VANCOUVER, B.C. – Marc Dos Santos' rebuilding of the Vancouver Whitecaps roster may still have a number of big pieces to be added, but the new 'Caps coach is starting to reveal the kind of player he covets.
Young, dynamic players seem to be his modus operandi when it's come to recruitment so far. There's also a very strong contingent of Canadians.
Of the 19 players currently signed to Vancouver's MLS roster, 11 of them are Canadians. The latest is national-team center back Derek Cornelius, who joined the club last week. Yet though Dos Santos’ acquisitions fit into his overall plan and preferred playing style, he says their nationalities are purely coincidental.
"No, it wasn't an intention, and that's good for Canada," Dos Santos told reporters at the Whitecaps’ preseason media day on Monday. "If it was an intention, like I was doing a favor to somebody or for the country, it would be sometimes bad. But in this case, no. The Canadians we got, it's because we wanted to do that.
"It's because a kid like Derek, who has an incredible upside, he's a player who has the characteristics that I like in a center back. Plus the positive is that he is also playing for Canada. It's all a plus. I've always said it: I want to help the country, but above everything, I want to help the Whitecaps. So when there's a Canadian player who is able to help both, it's great for everyone."
All but one of the 'Caps Canadians have played together last year as part of the national team setup, at either senior or Under-23 level.
The benefits are obvious. Player familiarity, chemistry, and a chance to build and get even better as a unit – all very important in a year with so much change in personnel in Vancouver.
"The guys that have been part of John Herdman's Canadian squad, we really do feel that we're on to something special there," Russell Teibert explained. "So it's nice to bring what we're doing with the Canadian national team back to the club atmosphere."
And surely a boost for the national team’s prospects as well?
"I think that's great," Teibert added. "It's the cohesiveness and in-game understanding. So if you're around that person, that player, that team day in and day out, you learn their tendencies on and off the field."
There is a drawback to such a Canadian-heavy aspect. The more Canadian internationals you have, the more players you can lose in one fell swoop to international duty, and that may prove to be an issue during this summer’s Gold Cup.
The Whitecaps could lose five or more players to Canada for the tournament, and if Les Rouges make a deep run, that would mean missing up to four of Vancouver's MLS matches.
Dos Santos is aware of the problems that may pose, but he feels there's no point getting caught up in a short-term issue when the longer-term goal is more important.
"It's so tough to build a roster, while at the same time thinking about all of that," Dos Santos noted. "If all of our players go with their national team, the first thing is because they are good. You have to have some quality to be an international. Then, a lot of the academy kids have to step up and take opportunities, so that's good for the club too. We want to make sure that we have in our club the best players possible."