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Coffee with the Caps, Friday May 17

To Felipe or not to Felipe, that is the question

MLS: Atlanta United FC at Vancouver Whitecaps FC Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Friday Caps fans. In a shocking twist of fate, there is no match tonight! A strange concept I know, but Coffee with the Caps is here to help get you through the day.

Wednesday night was a disappointing performance, especially on the backs of two straight wins, as the club was seemingly building some momentum going forward. While I stand by my take from Wednesday night that progress is not linear, there are some issues that need to be addressed.

One of those is Felipe. No player was more divisive on Whitecaps Twitter (TM) than the Brazilian, who spelled the injured Jon Erice in the holding midfielder role. Most, myself included, felt he had a poor match:

I was not the only one who thought this:

But there were others who agreed with the TSN announcers that Felipe put in a quiet yet solid shift in the number six role.

Because of this, I went back and re-watched portions of the match and have revised my opinion somewhat. Felipe put in a performance highly reminiscent of Jon Erice: a solid safety valve in the middle of the park, with a well-timed pass here and there.

This isn’t a bad thing—like GlassCity said, its basically the kind of performance you’d want from that kind of player. The problem is I expected a performance from Felipe that did one of two things: a) freed up Hwang to move further up the pitch, with the space to be creative or b) Felipe himself showing off his supposedly trademark passing ability to create chances.

The problem is neither of these things happened, leaving many (myself included) to label Felipe’s performance as a failure. In a match where the team struggled to move the ball forward, one or two well-placed long balls could have made the difference.

It didn’t help that Russell Teibert looked rather listless, while Hwang was swarmed pretty much every time he touched the ball (largely because opposing teams understand he is the only creative force in that midfield). This made Felipe’s lack of offensive contribution that much more glaring.

And there’s simply the fact that Felipe has seemingly underachieved since his arrival from New York Red Bulls. This year, he has generally been flat out poor, not even saved by the fact his advanced statistics have been much better than his performance on the eye test.

The simple fact is the Caps need a midfielder who can leave their mark on the game—at least insofar as they can free up Hwang to do what he did in the first few games of the year and really influence things.

The Caps have been linked with Empoli midfielder Arfiyie Acquah, who would fit that mold.

But that leaves them still without a real proper replacement for Saturday’s match against SKC, which is an issue given the importance of the game. Kansas City sits two points behind the Caps, have been in poor form lately and are pulling out of an injury crisis so bad they had to cancel training one day given the lack of fit players.

I propose two ideas, assuming MDS wishes to play the same formation as has been deployed in recent matches. One is to rest Russell Teibert and replace him with the more enterprising Andy Rose. This means that there is a midfieldre on the pitch who can take some of the pressure of Hwang, giving him more license to roam and do what he does best. It also means Felipe can fufill the role he played Wednesday, hopefully with more success.

The other option is to move Teibert back to replace Felipe and swap the Brazilian out with Rose. I think its fair to say there will be some rotation, meaning Rose is likely to make an appearance in the starting XI. It all comes down to which of the other midfielders MDS wants to rest and which will inject some more energy into the lineup. Because the most active, creative force for the Caps on Wednesday was Ali Adnan and that’s something that will simply not bear fruit going forward.

Onto the links...

Shameless Self Promotion

For more of what we can expect in Kansas City tomorrow, Sam Rowan brings us some insight from the locker room. Ian Jones doles out his grades (including a perfect 10!) in the report card. And Caleb Wilkins has some real talk on the never-ending litany of scandals in Vancouver.

Check back later today for everything you need to know heading into the SKC match!

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Have a lovely weekend and I’ll meet you all at the match tomorrow