Good Monday morning Caps fans, hope your week is off to a strong start wherever in the world you may be reading this. And know that there will only be three more of these columns (and a little over a week) before we have real, honest-to-God MLS action to discuss. I can’t wait, personally.
We started delving into what the on-pitch product might look like in Orlando in Friday’s column so we might as well keep the good times rolling here a bit. But as I was watching some tantalizing clips from training on Twitter over the weekend, I got thinking about which players I’m most excited to see back on the pitch.
This team is still very much full of unknowns. That means that this tournament could be formative in shaping opinions on some of the newer members of the squad, especially given that they’ve had some time for some (socially distant) bedding in.
Now, I feel as if there is a fairly obvious group of answers here but I’m feeling basic on this Monday morning so I’ll indulge them. Maybe its the fact that I’ve been studying Portuguese on Duolingo but for me, the answer is Janio Bikel. And, because I was watching highlights from the LA Galaxy game to whet my appetite, Ryan Raposo.
Let’s start with Bikel. We got more than a little bit of a taste of Bikel in the LA Galaxy match, to be sure, and what we saw was ... pretty positive. Let’s revisit what a sharp-eyed match observer (who may or may not be writing this column) wrote in his report card for Bikel:
Needed some time to settle into the match and figure out his positioning. That was amplified on potentially disastrous confusion with Max Crepeau that led to an open net. While he got beat once or twice, he largely kept the extremely dangerous Cristian Pavon in his pocket. Like him on the ball though and like how he gets stuck in on tackles—I can’t wait to see him in his natural midfield position.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way: Bikel was playing at right back and while he can help out there in a pinch, it is not his natural position, nor is it likely what the Caps signed him to do. That explains some of the issues with positioning and lack of communication with some of his colleagues on the backline.
Still, Bikel possessed a dynamic attacking element, being able to pick out a pass and strong on possession in a way that will make him a real asset in the center of the park, if that is what MDS elects to do with him.
And then there is Raposo, who nabbed the hockey assist on the goal against LA Galaxy with a nice little chip to find Ali Adnan. Here’s Raposo in his own words shortly after being drafted:
“I like to get on the ball and I like to run at defenders...I like to keep possession of the ball and connect with my teammates as well. I also think that defensively I have a high work rate. I love to get stuck into challenges and I would definitely say that I’m a two-way player. I’m the most competitive person I’ve ever met.”
Sounds exactly like the kind of player you want in a tournament where fitness is likely to be an issue. Defenders are going to be gassed, even with five subs available to managers, meaning that having Raposo coming off the bench to run at defenders, youthful energy and all, will be a boon.
Or maybe MDS likes what he’s seen in training and is willing to give the rookie a starting role. After all, things are going to be so wonky in Orlando that you might as well roll the dice and get players like Raposo some serious minutes.
Again, the Whitecaps are still basically a black box—whatever lineup decisions MDS makes will be based on training session since the pandemic that we have little insight into. It’ll be interesting to see what he’s gleaned and how it influences the composition of the starting XI going forward.
Onto some links...
Best of the Rest
MLS confirms 26 more cases of COVID-19 ahead of the Orlando tournament [ThisIsFine.GIF]
Five Thirty Eight dropped projections for the MLS Is Back Tournament and ... Caps fans might want to avert their eyes
MLS tweaked the group stage format to make things more fairer in the 6-team Eastern Conference group. By all accounts the right move
NWSL kicked off their Challenge Cup ... with an accompanying debate over kneeling during the anthem
Hamburg SV did an absolutely stunning bottle job when they lost 5-1 to mediocre Sandhausen when a draw would have given them a shot at returning to the Bundesliga