to emerge as 'Caps train under Dos Santos for the first time

Felipe David Norman training rain

VANCOUVER, BC – Vancouver Whitecaps FC had their first training session under new head coach Marc Dos Santos Tuesday on a wet and chilly morning at the WFC National Soccer Development Centre. And in the span of just under 90 minutes, a new high-tempo style of play already started to emerge.

“You can tell he has a clear plan,” striker Theo Bair said of his first impressions of Dos Santos.

One important aspect of that plan is how to play without the ball – and how to win it back as quickly as possible. The vast majority of Tuesday's session revolved around defensive organization and defensive behaviours in the attacking third, with the goal of winning possession high up the field by applying pressure on the opposing back line and goalkeeper. 

“The first message is we’re going to press very high, but with intelligence,” Felipe said. “And know exactly what each position has to do. That should make us very excited because if you can win the ball close to the goal, that makes it easier in transition to score. It’s very exciting for the attacking players and for the whole team in general.”

Felipe described the overall message from the coaching staff on day one as “simple but effective,” adding that each player got an introduction of what will be expected of them as it pertains to the press. And that sentiment was echoed by Bair and centre back Doneil Henry.

“I have to be ready all the time,” said Bair, an Academy product who signed an MLS contract last July. “And I have to take the communication from behind me. As a striker, I’m usually the one who initiates the press but I also have to listen to my teammates to make sure it’s at the right time.”

“The demand on the centre backs is really high,” said Henry, adding that he couldn’t sleep on Monday night because he was too excited for the first day of training. “He wants players who can step into the midfield to press the striker or attacking midfielder. It was the first time we got to understand what the coach wants from us and the high standards he’s expecting on a daily basis.”

Prior to the session, Henry said the team was shown video of Napoli and a few other high-pressing teams to develop an understanding of the demands required to play in such a manner. And Dos Santos made it clear the demands are extremely high both physically and tactically.

If done right, however, the rewards can be immense.  

"It’s really good, but it’s going to take time to nail it down with the back four or back five and make sure we’re all in sync and understand each other’s movements,” Henry said.

Establishing a new way of playing is not going to happen in one day, in one week, or even in one month. It’s something the ‘Caps will be fine tuning throughout the preseason, and it’s something that will certainly evolve over the course of the season as new players continue to join the fold. But Dos Santos certainly didn’t waste any time in planting the first seed.


Whitecaps FC Academy products Gabriel Escobar, Nicholas Fussell, Thomas Hasal, Patrick Metcalfe, and Georges Mukumbilwa all participated in Tuesday’s session … As did Vancouver’s second-round selection in the 2019 MLS SuperDraft Brendan McDonough and Brazilian midfielder Matheus Queiroz, who has joined the group on trial … Earlier in the day, Whitecaps FC announced the acquisition of experienced Spanish midfielder Jon Erice.