When the Swope Park Rangers announced Marc Dos Santos as their first head coach it was probably inevitable that he would only be in Kansas City for a short time. It was a coup landing him; he was fresh from leading the Ottawa Fury, a team he helped create, to the NASL championship game. Falling only to a very talented Cosmos but still earning him the NASL coach of the year.
Dos Santos had a track record of building teams and leading them to success. He also was rarely in any one place for long. A year or two at each team seemed to be the rule. In talking with him, each time there were very good reasons to move on.
There were questions of why he would go from the NASL, the second division on the U.S. Soccer pyramid to the third division USL. Even more so a USL team that is the B team for a MLS team where he would not have full control.
"When I left Ottawa in 2015 I felt very sure and very good about coming here. The only doubt that I had when I came here, the only thing in the back of my mind, I was not sure if it was the right thing professionally to do in my career orientation," Dos Santos explained this week. "I took the risk and I felt at that moment maybe it is, I am going to know about MLS, I am going to work with Peter (Vermes), I'm going to be involved in an MLS team and learn more about the league. After being here almost a year I realized that professionally I did not feel it was the best move for me."
Fans immediately questioned if it was an issue between Vermes and Dos Santos that led to a falling out but Dos Santos made it clear that was not the case. "I love everything about Sporting Kansas City and I've become a fan of the club, the facility, the relationship with Peter and the first team, the relationship with my players and the reserve team. Everybody has been absolutely fantastic. The ownership has been good."
What was missing?
While the relationships with the club was good, Dos Santos wanted the challenge of it all being on him. "The only thing that was making me doubt, was the position I was in today professionally and where I wanted to be one day. In the process of me thinkng about that and doubting it and not being totally fulfilled professionally, in that process came a couple of clubs. One of those being San Francisco and I thought I lot about it. You don't go from making one move and then saying I am going to another move without thinking about it. My family already prepared themselves to come to Kansas City."
"This is a move I thought a lot about," Dos Santos continued. "But at the end of the day what stuck more was the professional aspect of being in front of a team, choosing the players at the highest level I could, dealing with a salary cap and being able to maximize all the qualities I have. It is more difficult to do that when coaching a reserve team."
He had coached reserve teams and youth teams before so he knew what it would be like but the reality set in more as he coached the Rangers this season. "It did, it did. Life is like that, in life you take decisions, sometimes you make very good ones and sometimes you make very bad ones. I'm not saying this was a bad one at all, I've learned a lot here and I was able to get a lot of things that will stay with me. Maybe professionally it was not the best choice and you have to move on with life, you can't cry about it. You take decisions, you learn from them and you move on."
Pattern of moving quickly
Often talented people, players, coaches and even normal non-sports world workers may quickly move up or to new challenges. It can be a sign of rapid development and seeking new challenges but is can also be a sign of someone that is a problem or not loyal to an organization that gave them a chance.
When asked if that was a concern that his history may give a bad impression, Dos Santos quickly replied, "No. You need to understand why those movements happened. I moved from Montreal when I didn't want to move from Montreal but in that moment I had to. I moved from Desportivo Brasil when they and Traffic were being sold to an organization that I was not very comfortable with being part of and then I went to Ottawa. Then I did not have any intention of this happening so fast. What people think about my movement is one thing, what me and my family thinks and the club that I am going to, this is the most important thing for me."
Why the San Francisco Deltas and why now?
"First the opportunity to build from zero an NASL team again, I have this maybe ego side of me," Dos Santos laughed. "A side of me that wants to help prove, I helped build Ottawa, and I can help build another team that is in a context completely different than Ottawa."
"The second thing is the city," he continued. "They flew me in to speak with me and Mary (Marc's wife) to talk about the project. I fell in love very quickly; the city is a very special place. You are getting this from a guy that has traveled a lot. It's not Sao Paulo, it's not Porto, it came very close to me reaction when I saw Cape Town in South Africa when I said this incredible. The same thing happened in San Francisco."
Marc fell in love with the city and also really likes the ownership of the Deltas, but will this finally be the stop where Dos Santos can stay awhile? "The ownership is dynamic, they want a long term thing. Now after these ten years that I have done a lot of traveling I wanted to choose a place that I could stay for a good amount of time. I felt this scenario would give me the opportunity to stay for a good amount of time. But you know what? The future does not belong to me, we are foolish to think we control the tomorrows, especially in sports. I think I am going for a big amount and a lot of years but I don't want to say what the future is."
Expansion teams are not always patient
Owners are not always patient with expansion teams. NYCFC landed Jason Kreis , an MLS Cup winning coach for their launch but let him go after just one season. The Rangers next opponent, Saint Louis FC just released their first ever coach.
The Deltas were formed by owners that come from software startups, tech companies and venture capital investors so they are not your normal sports owners. Will they have the patience to let the team struggle while it is being built?
"Very much, very much so," Dos Santos noted. "They want to build it with time and I am sure they are going to have the patience and they understand what it is to build an expansion team. One of the things that struck me when I was speaking with them, I have at moments in my life spoke with owners that I felt were a little bit delusional and that is the reality. I speak and say ‘oh my god it is not like that, you are going to struggle.' One of the things, maybe because it is people who are used to doing startups, they have done a lot of startups in their business. They were never delusional in the way they spoke to me and in what they want to become. I even saw things in their objectives that I thought we could obtain much faster than the years they had there. I didn't say anything but I think we will achieve faster than they think."
Will Dos Santos poach players from the Rangers?
The Rangers are starting to develop several players that have a potential future with Sporting Kansas City. Amer Didic just played for the first team in a CCL match and Tyler Pasher was on the bench for that game as well. There are several other players that could make the jump someday as well.
Dos Santos laughed, "This is Sporting Kansas City and I am Marc Dos Santos, it is not Marc Dos Santos FC, the players belong to Sporting Kansas City."