VANCOUVER, B.C. – Marc Dos Santos' rebuild of the Vancouver Whitecaps saw him scour the globe for talent, assembling a squad comprised of 14 different nationalities and diverse levels of experience.
Finding the right player to lead that squad was one of the early decisions Dos Santos needed to make. It sure wasn’t easy.
"It was very difficult for us to find the right captain here right from the beginning," Dos Santos said. "We felt that there was never one player in the roster that emerged as a leader. When you have a full, new squad it was a very tough moment for me to say, 'Yeah, this is the captain.'
"I even told the guys that, for me, there would be no armband. We're old enough, we're experienced enough, to go in there and take care of our stuff, but you need by rule to give a captain."
Dos Santos believes that drama around the captaincy is something of a North American obsession, especially in hockey markets. While he doesn't want things to become a "soap opera" if there was a change, he cautioned that everything was always up for evaluation.
For now, the man wearing that armband for the Whitecaps is Spanish midfielder Jon Erice, whose professional career spans 14 years and three countries. He was captain at his last two Spanish clubs, Albacete and Real Oviedo.
Citing Erice's "behavior and his commitment in training every day,” Dos Santos believes he has the right man for the job right now, and Erice fully agrees.
"It's a very big responsibility," Erice said of being named captain. "The captain is not only the player who wears the band. That is only a role. You have to do a lot of things inside. You have to support the players, the young players. You have to be an example for the rest of the guys in your work every day, and that's me."
Making the move to Vancouver wasn’t an easy decision for Erice, though. His wife and three children are back home in Spain, unable to join until his kids finish school at the end of June. But Dos Santos believes that the 32-year-old is "here for the right reasons.”
Having played up and down the Spanish footballing pyramid, it would have been easy for Erice to finish his career in his home country, sticking to comfortable surroundings. But the lure of what Dos Santos wants to achieve in Vancouver proved too tempting an offer to turn down.
"It was because the coaching staff came to Spain and explained to me the project that they have here in Vancouver," Erice said. "I've had to change everything in my life … But the project that Marc, Phillip [Dos Santos] and the coaching staff showed me is fantastic.
"They have great ideas. They're very clear their ideas. They're going to change things in Vancouver and in MLS games. It was a very big project for me and I couldn't say no."