Good Monday morning Caps fans, hope you all are enjoying the holiday if you have it off. A Monday morning column after a win—its been awhile since we got to do that, eh?
Saturday night’s performance was obviously a team effort but, in reality, the match was mostly all about one man: Michael Baldisimo.
The 20-year-old had already put together a strong performance in the first 56 minutes, including some crucial switches and long passes to Ali Adnan that really created most of the key chances the Caps’ had early on, including their first goal. This isn’t to say he was perfect (youthful indiscretion kicked in at times) but it was exciting to see such a progressive player in midfield.
Then, of course, he hit his now infamous long range missile to put the Caps back in front and it went from “strong performance” to “night he will never forget.” He capped it all off with a celebration to remember, although I couldn’t have been the only one holding my breath when arguably the Caps’ most promising player right now went in for a backflip.
I wrote one of these pieces shortly after the MLS Is Back tournament about how refreshing it was to have a silver lining in the form of Thomas Hasal. I feel the same way about Baldisimo during the Canadian round robin, especially as it indicates a changing attitude towards academy player.
Now, of course Baldi isn’t the answer here. Some folks in the report card comments were comparing his passing to that of Pedro Morales, noting that the Caps haven’t had a similarly pure passer in the years since Morales’ departure. While they’re accurate in that assessment, the two obviously play completely different roles.
What they might be accurate about is that Baldisimo is the first midfielder in awhile to so actively look to move the ball forward and that has prompted a subtle shift in how the Caps play. Take Ali Adnan: part of the reason he’s looked better in the last two matches is because Baldi hasn’t been afraid to (effectively) move the ball over to him while the fullback was in space, giving him room to do what he does best. When Adnan has to basically carry the ball forward himself from the team’s defensive third, things don’t go so well. When the Caps can build out of the back, find Baldisimo, and let him unlock Adnan? That’s much better.
Baldisimo actually wants the ball and wants to play it forward.— Russell Berrisford (@squadplayer) September 6, 2020
The Caps were obviously not lighting the world on fire offensively, even with Baldisimo on the pitch. But it goes to show what happens when you take a chance on a different kind of midfielder.
I’m not going to sit here and say that the Caps are set at midfield now—they aren’t. I think the limitations of Russell Teibert in the starting XI are now fully apparent and Leonard Owusu hasn’t come good quite yet. But a Bikel-Baldisimo-Owusu midfield doesn’t sound too bad does it? Add in a DP midfielder and you’re starting to have the makings of a backbone that might allow Lucas Cavallini to (gasp) actually show his quality. I don’t think it’s an accident that Cava was at his most effective Saturday night.
There will be nights where Baldisimo turns in a clunker. He is not a savior, nor is he a nailed-on, can’t miss, once-in-a-generation prospect in the way that a certain Alphonso Davies was. But much like Hasal, he is a bright spot that has come at the best possible time. The academy won’t be the silver bullet to dragging this team to relevance but it might go a lot further than initially thought.
Shameless Self Promotion
Best of the Rest
Saturday also marked the first pandemic match at BC Place—a radically different scene than what we are all used to
Whitecaps Minority Owner Steve Nash will have a new line on his CV—coach of the Brooklyn Nets