Marc Dos Santos has a ‘thing’ for coaching expansion sides — and we can include the Whitecaps on that long list, as Vancouver is an expansion team in every way except name.Marc Dos Santos must really love that new-car smell.Four of his last five coaching positions were all expansion sides, from the Ottawa Fury (2014), Swopes Park Rangers (2016), San Francisco Deltas (2017) to Los Angeles FC last season. It’s already established the Vancouver Whitecaps are an expansion team in all but name this season.The first of those three teams all made championship games, and LAFC set several records with Dos Santos on staff as an assistant.Whether it’s the joy of creating something from nothing, the challenge posed by a project of that scale, or just some strange masochistic addiction, it’s obvious the Caps’ head coach relishes the chance to shape a team’s identity.And the key word to describe an MDS-coached side is “organized.”The principles are the same no matter the formation. The defence is tight, compact, difficult to break down, with an emphasis on quick, aggressive counterattacks through the flanks that is counterbalanced by “pragmatic” decision-making to maintain possession.It was the same when he was an assistant under Peter Vermes at Sporting Kansas City — the Whitecaps’ hosts on Saturday — and when he took the first-year SP Rangers to the USL title game. Nothing has changed, not even his talent as a quote-machine in media interviews.NEXT GAMESaturdayVancouver Whitecaps vs. Sporting Kansas City5:30 p.m. Children’s Mercy Park, TV: TSN; Radio: TSN1040 AMTake this line from an interview with Paul Tenorio before his move from Kansas City to San Francisco — where he won the NASL title — describing the same training philosophies that his Whitecaps put on display every week at UBC.“Look at Carlos Santana, I don’t think he plays piano to get better in what he does, he plays a lot of hours of guitar. So if you want to play a certain way, you have to train that certain way,” said Dos Santos.“And it’s not enough to go to a board and write it down. Like in music, again, if I show you a YouTube video of a guy playing a guitar, but I don’t give you the guitar in your hand, it’s not going to help you. The training session has to reflect that model every day.”Dos Santos himself learned a lot from working under Vermes as an assistant and as the coach of their USL team, and their relationship was strong enough that when he told Vermes during the season that he wanted to leave for the opportunity in San Francisco the next year, he was met with nothing but support.He returns to Kansas City, the so-called City of Fountains — as an MLS head coach for the first time, but knows his time there isn’t going to give him any special advantage.“I know them very well. I know them better than anyone,” Dos Santos said Thursday. “In Kansas City, it’s never the right time (to win). They’re a very strong team at home … it’s going to be a very hard game.”FIVE THINGS TO WATCH1.) Weary, worn-out WhitecapsVancouver is two games into a stretch that sees them play five opponents in a span of 10 days, and they’ve already been bitten by the injury bug.Out are key players in midfielder Jon Erice and forwards Yordy Reyna and Lass Bangoura, while there have been hints that winger Lucas Venuto might need some load management after playing 180 minutes in five days.There’s the possibility that both Erice and Bangoura could join the team in New York for Wednesday’s game against the Red Bulls, but both have been ruled out of Saturday’s game.2.) Sporting short-handedAs bad as Vancouver’s injury problems are, they pale in the face of Kansas City’s. Sporting is missing 10 players, seven of them starters, and five of them for the long term.That includes former Caps striker Erik Hurtado, who just had surgery on his wrist — while he was on the IR with a knee injury — and homegrown Daniel Salloi, who played for Dos Santos with Swopes Park.“Each game we’ve gotten better in that we’re more organized,” said coach Peter Vermes, who only had four substitutes for last week’s game. “Defensively, we’ve gotten better … but obviously we want to win.“We want to stay competitive so we have a chance as we get more and more guys back. But the difficulties are at the moment is … it’s only going to get worse before it gets better. Guys keep getting injured, and the guys who come back aren’t fully fit.”3.) Let’s get in formationWith Bangoura, Reyna and Venuto (most likely) out — they’d started the last two games on the wings in a 4-3-3 — and no true wingers to replace them, we could see a change in formation from the Whitecaps.Dos Santos has tried variations of three centrebacks at the back on the road this season, both in a 3-5-2 and 5-3-1-1, and lacking the offensive firepower of the three forwards and calming presence of Erice, could do the same in Kansas City.
Sporting Kansas City forward Johnny Russell, right, reacts after getting shoved by Vancouver Whitecaps forward Yordy Reyna during MLS action last April.
Peter Aiken /
4.) Revenge TourTheir last visit to Kansas City was, in hindsight, the beginning of the end for Carl Robinson. The team lost 6-0 to Sporting, a shambolic display that saw Yordy Reyna and Efrain Juarez both red-carded in a fracas sparked by midfielder Johnny Russell — who finished with a hat trick.The loss, the team’s third straight, was the worst in the Whitecaps’ MLS era.“Kansas City is always a tough place to play — I’ve always found it one of the hardest places to play since I’ve came into the league,” said right back Jake Nerwinski.With Reyna missing Saturday’s game, Felipe and Russell Teibert are the only remaining Caps on the squad from the 2018 meeting.“They’re a much different team. A lot of changes,” Russell said this week. “They’ve looked good this year. Obviously, there is a bit of added pressure for us … we need to win. We know that. I’m really looking forward to it.”5.) Not much mercy at Children’s Mercy ParkDespite being, umm, hamstrung by injuries, Sporting has been solid at home, with only one loss in five games (2-1-2) and leads MLS with a 3.0 goals-per game average at home, bolstered by a 7-1 kicking of Montreal in March.A 3-0 loss on May 5 to Atlanta was their first home defeat this firstname.lastname@example.org/TheRealJJAdamsCLICK HERE to report a typo.Is there more to this story? We’d like to hear from you about this or any other stories you think we should know about. Email email@example.com