With yet another MLS setback for the Caps, it seems as though the optimism of the fanbase is going with it. As pointed out by Mike Martignago on Twitter, the Caps are 9W-9D-16L in their last 34 MLS matches. That’s like the now defunct Chivas USA level of mediocrity.
To be fair, there will always be the eternal optimists trying through whatever means possible to keep their fellow fans excited. However, there are some games throughout the MLS season that you shouldn’t need to an external force to motivate you for. In a typical Caps season, it would be the following: Voyageurs Cup Final (assuming they make it) and any Cascadia match, home or away. If you also subscribe to that, you will also believe that the Caps can still make the playoffs. Mathematically, yes that is still very possible. 4 points down with 6 to play. I will not stop you from believing they can.
They only thing they can’t definitively win is the Supporters Shield. In addition to having home field advantage through to MLS Cup, the team gets allocation money (never hurts to have too much) and a spot in next season’s CONCACAF Champions League. Oh, it’s a US Soccer spot, which means next to nothing for the Caps, Impact and TFC. So, no big loss there.
Let’s focus a couple things they could accomplish. First off, is the Cascadia Cup. Regional supremacy over the other two teams in the Pacific Northwest, Seattle and Portland. I’ll be frank, I don’t like the Caps chances. Yes, they have 3 games left, two against Seattle (1 home, 1 away) and the final match of the regular season against Portland at home. After the home-and-home split between Seattle and Portland, it was determined that the Cup will not be handed out until October 22nd. For the love of my sanity and probably the collective sanity of every Caps supporter out there, I’m not sure we could handle handing more silverware over in our home stadium. 2013 + 2016 Voyageurs Cup and the 2015 Cascadia Cup?
Seriously though, Seattle seems to have hit the jackpot with Lodeiro and Torres returning from surgery, however, it was revealed that Dempsey has a suspected irregular heartbeat. While it’s no secret that I dislike Dempsey with everything I have, I do not wish anything that evil upon anyone. Maybe my pneumonia spell from earlier this year, but I recovered from that. Seattle is looking a lot more formidable since the last time the Caps saw them back in March.
As for Portland, they seem to be plugging along. I’m not sure what it is about that team, but they seem to be able to survive all these injuries and player departures much better than the Caps do. I think they can be had, but it I feel it will come down to tiebreakers. Points earned in the matches between the two is the first one. Right now, they’re tied on that. The second is the goal difference in those matches. Right now, it’s +1 in favour of Portland. Seems simple enough, right?
A quick look at the scenarios heading into the final match:
Caps split vs Seatte = Caps must win (a draw gives Portland the Cup on GD)
Caps lose both vs Seattle = Caps must win
Caps win both vs Seattle = win or draw will win the Cup
With goal difference between the teams involved as the second tiebreaker, Portland’s 4-2 win at Providence will come in handy, giving them the advantage after losing 2-1 a couple weeks earlier at BC Place.
The Caps will ultimately decide the fate of the Cup. I’m not sure how comfortable I am with that.
Onto the other positive light: CONCACAF Champions League. Yes, halfway through the group stage, the Caps are on top of their group, with 6 points. They received a major break from Central FC as they managed to scrape a draw out of Sporting KC at home, leaving the Caps main competitor in the group (SKC) with only 1 point from two matches. What does this mean? The Caps have 2 games left, Sept 13 in SKC, a place where they haven’t won and Sept 28 at home to Central. It should be noted that Central travels to SKC in October but pending the result of the 2 games before that, it may be a meaningless venture, much like the Caps trip to Honduras last season.
Should the Caps beat or draw at SKC, they’ll have secured a place in the Knockout Round. As I learned last year, goal difference in the group stage determines the seeding for Knockout Round. Do I relish a date vs a Mexican team in February/March? As I said in my last piece, I will feel no shame seeing the Caps lose to a Mexican team, knowing that they’re that much richer and better than the Caps. Richer doesn’t mean better, but given the financial constraints, and perception of MLS, I’m content with that.
Why am I focusing on these two competitions, which mean varying things to varying supporters? I’m already sick of the usual trope being emitted from the fanbase, everything from “Ownership is cheap” to “Robinson should be fired now”. I’ll leave those topics to those who are better informed than I.
While I feel Lenarduzzi’s publicly stated goal is nothing more than a pipedream, it’s time to focus on things that can be accomplished.