The last thing you want to happen in an exhibition game between top rookie prospects? For one of your top prospects to go out with injury.
VANCOUVER — Marc Dos Santos is out as head coach of the Vancouver Whitecaps, and sporting director Axel Schuster believes the move could be the jolt the club needs as it battles for a playoff position.
“I’m convinced it could be at exactly the right moment, that it’s the wake-up call to go back and focus also on the small things that we’re not doing well,” Schuster told reporters on a video call Friday after the team announced Dos Santos had been fired.
“We decided this morning that this project needs another push, that this project needs some new life.”
Phil Dos Santos, Marc’s brother and an assistant coach with the club, was also relieved of his duties.
Whitecaps director of methodology Vanni Sartini will lead the team as acting head coach. Assistant coach Ricardo Clark and goalkeeper coach Youssef Dahha will remain in their posts, the team said.
Sartini said he’d developed a friendship with the Dos Santos brothers since the trio arrived in Vancouver in 2018.
“I know how much they worked and how much energy they pushed for the club and the team,” he said.
News of the regime change came after the Whitecaps (5-7-8) suffered a 4-3 upset loss to Canadian Premier League side Pacific FC on Thursday, crashing out of the Canadian Championship for the second time under Dos Santos’ leadership.
The Whitecaps were at the bottom of Major League Soccer’s Western Conference standings early this season after losing five straight games but have rebounded of late and are riding an eight-game undefeated streak in MLS play. The club sat three points outside of a playoff spot on Friday.
Dismissing Dos Santos wasn’t simply about the result of Thursday’s game, Schuster said, noting he’d recently spoken with the coaching staff about what needed to change.
“We are on a good run here results-wise but we could be even on a better one, maybe,” he said.
“I also don’t want to wait until the results copy what we see on the pitch, or saw on the pitch in several games.”
One area where the team needs to improve is on defence, Schuster said.
The Whitecaps have conceded the third-most goals (30) in the Western Conference this season and starting ‘keeper Maxime Crepeau has registered 50 saves in just 15 appearances.
“I think we have now the skill level, we have the quality to score goals,” Schuster said. “If we continue to concede goals in the way we have conceded goals, we will always be in trouble.”
Fans shouldn’t expect big changes on the field on Sunday, though, when the Whitecaps host Real Salt Lake at B.C. Place.
Sartini said he isn’t planning to do anything “crazy or different” for the game because the team has been getting results. The interim coach said if changes are going to be made, they’ll come next week.
The Whitecaps ended last year three points below the playoff bar with a 9-14-0 record and missed the post-season for the third year in a row.
Making the playoffs this year is key, Schuster said.
Whether firing Dos Santos will distract from that goal remains to be seen, he added.
“We’ll find out later,” the sporting director said. “Again, it’s a wake up call to make everyone in the locker room aware that we have to do better than we have done in the last weeks.”
Dos Santos, 44, was in the final year of his contract with Vancouver. He took over as coach in November 2018 after spending a year as an assistant with upstart Los Angeles FC.
The Montreal-born coach repeatedly said the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic were difficult for the Whitecaps, who were forced to finish the 2020 campaign based out of Portland and began this year playing home games in Sandy, Utah.
Living away from his family took a personal toll, Dos Santos said.
“It’s not easy. It’s not easy for the staff, it’s not easy for the players,” he said. “And of course it’s easier when you win a lot, but when you don’t, it makes it even more difficult, for sure.”
Despite the club’s poor record early this year, Dos Santos said he didn’t feel as if he were under pressure. He maintained that real pressure would come from not being able to feed his family, or having cancer or a brain tumour.
“Pressure of getting fired? It’s part of every coach’s pathway, you know? It’s even important for a coach on his pathway to get fired,” he said on June 24, the day after Vancouver dropped a 2-1 decision to the L.A. Galaxy for a fifth straight loss.
“I never got fired in my life. So I think it’s an important step on your pathway as a coach to grow. So I don’t feel pressure, I feel frustration.”
Before joining MLS, Dos Santos worked with the San Francisco Deltas of the North American Soccer League, where he earned manager of the year honours in 2017. He also guided the Ottawa Fury to the NASL final in 2015, his second and final year with the squad.
Weeks before Dos Santos took over the ‘Caps squad, players and the team’s general manager said the group suffered from a “divided” locker-room — an issue that grew after coach Carl Robinson and his staff were fired mid-season.
The dual Canadian-Portuguese citizen said he knew he was arriving at a “difficult moment” for the club, and acknowledged that creating change and forming a new identity wouldn’t be easy.
“It’s not a PowerPoint presentation to the players or a motivational speaker or Harry Potter with a wand and now we have culture. That’s done in the day-to-day, every day,” he told reporters at his first press conference as the Whitecaps head coach.
The Whitecaps finished the 2019 campaign with a dismal 8-16-10 record, and were ousted from the Canadian Championship when they dropped a 2-1 decision to the CPL’s Cavalry FC.
Fans hoping to see a new face behind the ‘Caps bench this season may be disappointed. Schuster said he the club doesn’t feel rushed to find a replacement and that he doesn’t have any specific candidates in mind.
