MDS on tourney sked: Adaptation key to late kickoffs in Orlando

VANCOUVER, BC – Whitecaps FC head coach Marc Dos Santos addressed the media following training on Wednesday, shortly after the MLS is Back Tournament schedule was made public.

In their Group B matches, the ‘Caps will face FC Dallas on July 9, San Jose Earthquakes on July 15, and Seattle Sounders FC on July 20. All three of the club’s matches will take place at 7:30 p.m. PT.

PREPPING FOR ORLANDO

Right off the bat, Dos Santos made sure to address the fluidity of the situation surrounding the tournament and how the pandemic will affect it. Dos Santos erred on the side of cautious optimism.

“Right now, it looks like everything is going forward,” Dos Santos said. “We’re planning to go there next Wednesday and play our first game on July 9.”

As echoed previously, Dos Santos acknowledged that there is a bit of concern over the health and safety of the tournament. However, Dos Santos reiterated that he believes that the league and club will set up all participants for success.

“We feel that the setup that is going to be in Orlando and in Disney allows us to go there feeling safe,” Dos Santos said. “Once we’re in the hotel and once we’re in our day-to-day, the wearing the masks outside, the social distancing, the washing of hands, washing of the things in our hotel room, that’s an individual responsibility that we’re not only doing in Orlando, we’re also doing here.”

EXPECT TO SEE A LOT OF GOALS

On the tournament, Dos Santos expects a fast-paced style of play as players adjust to the heat and humidity and teams try to grab as many points as they can.

“I think we’ll see games that are going to become very open with a lot of opportunities,” Dos Santos said. “I think there are going to be a lot of chances. I see a lot of goals in this tournament.”

Regarding his own team’s motivations, Dos Santos stressed the importance of starting hot and remaining in good standing after the tournament.

“We have nine points in play that are league points and we focus on making as many points as possible,” Dos Santos said. “As of today, we are in a playoff position in the West and once we come back from Orlando, we still want to be in a playoff position so those (group stage) games are being looked at as league games.”

Dos Santos went on to discuss his approach to those group stage games and what he expects the competition of the group to look like early on.

“It’s a very balanced group where any of the four teams can qualify and finish in the top two spots,” Dos Santos said. “That’s the focus of everyone. Between playing Seattle first, Dallas, San Jose, I don’t think it makes a big difference in my approach.”

“Once you’re in a group stage like that, you can’t think too much about the second and third game, you have to think first about Dallas, trying to get the best result possible there and then move forward with the second game,” Dos Santos added.

LATE NIGHT KICKOFF

Their games will be somewhat different as they will all take place at 10:30 p.m. ET - prime time for fans back in Vancouver, but later than accustomed to in local time. Discussing the adjustments that the team will have to make, Dos Santos mentioned changing routines will be crucial.

“What we’re going to have to do very well is prepare the players to live a different type of life when it comes to sleeping until later, having a later breakfast, a later lunch, a later dinner, a later pregame meal,” Dos Santos said. “Their life changes when you play at 10:30. Most of our training sessions are also going to be at night so that’s going to be a change for everyone and a need of adaptation in a different way.”

For Dos Santos, that adaptation is critical to a successful stint in Orlando, not only for the team, but also for himself. Dos Santos mentioned the importance of keeping his squad mentally fit and plans to avoid players solely sitting in their hotel rooms or playing matches for the duration of the tournament.

“I know I’m going to learn a lot being there and I know I’m going to adapt a lot being there,” Dos Santos said. “What we’re doing now is educating our players on what they have to do on the health side, how careful they have to be. We’re also talking with the performance team and everybody involved in the club about what sort of activities we can do outside of soccer to keep the guys in a clean mindset.”

Continuing on adaptations, Dos Santos discussed what the experience is like for himself and concluded with how this unique opportunity in Orlando can benefit the squad.

“Not only for me, I think it’s for every coach that I speak with - they have the same concerns and the same challenges,” Dos Santos said. “The teams that see every tough moment as a growth and become stronger with it are the teams that have a better chance.”

All 54 MLS is Back Tournament matches will be aired live on TSN in Canada. Check mlssoccer.com for the complete tournament schedule.