Of all the names in Québec and Canadian soccer history, few are as storied as Marc Dos Santos. Born in Montréal with Portuguese ancestery, Marc has been part of Québec and Canadian soccer at all levels since the start of our major league aspirations. He was the coach of the Trois-Rivières Attak in 2007 and 2008, and became the assistant coach of the Montréal Impact shortly afterward.
He would become the head coach late in the 2009 season, where he would take the Impact to a championship in the second division, as well as a CONCACAF Champions League semi-final berth. He is presently the head coach of the Ottawa Fury in the NASL, where he is looking to make a name for Canada's newest professional soccer club. I sat down with him on the eve of the Impact's game against Alajuelense to talk history, aspirations, and soccer in our nation's capital.
Marc, let's start by going back in time. You were with the Montréal Impact when they won the championship in the second division and qualified for the Champions League; has that experience influenced your coaching style here in Ottawa?
Everything that I have learned, everything that I have seen at other clubs, has helped me in my career and made me the coach that I am today. I am not going to only say that the Montréal Impact and the experience I got there was important - it was, 100%. But other places like SE Palmeiras and Deportivo [Brasil] helped influence the ideas that I have today. If you talk about the championship in Montréal and the Champions League, yes, that helped a lot when it comes to dealing with pressure, dealing with international exposure, and that was very important for my career, that's for sure.
Both last year and this year, there are a lot of former Montréal Impact players, or academy graduates, like Tony Donatelli and Siniša Ubiparipović on the Ottawa Fury roster. Are you looking to bring the success of Montréal to Ottawa, or are you and Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG) looking to build something new and unique to Ottawa?
In the first year it's normal, that when you don't have a squad and you start from zero that you go towards your old contacts and players that have played for you in the past; guys like Tony Donatelli, Pierre Rudolph-Mayard and Siniša Ubiparipović. But, if you look at the squad this year our needs have changed. I think you build a network, you grow with the players that were with you, but slowly you try to mould it to the Ottawa Fury identity. I think it's just normal when you're starting from the beginning that you have players who played for you in other clubs - that's pretty much your network that helps you build a squad.
There are a lot of Canadians on the roster this year, by my count you are tied for the most Canadian starters of any of the 5 Canadian pro clubs. Are you looking to build the Ottawa Fury into a launching pad for the national team?
No, we're not. Do we want to give opportunities to Canadian players to have another path, another opportunity to play professional soccer, then yes, absolutely. But, it's not done with an intention, because I think the most important thing is firstly to give a strong identity and a winning mentality to the Ottawa Fury. That can be done with a lot of Canadians and with a lot of players from other nations. We are very aware of trying to help young Canadian players have an opportunity to grow. I'll give you an example of two players that got in with our squad: Marcel de Bellis and Patryk Misik, two kids that were in the U-20 program, played some games with Canada, and now they're in our squad. It's an opportunity to play pro, and get seen.
What matters more to the Ottawa Fury this year; Winning the Voyageurs Cup in the Amway Canadian Championship, or making the NASL play-offs, or both?
Oh, that's a good question; I would tell you both right away. Our objective is to at least be in the semi-finals of the Amway Canadian Championship. I think it's a little bit unrealistic for us to win it, but you never know. I like the pressure of playing Montréal, Toronto and Vancouver - and the pressure is on between Edmonton and Ottawa. But if I look at both competitions and had to choose one, I would tell you the NASL play-offs. And that's for one main reason: It's more difficult to make the NASL play-offs. What I mean by that, is that Amway is a very short period. You have pretty much everything happening in April/May, while the NASL is an eight-month season. It's a bigger prize to make the NASL play-offs, because you have so many more games to play to get there. The Amway is more about a moment, you know, you could be in a very good moment in April, and be the opposite in the other months, or be bad in April, and be very successful in the other months. I think the Amway is a snapshot of the season, while the NASL play-offs is a long marathon to get there.
You made the CONCACAF Champions League with the Impact in 2009, do you think the Ottawa Fury can do the same next year?
It's possible. I think that when you're in a competition with five teams, anything is possible. We're outsiders, guaranteed, but we're not delusional here. There are teams that go into big competitions that become a surprise. To give an example, F.C. Porto against Monaco in 2004 UEFA Champions League finals. If we would win it, that would be the same example - a team that is an outsider, that doesn't have the pressure like the MLS teams do to win it. It's for sure possible.
One final question. Are you going to be watching the Champions League game between Montréal and Alajuelense tomorrow night?
I'm going to be watching the game today, and tomorrow! I just think the CONCACAF Champions League is a very interesting competition and I'm very happy that we have an MLS team and a Canadian team participating in that tournament.
Thank you very much for your time Marc - all the best this year - and we're looking forward to the home opener.
Thank you very much, nice speaking with you.
Will the Ottawa Fury follow in Montréal's footsteps by winning the Amway Canadian Championship and qualify for CONCACAF Champions League?Will they make the NASL play-offs against MLS expansion candidates Minnesota United and Sacremento F.C.? We'll know in only 8 short months.
The Ottawa Fury home opener is April 18th against Minnesota United F.C. at Place TD in Ottawa (1015 rue Bank, Ottawa). Tickets can be found at www.ottawafuryfc.com.