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Coffee with the Caps, Friday October 2

MLS: Portland Timbers at Vancouver Whitecaps FC Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Good Friday morning Caps fans, hope you all are gearing up for the weekend to decompress as the world appears to burn around us.

I’m going to keep this short today because there’s a lot going on in the world but wanted to take the chance to flag Caleb Wilkins’ excellent breakdown of the team’s current midfield options and where they stand in relation to their counterparts throughout MLS.

The results of his analysis will hardly surprise you: things are decidedly a mixed bag in the midfield at the moment and only two of the midfielders stand out as truly above average MLS mids: Michael Baldisimo and Janio Bikel. Baldisimo is young and has a small sample size, while Caleb posits that Bikel’s performances thus far have not justified the Caps’ significant outlay to sign him given his lack of offensive performance.

And then there is Leonard Owusu, who I will briefly opine on. Owusu is really tough to judge because he’s had some really strong games (particularly in Orlando) and some really rough games (basically the last month) and it basically averages out to a fair-to-middling MLS midfielder. The question becomes which one is the “real” Owusu.

The most concerning thing for me is that, for a guy who was vaunted as a strong passer of the ball, he has not really shown that in spades, or at least enough to make up for looking rather lost defensively. He has one assist and three key chances created and Caleb notes in his story how little verticality there has been in his game. I gotta say, this isn’t quite what I expected from Owusu, although it isn’t terrible from a number 8.

Now, he has looked promising in stints coming off the bench. Heck, MDS even threw him in as a CAM in one match, a role he played at times in Ghana. I’m not sure he played well enough there to be a consistent option but it is another way the Caps could try and get him comfortable.

If we go back and read Caleb’s breakdown from when Owusu was signed, this paragraph stands out:

If Owusu can ensure that the Whitecaps spend more of the game in possession by winning the ball back and keeping it once he gets it then he will at the very least be making a significant defensive contribution, simply by denying the opposition a chance to attack Vancouver’s beleaguered backline.

This hasn’t really happened and that’s in part why we’re seeing the Caps get battered in some of these games. Marc dos Santos seems to have gravitated away from starting Owusu in recent matches and it is unclear whether this is a permanent trend or a way to allow Owusu to adjust to the rigors of MLS and get a bit more comfortable.

This doesn’t really help with the question of whether to keep Owusu around long term. Ultimately it is probably a bit early to render a judgement on this—Cristian Dajome has had a significant shift back into form in recent matches after seemingly looking like an underperformer. Giving Owusu a healthy Janio Bikel to partner with, alongside Baldisimo, may help as well—pairing him with Russell Teibert seemed to be setting him up for failure.

Is Owusu a legit long-term option in midfield? Is it too soon to say? Let us know in the comments.

Shameless Self Promotion

Another Cascadia derby this weekend and we’ll have the match coverage for it—check back later today for match preview/lineup predictions.

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