It’s no secret that Jason Kreis could be on the hot seat going into 2018. Even though Orlando City CEO Alex Leitão has backed the gaffer, another year of failing to defy expectations could put the former MLS Cup winner out in the cold. If that were to come to pass, the biggest question Orlando City’s front office would need to ask itself is how to get it right for coach No. 3.
There has been plenty of talk about lower-division coaches in the U.S. and their potential to make waves in MLS. Orlando has natural ties to Louisville City’s James O’Connor, a former Lion and winner of this year’s USL Cup. The other names that come up often — Giovanni Savarese of the New York Cosmos, Alessandro Nesta of Miami FC, and Marc Dos Santos of the San Francisco Deltas — don’t have a natural connection to Central Florida.
But OCSC may have an unorthodox link to the best coach in that group. Ricardo Villar is the CEO and one of the founders of the Florida Cup — the annual winter tournament that puts on friendlies featuring major clubs from Europe and South America — and has been an Orlando resident since 2014, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that the 2018 version will include Orlando City Stadium as a venue. His OCSC ties don’t stop there, as a fellow academy prospect of São Paulo FC like recent captain Kaká.
He also happens to have had a large amount of responsibility in convincing Dos Santos to set up shop San Francisco. Villar was hired as a consultant to help put the Deltas together back in 2016.
“Villar flew me into Orlando and presented a clear and ambitious project,” Dos Santos told the Florida Cup. “He convinced me to take on this challenge. Given the adversities faced with a first-year franchise, I am extremely proud of this championship.”
It’s easy to see why Villar made the decision to hire the 40-year-old Canadian. Dos Santos left a trail of silverware in his wake in the lower leagues of American and Brazilian soccer since 2009. The Portuguese-Canadian head coach has experience from all over the globe, and has used it to win and win quickly no matter the competition.
As interim manager, he took the USL version of the Montreal Impact to a championship in 2009. In 2010, he took the Impact to the semifinals of the brand new USSF Division 2 and one point out of the playoffs in the 2011 NASL. When Montreal decided to pursue other options, Dos Santos took the opportunity to coach in Brazil, bouncing around several clubs and performing well at the academy level before taking up NASL expansion side Ottawa Fury’s offer to be their head coach in 2014.
In his second season back in Canada, Dos Santos topped the fall standings and finished second in NASL’s combined standings, but ultimately fell to the Cosmos in the Soccer Bowl. Sporting Kansas City offered him a job as the man in charge of Swope Park Rangers, and he took the reserve side all the way to the USL Cup Final in his first season.
His success earned him the gig at another NASL expansion side in San Francisco. With a limited budget compared to heavyweights in New York and Miami and the most travel in domestic league soccer, Dos Santos once again took his side all the way to the final. This time, the Deltas overcame the Cosmos and won the Soccer Bowl in their first, and likely last, season.
With a combined regular season record of 71-56-50 (1.48 points per match), predominantly with fledgling franchises, and four championship final appearances in seven-and-a-half seasons, his track record speaks for itself.
Villar said, “Our support was given in full to Coach Dos Santos to build the best team possible. He is a proven winner and commanded a team committed to succeed against all odds. All the credit goes to him and the boys."
With Villar’s ties to Orlando, if Orlando City were to require the services of a new head coach, the club won’t have to go far to get in touch.