“We never want to hire the first one. We want to hire the right one,” he said.
The three-run homer launched by Teoscar Hernandez in the fourth inning provided the Blue Jays with enough runs to defeat the Minnesota Twins on Saturday in Toronto, and the blast pushed him past Vladimir Guerrero Jr. for the team lead in RBI.
The 6-2 victory also restored the Blue Jays (83-65) to the second wild-card spot in the American League by a half-game over the New York Yankees.
The Yankees (83-66) were thumped 11-3 at home by Cleveland. The Boston Red Sox (85-65) held on to the top wild-card spot with a 9-3 win over the Baltimore Orioles.
Hernandez has 106 RBI, two more than Guerrero, who has an outside chance at the AL triple crown. He’s first in batting average (.318) and homers (46), and now fourth in RBI, eight behind Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez.
The 28-year-old Hernandez credits work on his mental game as the reason for his productive and consistent season. He’s not only been reliable at the plate but also in the outfield.
“He’s been the best hitter on a lot of teams,” Blue Jays starter Steven Matz said of Hernandez. “He’s easy to overlook with how good this lineup is. He’s been amazing.”
Canadian swimmer Penny Oleksiak, a seven-time Olympic medallist, was among 14,722 at the Rogers Centre. She threw out the ceremonial first pitch and tossed a strike.
The Twins appeared headed for a ninth straight win in Toronto dating back Aug. 17, 2017. They led 2-0 after the first inning on a two-run homer to right field by former Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson, who also belted a solo shot in Minnesota’s series-opening win Friday.
But Matz settled down after Donaldson’s homer Saturday to retire 16 of the next 17 Twins.
Matz has benefitted from the highest average of run support in Major League Baseball this season at 8.07 a game. He’s won his last four decisions. His 13th win matched Hyun Jin Ryu for the team lead.
“To be in a hole like that, you just want to make good pitches and put up zeroes,” Matz said.
“I just wanted to keep it close and wait for the bats to come alive.”
The bats perked up in the fourth. Minnesota rookie starter Bailey Ober (2-3) took a no-hitter into the inning. The home side got to Ober the second time through the Blue Jays’ order.
Marcus Semien led off the fourth with a solo shot to left field to become only the fifth second baseman in MLB history to hit 40 or more homers in a season.
Yesterday: 31st birthday<br>Today: 40th homer of the season<br><br>Not a bad weekend, huh? 🥳 <a href=”https://t.co/uaSwpoBN6f”>pic.twitter.com/uaSwpoBN6f</a>
Guerrero then walked, and Bo Bichette singled to centre. Hernandez lifted a first-pitch slider high into the sky that barely cleared the left-field fence for his 28th homer and a two-run advantage.
“I knew I hit it good, but just a little high,” he said.
Ober and OUT 💪<br><br>💣 <a href=”https://twitter.com/TeoscarH?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@TeoscarH</a> 💣 <a href=”https://t.co/9HaQgApXkQ”>pic.twitter.com/9HaQgApXkQ</a>
Toronto padded its lead in the seventh when Twins reliever Jovani Moran loaded the bases with walks to Alejandro Kirk, George Springer and Guerrero. Kyle Barraclough replaced Moran and was greeted with a two-run single to left from Bichette.
Bo adds mo’ 🙌 <a href=”https://t.co/E9JULud582″>pic.twitter.com/E9JULud582</a>
A two-out walk to Donaldson followed by a single to centre from Miguel Sano ended Matz’s day after 96 pitches and five and two-thirds innings of work.
Blue Jays reliever Trevor Richards finished off the sixth for Matz. Tim Mayza generated a one-two-three seventh inning and struck out Nick Gordon to begin the eighth.
Righty Adam Cimber finished off the eighth, aided by a brilliant play from Bichette. He went deep in the hole to his right to throw out Donaldson.
The last thing you want to happen in an exhibition game between top rookie prospects? For one of your top prospects to go out with injury.
That’s what happened with Dmitri Samorukov and the Edmonton Oilers in Edmonton’s 4-3 prospect game win over the Calgary Flames on Saturday night.
Early in the first period, after a couple on-ice collisions, Samorukov left the game. It was an ominous moment, all the more so because Samorukov’s season was cut short last year due a shoulder injury. He had just been cleared one week ago to return to the ice from injury. He had been the talk of the first few days of the Oilers rookie camp, impressing team insiders with his great skating and big body.
Winger Xavier Bourgault also took a nasty hit-from-behind into the boards late in the game, missing the final three minutes of the game.
There was no word on the extent of the Samorukov and Bourgault’s injuries at the time we published this post.
Samorukov is part of Edmonton’s Big Boyz Brigade on defence, Edmonton’s group of young and hulking d-man prospects , all of them well over six feet tall.
The group also includes Philip Broberg, Michael Kesselring, Markus Niemelainen, Filip Berglund, Phil Kemp and Vincent Desharnais. They should form the Bakersfield defence this year.
Kemp, Broberg, Niemelainen, Berglund and Kesselring all played in the rookie game.
Each of the Big Boyz Brigade got stronger as the game went on. The Oilers rookies came back from a 3-1 first period deficit to win.
