Good Friday morning everybody. As a massive Caps and Tottenham Hotspur fan, Wednesday was about as perfect of a soccer day as you could ask for and I’m unabashedly still reveling in it.
Sure, LAFC didn’t roll out a first choice lineup and yes the Caps got outpossessed 60-40 and there are certainly still some things to iron out. But don’t forget, Diego Rossi and Carlos Vela have helped that team walk most of its early games (against some strong competition, no less) and Erik Godoy and Donneil Henry really helped control them Wednesday.
Say what you will about the defensive lapses so far but I do believe it has the eventual potential to approach the 2015 Whitecaps’ defense that was the best in the league. Let’s examine, shall we?
That team had a first-choice backline of Steven Beitashour-Kendall Waston-Tim Parker-Jordan Harvey. You have one physical, enterprising center back (Waston) paired with a more dependable, intelligent defender (Parker). You have an elite, two-way fullback (Beitashour) and a rock solid defensive presence on the other flank (Harvey). Add in an elite shot stopper (David Ousted) and you’re set.
This 2019 squad is not nearly on that level yet, to be clear. The rate at which this team shipped goals (cough cough Houston match) is something that was not matched by the 2015 squad. But I think its easy to see how in, say, a year this team could be well on their way to matching that level of performance.
Henry, while not exactly like Waston, seems to check a lot of the boxes that the now-disgraced Tico checks. He’s physical, aerially imposing and enjoys random forays forwards. He also does a good job catching shots and scrounging up last ditch clearances, a staple of Waston as well.
Contrast that with Erik Godoy. I honestly forgot Godoy was on the pitch for large swaths of Wednesday’s match and I mean that in the best possible way. His positioning and defensive intelligence is impeccable—he makes a nice contrast to Henry. Having two of the same mold of centerback (as the team often had last year with Waston and Henry) is not likely the way to produce optimal defensive chemistry.
Ali Adnan is far and away the best fullback we’ve had since Beitashour and if (a big if I know) he sticks around long term would likely eclipse what Beita produced in Vancouver. In MLS an elite two-way fullback is worth their weight in gold—despite the league’s best efforts, this is an area in which there has been a lot less investment than, say, creative attacking midfielders.
Obviously, Jake Nerwinski is not on the level of Jordan Harvey. Despite a much improved shift Wednesday, Jake has been pretty inconsistent in a year where he really needed to grow. He is still plagued, unfortunately, by ball-watching, poor positioning and meh crossing. But he also has been known to put in solid performances, like what we witnessed against LAFC. I think Jake has often performed at his best when he has competition (Sean Franklin, anyone?) so I’m hoping that the threat of Scott Sutter will help serve as a boost going forward.
This is a long way of saying that I think there is a lot of unexplored potential for this defense (and the side as a whole). While this was a pretty 10,000 foot look at things, I think some perspective is always helpful in looking at what the squad has to offer and how it squares with what we’ve seen in the past.
And, ultimately, despite not being perfect, the LAFC match showed that unexplored potential (I haven’t even explored the Yordy Reyna as striker experiment, which I want to take up in a longer, stand-alone piece next week)xt . Here’s to another good showing Saturday in the Brek Shea Derby (TM) against Orlando.
Onto the links:
Shameless Self Promotion
If you’re more of a forward-looking person, we have already begun to turn our attention to Orlando City and tomorrow’s match. Caleb sat down our friends over at the Mane Land to get an idea of what to expect from the Lions. And last call to get your lineup and match predictions in!
Best of the Rest
Obviously the match on Wednesday was also marked by the 35th minute walkout by the main supporters’ groups over the club’s handling of sexual abuse allegations dating back to the late-2000s. Harjeet Johal recaps the protest here
The Whitecaps’ youth team fell just short of qualifying for the GA Cup semis but, by all accounts, put in a nice shift. Chituru Odunze in particular caught the eye of many observers.
Trouble ahead for Austin FC’s stadium, with the Texas state Legislature potentially throwing a wrench in the expansion side’s plans
In other expansion news, MLS formally confirmed the worst kept secret in American soccer: it will be expanding to 30 teams. Saint Louis and Sacramento are the early favorites for two of those franchises.