Good Monday morning folks. I have made my triumphant return from a lovely two weeks in Thailand and Malaysia and am back manning the CWtC ship here at 86 Forever. It was a less amazing two weeks for the Caps, who got drubbed three times and sold one of their best young players to Inter Miami. Perhaps my return will bring them better fortunes, although I remain skeptical.
We begin this morning with the Norman news, which is of significant concern to the many of us who believe the Caps need to be doing more to get their homegrown talents integrated into the roster. Sam Rowan did an excellent piece on this , focusing on problems with the Development Squad and why the team is struggling to get their top young players minutes.
Sam spent some time with Marc dos Santos for the story and does a better job than I could at distilling the issue down. So instead I’m going to briefly focus on why this is going to be problematic for the club going forward.
MDS had one quote in the piece that jumped out to me as highly troubling:
We feel that in certain areas of the field, we’re going to have to become better. And we just don’t think right now that David was the player that would bring our midfield to another level next year. So we know the numbers we’re going to have, who’s going to be available, what we’re looking for...so it would probably be a very frustrating time if David just stuck around, and it wouldn’t be fair for him either.
So the controversial part here is not that the Caps need to improve in midfield, nor is it that David Norman is not going to be the player to lead a massive overhaul of that position. Norman is by all accounts a decently promising young player, who has been beset by injuries and has fallen out of favor with the coaching staff because of this fact. He is not the creative force that will suddenly help the Caps begin creating the number of chances that can turn their attack around.
But the nailed-on, Hwang In-beom level player is not the only squad role out there. Every team in MLS needs cheap, young squad players (homegrown or otherwise) who can provide squad depth and free up international roster spots and dollars to be spent on players that can make more of an impact. This is part of the value in a player like Russell Teibert—they free up resources to be spent elsewhere. This is a whole category of player the Caps have largely ignored in recent years, forcing them to buy players like Andy Rose. These guys aren’t all that good and could easily be replaced by a player in the mold of David Norman—if that had been more of a priority for the club.
I don’t know the exact solution to this problem, although I do think MDS (and Sam) are right that finding a more sustainable path to meaningful minutes at the developmental level (versus the current Developmental Squad setup) would be a pretty good start. The reality is not every youth player is going to garner a multimillion dollar transfer fee, nor are they going to be a game changing force on the field. That doesn’t mean that they can’t be useful to the club and this is why the Norman departure stings, as the club is again electing to move on a player that could have been of use had the developmental structure and the priorities of the club been different.
Onto the links...
Best of the Rest
A bit lighter menu on our website this week but fear not as we are gearing back up as the international break comes to a close.
In the meantime, the Caps find themselves in a political fray that has been written about on this blog (and elsewhere)
Canada smashed Cuba in the first leg of their CONCACAF Nations League matchup. A good start as they look to consolidate their position in the FIFA rankings to avoid a messy World Cup qualifying process
A nice profile on Canadian midfielder and LAFC breakout star Mark Anthony Kaye
The Women’s Super League in England has found bigger crowds and more visibility after the World Cup. The Guardian argues that means its time its matches be played in EPL stadia