After spending a season on the sideline with Bob Bradley as an assistant coach in LAFC's expansion season, Vancouver Whitecaps boss Marc Dos Santos is preparing to face his former club for the first time.
Dos Santos and the Whitecaps (0W-4L-2D, 2pts) welcome high-flying LAFC (6W-0L-1D, 19pts) to BC Place on Wednesday night (10 pm ET | TSN in Canada, MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in US) searching for their first win of the season.
Will there be any extra motivation facing his former club?
"I'm cold, I've been in football [long] enough," Dos Santos said after training on Monday. "Things pass. A club is not like a wife where you actually stay, bond and after a divorce you're close somehow. I've been in too many places. LAFC was very special and important for me, I'm very close to the people there, but it's an obsession for me to make the Vancouver Whitecaps grow."
While Dos Santos works tirelessly to improve the club, his players are beginning to notice steps in the right direction, even if the points aren't coming.
"It's about sticking with our mentality and the identity we're going to create here with the Vancouver Whitecaps," goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau said. "Sure, the results right now are not impressive, but what we're building is more than three points right now. We have to see the big picture."
Center back Doneil Henry, who has played every minute of the Whitecaps' season so far, echoed his 'keeper's sentiment.
"We haven't had a complete performance yet, but we see progress," Henry said. "It's been tough. The season just started. If you look at the scheme of things, it's not that much. We obviously want to pick up points as soon as possible, but we're not stressing, not panicking. We're trusting the process."
“Marc is an excellent coach and a great guy," LAFC head coach Bradley told media ahead of the match. "The start of the season has been difficult, but he’s been through tough situations when he coached with different teams so I have confidence that he’ll continue to push to get it right.”
Dos Santos will have his hands full attempting to get things right against LAFC, who are off to the third-best start in MLS history with six wins and a draw after seven games.
"Zero surprise," Dos Santos said of LAFC's hot start. "By being there, that's the club in MLS that does everything right. I was able to be there that expansion year to see everything in the growth. ... They have an ideal DP [Designed Player] for that market, a stadium in the heart of LA, an incredible fanbase that actually make a big difference in their stadium. That's the reality -- we can't be here lying. It's a club that's doing everything right. ... That's the example, that's the standard."
That LAFC DP, Carlos Vela, has eight goals and five assists after seven games, leading the league in both categories. But even a match against arguably the most in-form player and club in the league is not discouraging Vancouver's Henry.
"The game is massive," Henry said. "Every time we play a team [in the Western Conference] we need to pick up points. We don't want to start slipping away. We only have two points in six games, we need to start picking up points. At home, we're capable of beating any one of these teams. We just need to start getting it together for a full 90 minutes."