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Coffee with the Caps, Monday July 20

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Seattle Sounders FC v Vancouver Whitecaps FC - MLS Is Back Tournament Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

Good Monday morning Caps fans, hope being back at work isn’t too much of a painful blow following last night’s match (or that you aren’t suffering any ill effects of whatever alcohol you consumed to get you through).

If there is a word to describe Vancouver’s performance in MLS Is Back it is “confusing.” Not so much in the eventual results of the two matches—the Caps got what they deserved both times. But rather, it is just so tough to know what to make of all this.

On one hand, several individual players (Owusu, Adnan) have looked strong. On the other, the collective performance has just been abject—players look lost, even when it comes to simple defending, and guys aren’t making runs or moving at all on offense.

On one hand, the Caps were easily the most decimated side in the league and the absence of Janio Bikel from a training injury, plus the demise of Max Crepeau last night, did little to help that. On the other, as the FS1 announcers pointed out after the Caps conceded a laughable set piece goal to Seattle, any team, even a youth team, can at a bare minimum display a certain level of preparedness, focus and awareness on the pitch. The Caps have struggled to clear that bar.

Take the end of the first half. The Caps ended the last 10 minutes of the half, or so, with a decent spell of possession—yet had no idea what to do with it. No one had much of an interest in getting in the box for a cross, nor did they have an interest in making a run to actually set something up.

Instead they kinda just ... passed it around. Inevitably when a turnover happened, this would set Seattle up for a decent counter attack, something the Caps have shown they are at a disadvantage dealing with.

But the dying minutes of the first half were even more comical. As the dying embers of the injury time faded to black, the Caps just ... kept passing it around. No attempt at a last ditch cross in or a long range shot to try and trouble Stefan Frei. Referee Robert Sibiga looked as surprised as anyone, almost egging the Caps on to do something. When they eventually didn’t he almost shrugged and blew his whistle for half time.

I do think part of the final third struggles last night were attributable to not having a striker and it probably shaped the team’s allergy to playing in crosses (Yordy Reyna is many things but a target man? Nah). Reyna has done pretty well as a fill in but the lack of killer instinct was notable.

The lack of leadership due to the decimated roster is certainly a void for a team that, generally speaking, lacks MLS experience. But in these circumstances, the coaching staff needs to step in and take the reigns, drilling them and sending them out with a clear tactical game plan and ensuring there is a sense of focus on what is required from them. That has all been lacking.

I’ve been a supporter for MDS, making excuses for him at times I maybe shouldn’t have. But the fact that this team has looked so dire, even without six players, calls into question his leadership more in my opinion. The Caps could have come down to Orlando and lost three times in a way that they could be proud of and which would bode well for the future of the club. That has not been what happened, sadly.

Have there been enough individual positives from this tournament for me to lie to myself that the team can turn it around when they’re back in Vancouver (or whatever U.S. city they’re going to have to base themselves out of)? Yup. That’s the quintessential experience of being a Caps’ fan: finding silver linings to lie to yourself, much like Charlie Brown kicking the football, that next time will be better, only to be let down time and time again.

On a less bleak note, how about a shout out to Thomas Hasal, who spelled an injured Crepeau and made a good account of himself against the defending MLS champs. Might be the statement he needs to work his way into a role with the team and hopefully the fact that an academy prospect didn’t fall on his face will be something MDS considers in team selection going forward.

Onto some links...

Shameless Self Promotion

If you missed any of the match, you probably should be thankful. But if you want to read up on what you missed, Caleb has the recap

Best of the Rest

Russell Teibert has put pen to paper on a new deal—congrats Rusty!

The debut for expansion teams in Charlotte, Sacramento and Saint Louis will be pushed back another year

On the pitch: LAFC dominated their crosstown rivals 6-2; the San Jose Earthquakes beat Chicago 2-0 to claim Group B

As alluded to above, the Canadian government is blocking the Toronto Blue Jays from playing an abbreviated MLB season at home, leaving them scrambling to figure out a solution. Bodes poorly for the Caps, clearly.

NWSL’s Challenge Cup is humming right along into the semis, with the Portland Thorns advancing thanks to their third string (!) keeper