Here are brief reports on each of the Big Boyz Brigade, with my account limited because I was unable to go over video to review the key plays.
Kesselring: He got beat to a rebound on one goal against and failed to block a shot on another. But as the game went on, he got stronger, playing on a pairing with Markus Niemelainen. Kesselring got his feet going and made a number of strong plays, winning, moving and shooting the puck.
Niemelainen: He reminded me a bit of Kris Russell in this one (though a much bigger version of Russell), in that he’s fast on his skates and defensive minded. He also won the puck a few times in his zone and was only able to dump it out, as opposed to making a good pass to get it out. But, overall, got the job done on defence, though he failed to cut out a pass on one goal against and was slow to his man in front of the Edmonton net on another.
Kemp: He scored two bad angle goals, one through a screen and one on a deflection, but he scored them because he jumped into the attack and put the puck at the net. What’s not to like? He did get beat down the wing on one dangerous Flames rush in the first. But he also jumped up a few times to pinch and keep the puck in the Calgary end. This was the best I’ve seen him as an Oilers prospect. After Samorukov went out, he paired up with veteran Yanni Kaldis, who made a few nice passes for assists on the power play.
Broberg: He looked bad on one early goal against, wandering behind the net, and taking himself out of position to stop a slot pass, which eventually ended up in the net. Other than that, though, Broberg played well. He skated miles and skated fast. He was Edmonton’s top d-man on the power play, making a number of good passes and even better pinches in that role. A super solid 2021-22 debut for the Oilers.
Berglund: He looked much, much, much better here than he had when I last saw him play in Sweden in the fall, when he was playing hurt. He too had a bad moment in the first, getting caught in the n-zone on a Calgary rush and goal. But he was Edmonton’s steadiest d-man in this game, shutting down the attack, moving the puck, invariably in position. It looks like he and Broberg will form Edmonton’s top partnership in Bakersfield to start the year.
EDMONTON — The defence turned the tide for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Saturday.
DeAundre Alford and Adam Bighill recorded defensive touchdowns as the league-leading Blue Bombers fought their way past the Edmonton Elks 37-22.
“Our defence, scoring two touchdowns for us, that is absolutely amazing when they are able to create turnovers like that and capitalize on them with points on the board,” said Winnipeg running back Andrew Harris.
“Our defence has been our backbone. They really flexed when we needed them to.”
Alford had two touchdowns in the contest.
“I think this is the best defence in the CFL and that we put everybody on notice that we are going to play fast and physical,” he said. “That we are going to do whatever it takes to win.”
The Blue Bombers (6-1) have won four games in a row while the Elks (2-4) have lost two straight and fell to 0-4 at home this season.
Elks quarterback Taylor Cornelius went 19 for 33 and passed for 243 yards with three interceptions in his CFL debut as he replaced Trevor Harris, who was placed on the six-game injured list with a neck injury.
“I thought he played really poised,” said Elks head coach Jaime Elizondo. “Listen, for having one day of practice, I thought he came out and showed some things that were really, really encouraging and I thought the guys responded really well to him.
“He didn’t get flustered. I know he’s going to be hard on himself with the mistakes he made. But those interceptions were a credit to the defence, they had some good breaks on the ball.”
Bombers quarterback Zach Collaros went 19 of 24 passing for 252 yards, a TD and an interception.
Winnipeg got off to a blazing start by scoring on its first drive, going 80 yards in nine plays, capped off by a 12-yard touchdown pass from Collaros to Darvin Adams.
The Blue Bombers doubled their lead on their next drive as Nic Demski ploughed his way through several defenders for a 21-yard rushing major to make it 14-0.
Edmonton got back into the game midway through the second thanks to a Christian Rector fumble recovery on the Bombers’ nine-yard-line, leading to a James Wilder Jr. touchdown run.
Winnipeg kicker Ali Mourtada missed a 28-yard field goal attempt before Edmonton’s Sean Whyte nailed a three-pointer from 44 yards out to make it 15-10 at the mid-mark.
Edmonton surged into the lead early in the third quarter with an unconverted 19-yard TD run by Wilder.
However the Bombers regained the lead as Alford picked off Cornelius and took it back 22 yards for the touchdown. A two-point convert made it 23-16 for Winnipeg.
Whyte responded with a 32-yard field goal before Mourtada missed his third field goal attempt of the game from 44 yards.
The Bombers defence did it again late in the third as Cornelius fumbled deep in his own end, leading to a three-yard scoop and score by Bighill.
After Whyte kicked a 19-yard field goal, Winnipeg put the game away with a one-yard TD plunge by Sean McGuire.
Both teams have a bye next week. The Elks’ next game will be in Ottawa on Sept. 28, while the Bombers will be in B.C. on Oct. 1. Winnipeg and Edmonton will then play each other again in a home-and-home series.
Notes: Two highly anticipated players made their Elks debuts: offensive lineman SirVincent Rogers and linebacker Derrick Moncrief… Winnipeg was trying its third place-kicker of the season with Mourtada making his CFL debut, relegating rookie Marc Liegghio to punting duties.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 18, 2021.
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