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Coffee with the Caps, Monday November 30

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MLS: Seattle Sounders FC at Vancouver Whitecaps FC Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Good Monday morning Caps fans. Hope your week is shaping up to be a good one as we hurdle quickly towards December and the beginning of the end (finally) for 2020.

We now know what one of the conference finals will look like, with New England Revolution beating back Orlando City in a chaotic 3-1 victory while Columbus Crew finally ended the Nashville SC fairy tale Sunday night. The Western Conference is set to be decided this week (more on that in a moment).

Nashville’s loss should not overshadow what was an excellent debut season for a team that many (myself included) considered to be an afterthought heading into 2020. They did a credible enough job building a roster, to be sure, but they lacked the starpower and the finances of Inter Miami and did not seem likely to put together one of the strongest expansion seasons in league history.

Fast forward to November, when they dispatched that same Miami side (minus a couple COVID-19-related absences) with ease in the first round of the playoffs, firmly refuting that conventional wisdom.

Nashville’s style at this point is well know—defend bravely and grab what you can on counter attacks and (especially) off set pieces. It worked extremely well for them over the latter half of the season and the team had a lot fewer miles on their bodies than their competitors due to missing the MLS is Back Tournament.

Some have questioned whether the team’s style of play is good for the lead, reminiscent as it is of a team like Burnley in the English Premier League. There were a few salty Toronto FC fans posing this question in the wake of the Reds’ loss to Nashville last week.

Personally? I kind of like it, although I of course would love to see every team play a free-flowing, attacking brand of soccer. But a distinct blend of tactical styles is good for the league. It is good for teams to have identities, rather than wander aimlessly around, selecting and discarding formations and strategies at will (sound like a team we know?).

And to act as if Nashville were dire in every match is ludicrous. Yes there were games they won where they were out-shot four-to-one and out-possessed by a significant amount. But there were also games in which they themselves were dominant and they opened up their style of play significantly as the season wore on, bolstered by their three designated players offering a lot more than they did early on.

The Toronto FC match last week? Nashville had more shots, more big chances created and overall were better value for the win they took off one of the top teams in the league. Say what you will about their style of play but they put their foot on the accelerator last week and made things happen. The Crew match last night was a bit more of a slog but c’est la vie.

Fair play to Nashville — it is an important market for the league to do well in and, by all accounts, is one where the team has a good chance of making inroads and becoming a real success story. It was fun to see that borne out on the pitch, even if it wasn’t exactly tika taka.

As for the west? Here are my #takes for how the two semifinals will play out this week.

Seattle Sounders vs. FC Dallas: Seattle has to become the favorite to hoist the cup (again) based off how the East played out but they can’t overlook an FC Dallas side that is in good form. No Paxton Pomykal remains a concern as far as creating chances but the Dallas defense was well drilled against Portland, as they will need to be Tuesday night. I think Seattle wins it but it could be another match that requires extra time.

Sporting KC vs. Minnesota United: Minnesota advanced quite easily past an out-of-sorts Colorado team, while SKC survived a dog fight with San Jose. Alan Pulido’s health status remains unclear and he would be a big addition if fit, although the defense leaking three goals to San Jose might be a bigger concern. Minnesota did not have Emmanuel Reynoso in their three prior matches this season against SKC and he was the difference-maker against Colorado. Give me Minnesota in what should be a fun game, with the potential for lots of goals.

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