Good Monday morning Caps fans. Hope you had a restful weekend and are gearing up for the week ahead.
I can’t decide whether I got ahead of myself in writing about my mental, public health concern pendulum swinging back towards cautious optimism last week. Over the weekend, two players tested positive—one on Sporting Kansas City, the other on DC United. The latter result prompted the postponement of the DC United/Toronto FC match, with the Reds also having an inconclusive test.
It turns out both the Toronto and DC players tested negative and the match is being played as I write this. The league appears to be running into issues, which we probably all should have expected, with using rapid tests at this scale. These types of tests are not as reliable as other forms (at least not yet) but as long as they’re producing false positives and not false negatives, MLS is still able to proceed with caution and later reverse course if the test misfired. Obviously an undiagnosed (or belatedly diagnosed) outbreak based off a false negative is the stuff of nightmares here.
While this all plays out, there is some (relatively) good news—the Caps are back in two days!
Yes, that’s right, in all likelihood we will get some MLS memories from this year beyond putting LA Galaxy to the sword in Carson four long months ago.
The question the becomes, of course, how a shorthanded Caps side should line up when they take the field Wednesday night at 9 pm ET/6 pm PT to take on San Jose Earthquakes.
The team is without their top three strikers (Lucas Cavallini, Fredy Montero and Tosaint Ricketts) as we noted in Friday’s column. They also will be missing Andy Rose, who enjoyed a heel turn in the first couple of matches from a much maligned midfielder to a serviceable center back.
The biggest issue of course will be who starts up top. I have my money on a Yordy Reyna-as-a-False-Nine adventure, at least to start, with Theo Bair and/or Ryan Raposo coming off of the bench. I am on the record as stating I would really, really like to see Bair and Raposo get meaningful minutes but, if we’re being realistic, Reyna up top is where MDS is most likely to go.
The other option is having Bair start and as a shadow striker in a 4-4-2 ( which was more or less the route that MDS went with in the first game of the season against Sporting Kansas City). This is Reyna’s more natural role and it allows him to be more creative but it also is not clear to me that Bair and Reyna will be able to feed off each other in a way that this formation would require. Reyna is just so often disengaged without the ball and needs to be more involved than he probably would be in this setup.
The other option is to keep Bair in the starting lineup and then use Reyna in the center of the 4-2-3-1, giving him more room to roam and serve as a conduit for the counter attacking play that MDS is pushing for. I’d really like this option except it would mean that the Caps would have to bring one of Owusu/Bikel/In-Beom off the bench and I’m itching to see all three on the pitch at the same time.
It is hard to get a read on whether MDS will roll the dice on his newcomers to start the match, although if his decision to start Bikel against LA was any indication it appears he wants to see what they can do sooner rather than later. It is possible you could squeeze Bikel on the pitch as a right back, like against the Galaxy, but I still want to see him in his more natural position centrally, especially if Owusu also gets meaningful minutes.
No Andy Rose (who is awaiting the birth of his daughter—lots of well wishes there!) puts the Caps in less of a bind, as they have three capable options to slot in at CB (Erik Godoy is still recovering from his leg injury). That includes the fit Ranko Veselinović, who I am also intrigued at seeing on the pitch, although one would imagine MDS would roll with Derek Cornelius and Jasser Khmiri in the first match.
The Caps have an advantage on SJ Earthquakes—more time to train and get fit, even with a depleted squad. How should the team best take advantage of it? Let us know in the comments.
Best of the Rest
Its safe to say the weather in Orlando is a little different than the Pacific Northwest this time of year. MDS reflects on how that might impact the play
As Theo Bair draws interest from Europe, this could be a big time opportunity for him. A good long read from BTS
Shirt sleeve sponsors? Why yes, we have those
The Athletic wonders aloud what all this is really accomplishing
On the pitch? RSL handle Colorado Rapids in their (modified) derby, the Crew smash FC Cinci in Hell is Real. And Minnesota United turn things around against a 10-man Sporting KC side late
In European soccer news, the Court for Arbitration of Sport overturned Manchester City’s two-year Champions League ban (insert barf noises here)