Waiting for the NASL postseason was nothing. After having Marc Dos Santos on their radar for five years, Sporting Kansas City could hang on for a few more weeks before bringing him in to lead their startup USL side.
Dos Santos, fresh off 2015 NASL Coach of the Year honors after leading Ottawa Fury FC to the NASL title game, was announced on Friday as the manager of Swope Park Rangers for their inaugural season in 2016. It was the culmination of a process that began with a chance meeting between Dos Santos and Sporting assistant coach Kerry Zavagnin.
“I met Kerry when I did the UEFA coaching license in Ireland,” Dos Santos told reporters at Friday's news conference. “That was 2010, more or less. Since then, we developed a friendship. Even when I was in Brazil, Kerry used to call me a lot to get information on players. So it was a friendship that was built sharing ideas, sharing a vision, and from there everything came about.”
Zavagnin said after the announcement that Dos Santos' philosophies fit right in with what Sporting manager Peter Vermes and his staff were trying to accomplish.
“Some of the best things that you get out of those courses are the individual conversations that you have,” he said. “Marc and I first met there, and I think what was most impressive about him was the immediate similarities that we had when it comes to viewing the game. There were a lot of different ideas that people have on how the game should be played, and there was an immediate connection there.”
Talks to make Dos Santos SPR's first coach began in earnest last November, Vermes said during the news conference – well before his successful second season with Ottawa, who finished runner-up to the New York Cosmos with a 3-2 defeat in Soccer Bowl 2015.
“We've been in constant contact since that time period,” Vermes said. “This is something that we've thought about for a long time. We've tried to do everything we could to let Marc stay focused and concentrated on what he was doing in Ottawa. We understood that he had an obligation there that he had to first fulfill. Obviously, he did it very, very well – not only getting his team to the final but also being named Coach of the Year.
“We definitely feel vindicated in the fact that we got the Coach of the Year out of the NASL to become our coach here.”
The fast-growing USL is the third tier of professional soccer in the US and Canada, but Dos Santos doesn't consider his move to the Rangers to be downward or even lateral.
“A lot of people asked me if it was a step back,” he said. “I see it as a huge step forward because of the club that it is and the opportunity to learn with Peter, with Kerry, the staff and the club.
“I don't look at USL, NASL or MLS. I just look at it as being in the right club at the right time. So it was very easy to choose.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.