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Coffee with the Caps, Friday February 14

Love is in the air folks

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MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Montreal Impact Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

Good Friday morning Caps fans and a happy Valentine’s Day to you all. I hope you have your dinner reservations because its going to be a zoo out there. If you’re planning on staying in for a Netflix movie marathon, well, I’m jealous of you.

This morning’s column is a bit of a valentine, if you will, to those Canadian Premier League fans out there. We’re still a couple months away from the start of the CPL season (versus 15 days for MLS) but there has been no shortage of intrigue this offseason, as the upstart venture enters its second year.

That’s in no small part to the shock demise of Ottawa Fury and the media attention surrounding its replacement, which you all have read about by now: Atletico Ottawa. The satellite club of Atletico Madrid will hit the field in just a few short months and while it is unclear how competitive the side will be in its first season, there is no doubt that it is a boost in visibility for a league that most everyone agrees had a solid enough start to its life last season.

The whole feeder club thing has drawn a lot of fire in MLS, with New York Red Bulls and NYCFC having both their moments but also earning plenty of (often well-deserved) derision from fans. In some ways they are mirrors of each other at the moment: NYRB showed a lot of ambition, building a soccer specific stadium and bringing in Tim Cahill and Thiery Henry before eschewing the whole spending money thing in favor of a more developmental approach (if you’re wondering whether that developmental approach is to merely sell players/staff onto the rest of the Red Bull empire and/or launder money, well, you wouldn’t be out of order).

NYCFC, meanwhile, appear to be close to (finally) having a stadium plan in place and have maintained a respectable amount of spending in recent years. They haven’t been able to do much in the playoffs, however, and also have the questions surrounding the human rights violations perpetrated by their owners (not great Bob!).

Atleti has had a bit of a mixed record on their overseas ventures to date. While they have been able to pilot their Liga MX club, Atletico San Luis, to the first division, they were forced to withdraw from their Indian Super League partnership with the club ATK after they felt their Indian partners weren’t keeping up their end of the bargain.

That seems unlikely to be an issue in CPL, where there is ample interest from league and TV stakeholders (MediaPro is owned by Spanish investors) to making this arrangement work for all parties. Soccer fans in Ottawa are unlikely to care that Ottleti is owned by the Spanish club—they’re presumably happy to have a club at all for the 2020 season and it is a credit to the CPL that they swung AO’s entry in order to avert any collapse in interest after a dead season in the Canadian capitol.

The arrival of Ottleti is complimented by a series of solid player additions this offseason, including several former Whitecaps players (Fraiser Aird and Brett Levis anyone?). The CPL has made the savvy decision of establishing a centralized scouting and data operation to identify overseas talent, which its clubs can then access and make decisions about who to sign. The CPL is obviously not going to be attracting big, DP-level names any time soon but that doesn’t mean it can’t burnish its reputation as a player development hub.

Cavalry FC’s defeat of the Whitecaps in last year’s Canadian Championship proved that its clubs can compete, at least in certain situations. The league may not be up to the caliber of MLS anytime soon but I’m pretty excited to watch more this year and get a feel for how big that gap really is at the moment—and how quickly it might be closing. Plus, with a team nickname like Ottleti, there is a lOtt there to like (see what I did there).

Before the links, there is one quick Caps rumor to drop in:

[checks earpiece] wait, what’s that? Another rumor about a player who isn’t a midfielder?

[smashes computer screen with a baseball bat]

Best of the Rest

Some more peeks into what the Caps’ tactical approach might look like this year

The Chicago Fire are close to signing talented Argentinian mid Gaston Gimenez. Meanwhile, Inter Miami appear to finally have put the Rodolfo Pizzaro saga to rest

A deep dive from the incomparable Rafa Honigstein into Jurgen Klinsmann’s rocky two-month stint at Hertha Berlin

Nashville SC have brokered a deal to let their stadium plans move forward and their MLS dreams to live on

Emmanuel Adebayor got a hell of a welcome in arriving in Asuncion to sign for Paraguayan side Olimpia and this is how we need to greet new signings in Vancouver from now on