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Coffee with the Caps, Monday July 27

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MLS: Sporting Kansas City vs Vancouver Whitecaps FC Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Good Monday morning Caps fans, hope you made it through the entire match last night and made it to work this morning without sleep deprivation (though that task was admittedly much tougher for us east coast denizens).

Even though the end result wasn’t what we all wanted, I have to say I’m quite proud of the team and the way they fought. It is difficult to imagine more obstacles being thrown in the way over the course of a tournament like this and when we were on the precipice of Ali Adnan moving to goalkeeper, I have to say, I wondered which of the soccer gods the Caps angered.

Yeah, the style of play was a bit dire at times. But by the time the Caps took the pitch last night, the team was such a facsimile of what it usually looks like that it was tough to read too much into anything. I’ve been a big MDS critic as of late but the fact that he had the team focused and much better drilled defensively to starve off a potent SKC attack for 90 minutes was impressive. The tactics were far from tiki taka but they were exactly what the moment required.

Even though the Caps ultimately lost, the biggest winner of the night was obviously Thomas Hasal, who went from little-known academy product to internet cult hero over less than a week. Tracking the game on the MLS subreddit I don’t think I’ve ever seen the Caps capture the hearts and minds of neutral fans (while parking the bus no less) more than they were last night.

Because while Hasal put in a capable shift against Chicago, he was truly on another level last night. I don’t think anyone saw it coming frankly and while time well tell whether or not last night was the case of a young player playing out of his mind or if it was indicative of his abilities, the Caps do have a genuine goalkeeper battle on their hands.

Let’s be clear: Max Crepeau remains the undisputed number one starter. But given that he’s out for a matter of months, Hasal seemingly has to be the starter if the Caps play any more regular season matches this year. You have to feel for Bryan Meredith, who could have been the cult hero star last night but for the death of his mother.

But truth be told, a 30-year-old with 13 MLS appearances doesn’t capture the imagination the way a young player in his second start does, especially one with the youthful confidence and energy that Hasal has.

To go down in the manner the Caps did would normally be disappointing, especially given how little the team appeared to have practiced spot kicks (for a team so obviously playing for penalties, wouldn’t you have prepared for the eventuality that you might, you know, have to take penalties).

But the Hasal storyline is a balm on those sores. His performances are now more than just a sign of a promising young player—they’ve become one of the few leaguewide storylines that has caught fire in recent years which has been a positive for the club. No scandals, no signs of executive incompetence, no losing on the pitch.

The performance last night was inspired from the team—really well organized and brave defending for 90 minutes, despite having a wafer-thin bench. The fact that they’ve become one of the storylines of the tournament? Well, that makes me even prouder. It shouldn’t be something to rest on (after all, the team really did only have about 20-30 minutes of good play in the tournament before last night) but should give Caps fans with something we so often lack: joy and, maybe, a little bit of hope.

Onto some links...

Shameless Self Promotion

Sam has the blow-by-blow on the Caps’ bowing out of the MLSiB tourney and Hasal’s Man-of-the-Match effort that captivated everyone

Best of the Rest on Hasal’s rise to notoriety in light of the SKC match as Ali Adnan praises his potential

TSN runs down the Caps’ exit from MLSiB, including quotes from MDS on his impressions of the team’s performance

MLS’ plan for regular season action involves the Canadian teams ... playing each other for the rest of the year

An in-depth look at the tournament’s other Cindarella: FC Cincinnati

CONCACAF is reportedly re-imagining the World Cup qualifying process and its good news for Canada: