Good Monday morning Caps’ fans. After a year of being disappointed by my MLS team, I spent the weekend being disappointed by my college football team (the Wisconsin Badgers) and EPL team (Spurs). Good times.
I also spent a lot of time thinking about a story Caleb wrote last week on the future of Doneil Henry, as the Caps’ leadership brass apparently considers buying down the team’s current DPs and splashing cash on a whole new set. That would leave little financial room for a player like Henry.
Now, there is good reason to believe the plan as discussed by AFTN and elsewhere is not entirely feasible, even if the roster rules loosen this off season as expected under a new CBA. Fredy Montero is the only DP who could be bought down currently, with the distinct possibility that In-Beom could as well if the TAM threshold were to change proportional to past alterations. Ali Adnan is unlikely to be bought down barring a dramatic sea change and would need to be kept as a DP or sold.
On one hand, this rumor is exciting because it would likely involve spending money on a scale not scene in the club’s history. One of the new DPs would be a midfielder (in addition to a CB potentially replacing Henry and a striker)—helping to solve the biggest problem that the Caps’ have had. The club would have conceivably upwards of six players of DP-level quality under this plan—a solid spring board to at least mounting a playoff run.
But there are risks involved. Such a squad would invariably be quite top-heavy, meaning the club would still be leaning on the Jake Nerwinski and Russell Teibert’s of the world. This isn’t the end of the world; we rely on those players at the moment anyway. But LA Galaxy are a big flashing neon warning sign about this method of cobbling together a squad.
Despite a stable of elite attacker (many of whom are not within the Caps’ budget), this is still a team with a porous defense that relied on guys like Dave Romney for extended portions of the season. It admittedly worked insofar as the Galaxy made it as far as the conference semifinals but this was largely due to getting bailed out by Zlatan Ibrahimovic or Jonathan Dos Santos in big matches. If the Caps need to sign players of that quality to survive, that’s a tough ask.
That’s especially true given that the Caps ability to identify DP talent has been spotty at best. Signing two or three new DPs is not necessarily a bad investment but when you’ve batted .500 at best in your DP strategy in recent years, there is a lot of room for things going wrong. AT LEAST one of those slots would need to be a can’t miss player of Giroud or Cavallini quality for this to work.
And then there is the fact that Henry is a high-quality MLS CB. If not retained he would instantly be a top target for other teams in the league and probably abroad. Caleb breaks down the numbers well in his piece but Henry was a big part of the defense actually doing its job in terms of bending but not breaking. His ability to play out of the back is decent and he has a proven chemistry with Derek Cornelius, who the Caps are certainly retaining for the foreseeable future. It’s unclear what his salary demands are but I cannot imagine they’re obscene and by all accounts he wants to remain in Vancouver.
Could the Caps improve upon Henry with a DP-level CB? Yeah, I guess so. But there is a reason that most MLS teams have historically not done this—you want that money to favor the parts of the squad where the drop off to a replacement level, league average talent is more pronounced. Henry is, in reality, the kind of signing the Caps should be targeting: a high-value signing, who has MLS quality and experience and solid resale value. Letting him go for free would be a mistake.
Onto the links...
Shameless Self Promotion
In our next season-in-review roundtable we break down who will be back, who should be back and who should be on the first flight back to Switzerland
Best of the Rest
Former Whitecaps man Spencer Richey is Crystal Palace bound—to train with the EPL side, as part of an ongoing relationship between the two clubs
North Carolina Courage flattened Chicago Red Stars yesterday in the NWSL final, extending their dominant run and leaving superstar Sam Kerr wanting in yet another major tournament
With Wayne Rooney set to depart MLS, the always excellent Pablo Maurer of The Athletic reflects on his legacy in the league
We could be in for a messy CBA negotiation. Does this mean we’re a major American sports league now?