Marc Dos Santos’s Coaching Journey Stops In Ottawa


It’s safe to say that Marc Dos Santos is well traveled.

The former Montreal Impact head coach may only be 37 years of age, but he has worked with soccer clubs all over the world.

In addition to his time in North America, he’s worked with Chelsea, in England, F.C. Porto in Portugal and SE Palmeiras in Brazil.

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“[Interning at those clubs] was a great experience,” says the Montreal native. “Being in a big club like Chelsea and learning how to manage big stars was amazing. At Porto, I learned a lot about training and organizing sessions – everything was great at Porto when it comes to that.”

Now the head coach of Ottawa Fury F.C. in the North American Soccer League, Dos Santos looks back fondly on all of his internships at major clubs the world over, but the time he spent in Brazil holds a special place in his heart.

“Brazil was different. Brazil was passion. Brazil was everything soccer is. You have it all in Brazil. Brazil. Was. Football.”

Culture, Culture, Culture

When asked what the one thing North American soccer can learn from the Brazilian way, he is adamant that the ‘culture’ is what makes South American Football so great.

Dos Santos uses the Canada-Colombia friendly in New Jersey last week as an example of this culture.

Star Colombian midfielder James Rodriguez was fouled about 35 yards from goal. The Canadians stopped and started to set up their defense in preparation of a free kick into the box. But the Colombians took it really quickly. Rodriguez popped up, took the short free kick and fired a shot past the unsuspecting Canadian goalkeeper. The strike would serve as the game winner.

According to Dos Santos, Colombia won the match because of their soccer culture.

“[That goal by Colombia] would never have happened in North America because they wait for the wall to form and get organized before the free kick,” he says. “But [Juan] Quintero and Rodriguez took it like they were playing in the streets. They played the ball fast and that’s culture. That’s things that you learn in the street, things that are in your DNA and your blood. North America needs to learn about the culture side of soccer.”

Working With Big Phil

Steve Kingsman Photograph

Used with permission

Dos Santos would experience plenty of that culture while at Palmeiras, a club based in Sao Paulo.

He was in charge of the Youth squad, managing the U-15 team, but he still had the chance to work with Brazilian coaching legend, Luiz Felipe Scolari.

One of Dos Santos’ responsibilites was providing “Big Phil” with scouting reports on the opposing teams, something Scolari was very grateful for.

“Scolari is an imposing man. Getting to hand him those scouting reports was respectful for me because he is a very direct guy. If he does not like your work, he will tell you right away. If he keeps asking you for those reports, it’s because he appreciates them.”

The Proudest Moment

Although reporting to Scolari was a thrill, Dos Santos’ main responsibility was the academy. He helped his academy team to an undefeated youth season, capturing the championship for the first time in Palmeiras’ history.

“People ask me all the time, ‘Was the [2009] Championship in Montreal your greatest achievement?’ No, my proudest moment was winning the youth championship with Palmeiras. Montreal is an easy second, though.”

This is in large part because of the culture he talked about earlier.

“Montreal was great because of the pro level, but if I tell you about the emotions, the passion involved in that youth championship, Palmeiras was unique and I’m so thankful for that.

“Brazil was different. Brazil was passion. Brazil was everything soccer is. You have it all in Brazil. Brazil. Was. Football.” – Marc Dos Santos

“It’s crazy, you’re talking about a youth championship and some fans from Palmeiras traveled six hours by bus to go to the final and there were 6,000 people. You’re talking 6,000 people traveling from Sao Palo, just to go watch the youth final that was Palmeiras against Vasco da Gama. And also there’s the fact that in 100 years of history of the club, they’d never won that title. It was something big.

“I was telling someone recently that when I looked at the internet version of the newspaper the day after we won, the article had over 250, 000 likes. It just shows you how big the club is.”

Seems like that culture has rubbed off on Marc Dos Santos quite a bit.

I decided to do a little comparison, just for fun. It turns out that the Ottawa Fury (@OttawaFuryFC) have around 7,000 Twitter followers and the Montreal Impact (@impactmontreal) have some 80,000 followers. Meanwhile, Palmeiras (@SEPalmeiras) has just about 1.2 million followers.

So I guess Dos Santos has reason for cherishing that youth championship.

Now, back to North America

Ottawa Fury F.C. may be a ‘minor’ league team playing in a ‘minor’ town, but Dos Santos made sure that his staff is anything but minor.

His assistant coach is Martin Nash, – brother of Steve – a former Canadian National Team member. The goalkeeping coach, is none other than former Liverpool F.C. legend, Bruce Grobbelaar.

“[Bruce] is the best goalkeeper coach anyone could ask for,” says Dos Santos. “He’s funny, he laughs a lot, but he’s not as crazy as he was in his playing days. I think he makes our club’s goalkeepers better and it is a blessing to have him on the staff, there’s no doubt.”

When asked if there was a possibility Ottawa could someday sustain a Major League Soccer franchise, Dos Santos had a quick response.

“Absolutely,” he said. “I think it’s all about the product you put on the field. I think if Ottawa, every week, had the Ottawa Fury against the New England Revolution; Ottawa Fury against Montreal Impact; Ottawa Fury against Toronto F.C., I think the club would be an excellent franchise for sure.”

Steve Kingsman Photography

Used with permission

Dos Santos is also quick to point out that the city of Ottawa isn’t minor when it comes to soccer.

“We were a club that was nine months old and every time we had an event in our stadium [TD Place Stadium], the crowd answered. Our home opener against the New York Cosmos had almost 15,000 fans. Our international friendly against the Glasgow Rangers had 9,000 fans.”

15,000 supporters for the home opener? Not quite what Dos Santos experienced in England or Brazil, but it’s a nice start for a club that only played its first game this past spring.

As for the culture, well, there’s still quite a ways to go.

Special thanks to Mr. Dos Santos and to Graeme Ivory and the Ottawa Fury Communications Department.

Next: What will the Montreal Impact do Without Marco Di Vaio?