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Coffee with the Caps, Monday September 16

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MLS: Houston Dynamo at Vancouver Whitecaps FC Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Good Monday morning all, a Monday morning made even better by the likely news that the Caps will manage to avoid the wooden spoon this season, with their cause helped immensely by the 2-1 win over Houston Dynamo Saturday evening.

While not an especially dominate win (the Caps were outshot by the visitors and the match turned on a rather dubious handball penalty awarded in their favor), the team played more like MDS wants them to Saturday night, a refreshing sight after the team basically got their head bashed in for three straight games. There were definitely some positive signs that improvements in attack, link-up play and defense are not fleeting but can be sustained going forward.

1. Michaell Chirinos is a good signing

I know it can be difficult for Caps fans to admit anyone is a good signing (just ask Hwang In-Beom) but the early returns from Chirinos have been promising indeed. Chirinos has tallied as many assists in his first several appearances as Lucas Venuto had in 12, has a superior pass completion percentage than both the Brazilian and Lass Bangoura, has a solid dribbling completion rate and has won two penalties in as many weeks (yeah, OK one of those was the dubious handball but let us have our moment here, OK?). Chirinos looked dangerous again Saturday night; its no coincidence that virtually every major attack came down the left hand side either from Chirinos or Ali Adnan (more on that in a second).

Chirinos has some way to go in terms of key passes, currently averaging a middling .3 per match. The sample size is still admittedly small on the Honduran but through two matches I think it is safe to say that he was everything the Caps were hoping Venuto or Bangoura would be. He doesn’t rely on his pace quite as much as those players, something which actually has better helped him fit into the Caps’ system. The fact that Chirinos likes to cut inside is a big boon to opening up space for Adnan to operate and is a real asset to creating chances. Is he the home run signing fans were looking for? Probably not, but it seems highly likely the Caps will exercise the Honduran international’s option to buy. Based off what he has offered thus far, you could do a lot worse on the left wing (and the Caps have in recent years).

2. Ali Adnan was back in top form

I hesitate to say that Saturday’s match is a sign that Adnan has fully recovered his searing form from when he first arrived in Vancouver and was absolutely carving up opposing defenses because, well, we’ve seen that form before. But there is no doubt that Adnan was the best player on the pitch against Houston—a welcome sign because, like it or not, the Caps are going to be invested in having a DP at left back next season.

His defensive abilities still leave some questions but what you can’t argue with is that Adnan had the most touches of any Whitecaps player Saturday, was the engine behind the game winning goal and generally terrorized the Dynamo’s left flank. Adnan also brought no shortage of passion, getting into it on multiple occasions with Houston players. After a summer in which his effort was questioned, it was almost refreshing to see Adnan’s exasperation directed towards Tosaint Ricketts for not continuing a run that would have led to a surefire second goal. The body language is problematic at times (Ricketts seemed especially put off, probably because he isn’t used to Adnan’s antics yet) but the Caps are lacking a real shithouse player at the moment and I’d be kind of OK if Adnan became that next season.

3. Derek Cornelius is the real deal

Caleb alluded to this in the report card but Cornelius was typically stout Saturday, dispatching basically everything that came into the box. It belies a strong run of form for the youngster and I oftentimes forget how strong a season he has had. Cornelius’ form of late has been so good that many are questioning whether picking up Erik Godoy’s option-to-purchase, once a foregone conclusion, is really necessary. I wouldn’t go that far, but there is little doubt that Cornelius has been a real revelation in the second half of the season, really starting to get a feel for the speed of play in MLS (an adjustment he struggled with at first). The fact that he gets to partner with his national team teammate Doneil Henry has made that pairing the first choice in the eyes of MDS, as well as most fans. In a season with few positives, the defense has actually punched above its weight—it just hasn’t always seemed that way because of the sheer volume of chances it is forced to deal with. With a better midfield in front of him, there is no reason Cornelius can’t continue his development into an upper-echelon MLS centerback.

Share your takeaways from Saturday’s match in the comments. In the meantime, onto the links...

Shameless Self Promotion

For other takes on Saturday’s match, check out our post-match recap and report card pieces. But the cream of the crop is Sam Rowan’s excellent story on MLS Commissioner Don Garber’s sit down with Vancouver media, in which he dishes on the team’s struggles this season, the conundrum surrounding charter flights and a timeline for the city to host the MLS All Star Game.

Best of the Rest

LA Galaxy smacked down Sporting Kansas City 7-2 and I feel a bit better about the Caps now. Zlatan proceeded to proclaim himself the best player in MLS history and LOL

Dollar beer night went off the rails in Phoenix, with the match abandoned after a Los Dos player was beaned by a can. Not great!

Another week, another round of clashes over politics in MLS

The Fire have a new owner to go with their (sort of) shiny new digs in Soldier Field. Whether that will result in spending or branding changes remains to be seen