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Coffee with the Caps, Monday July 1

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Ali Adnan, we wait for you...

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Seattle Sounders FC Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

Good Monday morning Caps fans and it is a Monday morning that has come and gone without any announcement as to the future of Ali Adnan in a Whitecaps jersey. MDS was acting optimistic after Saturday’s match, meaning it still remains possible for a deal to be wrapped up in the next day or two.

There has been much debate about whether or not to keep Adnan after a relatively poor match Saturday but my opinion has been clear: he is a key cog in the offense and should be kept around, defensive liabilities notwithstanding.

But now let us turn our attention to what was, without a doubt, the most controversial point of Saturday’s match:

That moment, which encountered the ire of troll Sounders fans the internet over, was of course when VAR ruled out (an admittedly excellent) Danny Leyva goal because Jhustin Dillon stamped on Zac MacMath in the breakaway immediately before, causing the Caps’ goalkeeper to be lying prone on the ground. Leyva lofted a goal into the open net after the Sounders opted not to play the ball out and Alan Kelly initially counted it as a good goal. VAR, however, had other ideas and ruled the Dillon-on-MacMath contact to be a foul, giving the Caps a temporary reprieve.

This issues has prompted no shortage of debate on MLS Twitter (TM). There are, in my view, two separate issues here. The first is whether Seattle should have played the ball out and if, upon that not happening, Alan Kelly should have blown the play dead. The second is whether VAR was correctly used in ruling the goal out. I don’t want to further feed the trolls on this but I think it does raise some interesting officiating and ethical questions.

On the first part, I think Seattle unquestionably should have played the ball out. I initially described the moment as “one of the most unsporting I have ever seen in MLS” on Twitter, which was admittedly through the roof hyperbole.

It is clear, however, that goalkeepers earn protection that outfield players do not. If it were Ali Adnan down, prone on the pitch, I would be OK with Seattle not playing the ball out on a clear attacking move. But MacMath was clearly seriously injured—I heard a hilarious take from Kasey Keller on the Sounders TV broadcast basically saying it was MacMath’s fault for leaving the net open. On some level, I suppose, this is true but MacMath is a professional and no keeper worth his salt would be lying on the ground, leaving the net open unless he was actually injured.

I understand some people feel the opposing team is not under any obligation to play the ball out in this situation. This is why, at minimum, the referee should have stopped play to allow MacMath to be treated. I default back to this mindset: if the Whitecaps had scored that goal, would I feel dirty knowing it was counted. For me, the answer is a resounding yes—I want to win in a sporting way and that goal doesn’t achieve that.

But there is also the second issue: was VAR properly used. This is a much dicier question. Upon further review, I do believe Dhillon committed a foul by stepping on MacMath. I understand the leeway that should be given to an attacker when they are following through on a shot but anywhere else on the pitch that would be given as a foul.

That being said, however, I don’t think there was a clear and obvious error on the part of the official not to give the foul in real time. To me, Alan Kelly pretty quickly realized he erred in not blowing the play dead and, when presented with an opportunity to bail himself out, took it. While the contact was real (the people saying MacMath dived are wilfully ignorant), I the foul itself was rather marginal—even Whitecaps fans can’t agree on whether or not it actually merrited a foul. Using VAR was basically the get out of jail free card for Kelly to manage what had become a minefield of a situation, which was obviously not the original intent of the technology.

Obviously, this whole point was rendered relatively moot by Kelvin Leerdam’s stoppage time winner. And more egregious refereeing displays overshadowed Kelly’s whiff. But never a dull for this Caps team—and rarely in a good way.

Onto the links!

Shameless Self Promotion

If you want to relive every sordid detail of Saturday, we can help with that. I dole out report card grades here. And AtlantisB breaks down Ali Adnan’s future in Vancouver

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An interesting read on the ascendance of Caribbean teams in the Gold Cup

Phil Neville is salty af

MLS is introducing a skills challenge during All Star Weekend, meaning something else the Whitecaps won’t have a player invited to

Let’s meet back here on Friday with the news of Ali Adnan’s signing, shall we?