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Coffee with the Caps, Monday May 20

All hail Derek Cornelius

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MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Sporting Kansas City Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Its just another manic Monday over here at Coffee with the Caps, as we recap what quickly became a manic match this past weekend. There are some draws that feel like wins, some that feel like loses and others that feel like ... well, draws. This match definitely fell into the first category.

The Caps continued their strange habit of not really creating anything offensively until the 80th minute when trailing but it paid off against SKC, thanks to an unlikely hero in Derek Cornelius.

I noted this in the report card, but its difficult to believe this the same Cornelius who in the Houston Dynamo game, looked at a loss for how to adapt to the physicality and pace of MLS.

Cornelius made another appearance in the Orlando City match (something I forgot when I was writing the report card, whoops) and looked much better as a whole. But he still looked weaker in the air, losing 40 percent of his aerial duels and was a mixed bag in terms of his passing, something that is important for an MDS team which likes to build up out of the back.

I theorized back after the Houston match, where Cornelius had to be subbed at the half after being overwhelmed by Alberth Ellis, that the main problem here was not a lack of talent but the fact that the Canadian youth international was having a hard time adapting to a tougher league. No offense to Slovenia, but MLS is a marked leap in quality over most leagues in Europe, a fact lost on many who complain about the ways the league pales in comparison to the elite competitions on the continent.

Now, given Cornelius’ age the pitchforks were hardly out after one bad match. I think most fans understood the fact that the 21-year-old needs time to grow. And he probably still does—one late match equalizer does not instantly make you a world beater.

But you could see visibly a different player on Saturday night, a more confident and composed player. Cornelius came on right before his mentor and compatriot on the backline, Donneil Henry, went down injured. Further throwing a wrench in this plan was the fact that the team had just transitioned tactically to a three-in-the-back formation, which obviously changed rather quickly once Henry came off. Cornelius handled all of that with aplomb.

This is significant for Vancouver for a few reasons. Firstly, Henry is likely going to be out for a significant period of time with the hamstring injury he sustained. Having a confident, in-form centerback to pair with the always steady Erik Godoy would help cushion the blow somewhat.

But having center back depth more generally is a luxury the Caps have not had in awhile. Henry and Godoy have been among the best centerback pairings in the league. Jasser Khemiri has spent his tenure in Vancouver in the physio’s office thus far but has a lot to offer as well and adding Cornelius to the mix means the Caps could be potentially four deep with quality CBs.

This means that MDS can experiment with the 3-5-2 he briefly deployed Saturday night. Moving Ali Adnan and Jake Nerwinski out as wingbacks gave them flexibility to get engaged in the offense in a way they hadn’t before (important because Adnan looks to be one of the few guys on the squad who can attack at the moment).

Vancouver is still trying to find its tactical identity, especially at a time when at least three key attackers (Venuto, Lass and Ardaiz) have all been sputtering. Having the ability to experiment with formation is a big deal and I would expect MDS will seize the chance to continue to experiment with 3 centerbacks once he, in fact, has his entire compliment of central defenders fit and ready to go.

With that, lets check out some links:

Shameless Self Promotion

As mentioned above, I broke down the individual performances from Saturday night in the report card. If you missed the match and want to get caught up, AtlantisB has you covered. And AtlantisB also opines on the rigors of MLS travel, which once again rear their ugly head as Vancouver travels clear across North America in three matches, all taking place within a week.

Best of the Rest

It was a former Wisconsin Badger (!) who ended Atlanta United’s clean sheet streak Saturday, as NYRB dispatched with the defending champions 1-0. The best part was indisputably the melee after the final whistle

Chris Wondolowski had 4 (!) goals on Saturday, meaning the MLS legend not only broke Landon Donovan’s all time goals record but smashed it to pieces

A cool profile on CWNT wonderteen Jade Rose, who hopes to crack the Women’s World Cup roster later this month at a mere 16 years of age

If you didn’t watch Eurovision, our SB Nation friends at Cartilage Free Captain have your back