Good Friday morning Caps fans, hope you all are building up to a safe and relaxing weekend.
Well I got what I probably deserved. After days and weeks of building up the MLS Is Back return, the first game back from the Caps was maybe the worst game of professional soccer I’ve seen in my entire life.
Oh sure, if you were a neutral, the match had it all. But watching on Wednesday after seeing the quality of some of the other matches (LAFC-Houston, for instance) tick upwards significantly was like getting hit in the eye with a ball peen hammer.
The performance against San Jose does not, probably, need thorough review given that it is going to be something we’ll be mocked for by other MLS teams for years to come. It was alarming to be sure but it is unclear exactly how alarming given that the team was obviously lacking fitness, playing in 1000000% humidity and lacking its top three strikers.
Not saying the tactical approach wasn’t a calamity but there were other mitigating factors and, in my book, there were some bright spots individually (debutantes Ranko Veselinovic and Leonard Owusu offered a lot).
But the game management from Marc dos Santos is where I want to focus the attention and was what troubled me the most.
By about the 65th minute, the Caps were looking legitimately gassed. Not only that, but San Jose had made the bulk of their allowed substitutions, converting to a significantly more attacking look. Why not? They were down two goals and had nothing to lose at the time.
It was at this point that MDS should have been starting to look at bringing on Theo Bair and/or Ryan Raposo (both of whom admittedly did not offer much once they came on but I would content that was in part due to their limited participation). These were the two most logical moves, the ones everyone knew he was going to make at some point and the priority should have been keeping a team which has not played in four-plus months fresh.
Because while I wouldn’t say I ever really approved of the “let’s concede 22 corners and hope for the best tactic,” if you squint and look real hard, it kind of actually worked in the first half when the team wasn’t knackered. Similarly, if you’re going to run a system so predicated on the counter attack, you can’t do that when the guys are running out of gas crossing the midway line.
Instead, MDS waited another ten minutes until after San Jose pulled a goal back to make the changes. He didn’t appear inclined to make a third sub at all until Owusu pulled up lame in the dying embers of the 90 minutes and he was basically forced to bring on Patrick Metcalfe to spell him.
There are a couple issues here but let’s start with the obvious: if you are going to do the full-on, park-the-bus and ride it out strategy, why not bring on Derek Cornelius and Christian Gutierrez and try and piece together a coherent defensive strategy?
And then there is the frustration that MDS just doesn’t think any of the academy prospects are worth playing. Normally, I would say that I get it—after all, earning your place in the side is important.
But this is a tournament with minimal importance. The group stage games do count towards a regular season—a regular season which may never actually happen. Sure, it would be nice to lift a trophy but no Caps fan can pretend like that was a realistic goal when the tournament started.
Throwing the young players out and getting them game time should be a priority. And frankly, if these guys can’t get minutes in a pandemic-depleted side then why hasn’t MDS and/or Schuster made a move to loan them out or sell them? Sitting around twiddling their thumbs on the bench all tournament, waiting to spring into action if somebody gets hurt, isn’t going to help anybody.
It’s clear by now that MDS is going to play the players he thinks are ready for the first team and no others, unless he absolutely has to do something different. For a club which loves to puff up its academy, this makes those young players window dressing in nothing more.
And in a tournament where virtually your entire bench is window dressing, a PR stunt? Well, that’s distressing in and of itself.
Onto some links:
Shameless Self Promotion
If you’re truly a glutton for punishment and want to read our match coverage, we can make that happen. Ian wonders aloud if Wednesday’s match was a metaphor for 2020 in his recap and Luis has the grades you’ve come to expect in the report card.
Best of the Rest
On the pitch, the Caps were all over the place. Off it, though, they were much stronger: the players supported a variety of social justice causes with writings on the back of their uniforms
The Province has their own match recap, including MDS quotes and where the team goes from here
Best wishes to Bryan Meredith, who had to leave the team following the sudden death of his mother. The team also honored the Meredith family before the match
Frank De Boer hates morning matches, perhaps because his team looked crap in one yesterday
The neighboring hotel to the MLS bubble will reopen to the public soon. Something to add to the list of things they probably should’ve thought through more
If the regular season does resume as normal, the Caps will be in the middle of a governmental quagmire about allowing American teams to travel to play in Canada