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Coffee with the Caps, Monday July 8

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MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Los Angeles FC Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

It is a rainy Monday morning where I am in Pennsylvania, which pretty accurately sums up my feelings about being back at work after a prolonged weekend AND the Caps’ 6-1 drubbing at the hands of LAFC.

The beatdown prompted a mini meltdown on Whitecaps Twitter (TM), a fact I find a little ironic because those who were melting down the most seemed already to be convinced that the team was bad. There is no doubt, however, that seeing the quality of the team laid so bare by one of the best teams in MLS history was pretty unsettling.

And that’s basically how I took the result: disappointing, to be sure, but more of a reflection as to the quality of LAFC than a searing indictment of where the Caps are at. This team is not close to the level of their Southern California-based counterparts, despite what the result earlier this season may have indicated.

But again, this is no shock! LAFC has ripped apart other teams within MLS as well, including SKC earlier last week, in Kansas City no less. They are truly the gold standard of MLS right now and every team, the Whitecaps included, should aspire to their level.

We just aren’t quite there yet. Caleb Wilkins does a much better break down of the state of the rebuild than I ever could aspire to but I had a few takeaways from the beat down which I watched not once but twice as I fulfilled my report card duties.

1. A big, physical forward goes a long way in MLS

The play of Carlos Vela and Diego Rossi are lauded time and time again, and with good reason. But someone who has impressed me repeatedly this season is Adama Diamonde, despite the fact that the Norwegian striker has not started every match. While he only has scored four goals in five starts (Fredy Montero is at six in 15, in case you were wondering), this is in part because LAFC so often just plays through Vela and Rossi. But given the chance to shine, Diomande can impress.

That was the case Saturday, as he scored a goal and would have had another had Andy Rose not bungled the ball across the line for an own goal. Diomande possesses a combination of strength and technical skill that we have not seen in one of our own forwards in awhile. This means Diomande is always a threat, especially on set pieces (where his goal/near goal both came).

This is a bit of a sore subject, as Montero’s return to Vancouver has been inauspicious at best and this culminated in a substitute appearance Saturday that was without value, ending in a red card. Part of the problem is that while Montero has finished a relatively high number of his chances, the total number of those opportunities is way too low. He lacks the technical skill to create chances of his own, as well as the height and physicality to be a threat in dead ball situations. A player like Diomande would add both of those elements instantly and allow Montero to play in a role where he might see more success: as a shadow striker or false nine.

2. Any doubts you may have had about the Ali Adnan deal should be exorcised

In case you were still wondering whether the DP deal the Caps threw Adnan’s way last week was money well-spent, Saturday’s match should have answered those concerns. Most of the goals from open play came through the left-hand side, where an overmatched Brett Levis spent most all of the second half hanging on for dear life.

In a way, this wasn’t his fault. The Caps like to build up out of the back and this often will happen through Adnan on the lefthand side, as this is something he is extraordinarily good at. Inserting Levis, who is less skilled at doing this, and add in one of the most potent attacks in the league and you have a recipe for disaster. This isn’t to say that the Caps wouldn’t have gotten walloped if Adnan was in over Levis but rather that the margin would have been less painful and the Caps probably would have been able to create more offensive chances of their own.

The value in keeping Adnan is not just in what the Caps gain with his presence, but that the dropoff between what his quality and the quality of PC or Levis is so staggering. Advanced metrics in other sports calculate the value of a player relative to the league-average replacement, a metric on which Adnan would fare well. But factor in the drop-off to the average LB replacement on the Whitecaps and you begin to see the issue here. Levis and PC are serviceable backups but simply are not able to play the way MDS wants to. Vancouver likely would have brought in another left back had Adnan left but the gap is still stark.

3. Midfield reinforcements are needed

The need for another playmaker in midfield has been broached time and time again on this site so further discussion of it would be beating the proverbial dead horse. But the Caps were absolutely overrun in midfield, which is in part what made the difference between a successful counter attacking effort (LAFC part 1) and a 6-1 thrashing.

It also simultaneously underscored the importance of the Jon Erice role in organizing the midfield and boosted my belief that the Caps need to find someone else to fill it long-term. Don’t get me wrong, I love what Erice has offered this team and he is certainly not a main culprit in its performance this season; he has generally been quite good. But his limitations in terms of mobility and quickness were on full display Saturday night and these will only pick up as he continues to age and other MLS teams continue to sign younger, more technically skilled midfielders. Finding a prototypical replacement (think peak Matias Laba, except someone who can pick out a pass) is a good long term goal that will test the nascent scouting operation.

Onto the links!

Shameless Self Promotion

We have all the sordid details from the defeat, from your match reports to your report cards. If you want to take heart in something less, er, depressing, Caleb runs down the travails of the youth team here

Best of the Rest

In case you’ve been living on Mars, the US Women’s National Team claimed their fourth World Cup behind a Megan Rapinoe penalty and a straight banger from Rose Lavelle (go Badgers!).

Lavelle was the breakout star of the World Cup, as University of Wisconsin alums are wont to do, prompting wayyyyyy too many rose-related puns on the interwebs

Post World Cup, the challenge remains for domestic leagues to capitalize on increased interest. TBT to when Vancouver was rumored to be a destination for an NWSL side

True to form, the US Men capitulated in their cup final, losing the Gold Cup to Mexico 1-0. Canada’s Jonathan David was the second straight Golden Boot winner to hail from the True North.

Not to be outdone, Brazil captured the Copa America on home soil by defeating Peru 3-1 in the final

And in Afcon play, Madagascar saw their Cinderella run continue on to the quarterfinals, seeing off the DRC in penalties. We’ll leave you with a great dive into their success story from the Guardian.