Good Monday morning Caps fans. Coming off a win into another two-match week ... a Cascadia-filled two match week ... well, there’s a lot to like about this Monday morning (even if it happens to be snowing where you live, like it is by me).
Saturday’s result was surprising, not because San Jose wasn’t an eminently beatable team, but because the Caps showed the kind of resolve that we all too often have not witnessed from them in the past.
One only needs to look at the past two matches against San Jose to see this. Take the 3-0 loss a couple weeks back, where the Caps looked solid in the first 45 minutes, only to concede shortly thereafter, get two players sent off and generally lose the plot to take a much bigger loss than they probably deserved. And then there’s the meltdown in MLS is Back, which I think we all are well acquainted with at this point.
Not to put too fine a point on it but San Jose is not a very good team, yet clearly has the Caps’ number this season. That seemed to be confirmed ... yet Vancouver turned things around in the second half instead of packing it in. Why?
Well, a couple reasons. One was switching Cristian Dajome back to his natural right wing, letting him get more involved in the match after the Caps tried (and largely failed) to have him and Adnan work together on the left, with every attack almost exclusively running through that side.
Moving Dajome to the right gave the Caps both a credible threat on either side of the pitch (no offense to game winner Tos Ricketts but he had only one touch of the ball that I can remember in the first half) and gave both strikers a little bit more to work with.
The Caps also started picking up the pace a bit offensively, moving the ball quicker out of the midfield and trying to use passes from defenders and/or Janio Bikel to get things going from an attacking perspective. It was not direct play per se (Owusu and Bikel largely were content to play the ball out to Nerwinski or Adnan rather than move it forward themselves) but it marked as shift from the extremely deliberate way the team tried to build up in the first half.
MDS didn’t even fully have the team commit to parking the bus, instead garnering a surprising amount of possession in the closing minutes of the game by smartly working out of the back to help kill things off.
There was also an undeniable shift in energy from the team after Ali Adnan’s free kick banger, something the team cannot admittedly rely on for a spark every match. But for a player who has been so frustrating at times (heck, even within Saturday’s match Ali oscillated between infuriating and brilliant) it was nice to see him get a feather in his cap, especially given that he likely will not be back next season. If the team can get more of those moments of individual brilliance from their best players over the course of a stretch run, it will go a long ways to closing the talent differential between them and the Timbers and Sounders of the world.
Oh yeah, Seattle and Portland. The next two dates for the Caps will obviously be much tougher. But the basic building blocks of what they did against San Jose are still deeply applicable, especially given that the Caps have put in at least a half of credible performances against both of their Cascadia rivals in recent weeks. They are in the relative comfort of Providence Park and have settled into a bit of a rhythm tactically. Any points from these two games would be huge, taking some pressure off the LA Galaxy decision day tilt.
Dare we hope? Well maybe the resolve on Saturday night shows new possibilities but I’m still going to be a jaded fan until further notice.
Shameless Self Promotion
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