It is the Holiday Season and ‘Caps fans have been counting their presents under the team roster tree. Santa Garber was generous this year with the promise of $2.8M in discretional TAM. With this money many of us anticipate, with baited breath, some shiny new toys from Robbo Clause. There was a DP spot on our living room floor for a shiny new package, or possibly even the return of the Montero doll we got to play with last year and there are still some roster spots available. Does that mean we could still get 2 or 3 quality TAM signings to carve up the midfield with sharp crisp passes and overlapping give-and-go’s?
We know Robbo Clause has hinted there would be four new action figures for us to play with, and he has already delivered two of them in Kamara and Blondell, along with a host of other depth signings to stuff our stockings with. The rest we will have to wait and see. In the meantime, let’s look at the team in place right now.
Striker: Myer Bevan, Anthony Blondell, Eric Hurtado, Kei Kamara
We have a new striker play set with the additions of Bevan, Blondell and Kamara. Provided Blondell can continue to score in the MLS even half as much as he did for his team in Venezuela, we will have the potential for a potent consistently scoring front line. When was the last time we had that? Oh yeah, but he showed up on a training table in another jersey years ago. We know Kamara will score off the crosses and set pieces Robbo’s tactics rely on. With Blondell possibly right behind him in the second striker position, maybe, just maybe the ‘Caps will have more than one way to score a goal. Does anyone still think Montero will be back?
Even without Montero, this is the best strike group we’ve seen for a long while. I thought that about the Rivero, Kudo, Perez combo and that didn’t pan out, but the big difference is Kamara is already proven in the MLS. Oh yeah, and there’s Hurtado too. He will continue to add to the team off the bench
Forward: Alphonso Davies, Deybi Flores, Bernie Ibini, Nicolas Mezquida, David Norman Jr., Jordy Reyna, Brek Shea, Cristian Techera
Of Course, the strikers will have nothing to score with if the forwards can’t get them the ball, and this is where any new TAM or DP signings need to go. Everyone is hoping for Davies to make his next jump, but even so it would still be too soon to expect him to carry the team. If Techera and Reyna can recover their chemistry from last season, and find their games at the same time, then there will be some bite in the midfield. But, it is clear when you look at this list of forwards there isn’t a name there that we know will boss the game. We are still hoping Reyna will be that guy, but at this point it is not clear he will recover from his troubles at home. I think the team has got to consider Reyna either won’t be back or will be distracted and out of form.
What the team still doesn’t have is a true number ten to distribute the ball. They had that briefly while Morales was healthy, and for a time with Davide Chiumiento, but most of the ‘Caps MLS life has been spent without a CAM that can consistently spring the strikers. If nothing else, they need a #10 for an attacking formation other than the 4-2-4-1 that can hold the ball and attack opponents at home.
The Defensive Midfield: Aly Ghazal, Tony Tchani, Russell Teibert
The loss of Laba ushered in a new era for the DM position with the new tandem of Ghazal and Tchani. It’s not certain if Laba is lost for good, as Robbo has indicated they are in talks to bring him back. That is somewhat surprising to me, as much as I like Laba, since he and Ghazal do many of the same things. I really liked what I saw from Nosa Igeibor in the playoffs and this kind of hard-nosed, forward moving #8 is something the team has been missing. I’d like to see the team bring Nosa back, or if that fails, someone like him.
The Back Line: Marcel De Jong, Bret Levis, Doneil Henry, Aaron Maund, Kendall Waston, Tim Parker, Jake Nerwinski
The new piece on the back line is Doneil Henry. He is likely the replacement for David Edgar and, like Edgar, will need to get his game back on track. After injury and moving around the Championship in England, Henry needs to earn his place as a starter again. This will be a tough ask with Waston and Parker as an established and competent CB pairing. But Henry will be a tough competitor and likely make life uncomfortable for opponents in the box when Waston is at the World Cup, or when filling in for injuries. Barring any major injuries to the first pairing, I think the CB position is looking good at this point.
LB should belong to De Jong, and it will be time for Levis to find his footing in the first team. Nerwinski likely has first dibs on RB, but they will need an experienced vet to push him and back up any sophomore jinxes.
Goal: Stefan Marinović, Brian Rowe, Spencer Richey
At this point, none of the above are as good as David Ousted. However, Marinović doesn’t seem far off, and Rowe is an experienced MLS keeper on some winning LA Galaxy teams. I think it’s Marinović’s starting spot to lose from what we have seen from him last season and with his national team, I see him getting better and better. But if he falters, he should have a short leash with a proven vet like Rowe behind him. Ousted was so good that perhaps the keeper position takes a step back this season. But, I think we will hardly notice it.
As of this moment that is the team in place. My wish list includes a number 10, Nosa and maybe another quality winger to spend some considerable TAM on, and a little less spent on the new RB. What’s on your wish list?