Doyle, Warshaw give their thoughts on the Carl Robinson era in Vancouver

The Vancouver Whitecaps have announced the release of head coach Carl Robinson from his head coaching duties on Tuesday. Robinson departs after nearly five years in charge of the club.


Kristian Jack of TSN made an excellent observation: When comparing Robinson to the longest-tenured — and perhaps most secure — managers in MLS, the former ‘Caps boss stacks up pretty well.

Analyzing the numbers, it seems a strange decision for the Whitecaps to let Robinson go. But this isn’t a normal moment in Whitecaps history. Vancouver have the biggest offseason in club history coming up. With the eight-figure sale of Alphonso Davies to Bayern Munich, the ’Caps await a huge influx of funds. An influx of funds means big decisions -- decisions that will determine the future of the organization.


By the numbers, the ‘Caps probably aren’t making the playoffs this year. They currently sit in 8th place, four points below the playoff line with a tough remaining schedule. They have license to start thinking 3, 5 or 10 years into the future. They need someone in charge whom they trust to guide that next phase.


While Robinson led the team to a solid record, making the playoffs in three of his five years in charge, that span is a long time at a club for a single manager. Ideas can start to get stale and messages can begin to be tuned out. Only three managers in the league have been with their clubs longer than Robinson was with Vancouver: Sporting KC's Peter Vermes (since 2009), D.C. United's Ben Olsen (2010) and Columbus Crew SC's Gregg Berhalter (2013). If Vancouver are building a plan for, say, the next five years, that would put Robinson into even more rarefied territory.


There’s also another larger, more pressing issue for the ‘Caps. Some call them a counterattacking or direct team — they’ve attempted the fewest passes in the league in 2018 — but they’ve conceded seven more goals than any of the playoff teams in the West. You can’t be a counterattacking team that doesn’t defend well. One game they sit deep and play long balls into the striker, the next game they play intricate combinations. It’s not bad to be able to do multiple things, but the ‘Caps never nailed down doing a single thing well.


When the ‘Caps think about the giant decisions they have to make this offseason, they need an identity, a North Star, a top-down, fully comprehensive plan for who they are and want to be.


Who could deliver such a vision? The most obvious answer would be Canadian Marc dos Santos, currently an assistant coach with LAFC. Dos Santos was named NASL Coach of the Year in 2015 while in charge of the Ottawa Fury, led Swope Park Rangers to the USL final in 2016, and won an NASL championship in 2017 with the San Francisco Deltas. He’s apprenticed under Peter Vermes and Bob Bradley. I have friends who have played for multiple MLS coaches and for dos Santos; several say dos Santos is the best coach they’ve ever had. Any coach that’s new to a league would be a risk, but dos Santos could be a risk worth taking.

As Sam Stejskal has reported, Robinson also conducted most of the personnel decisions for the Whitecaps.


It’s a hole the club will need to fill, and another major decision they face. Will the new coach have control of player acquisitions, too? Or do they restructure the whole front office and hire a new GM as well as a head coach?


This offseason will determine the course of the next decade for Vancouver, and Robinson's exit only the first of many big decisions to come.