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Coffee with the Caps, Monday January 4

SOCCER: JUL 07 CONCACAF Gold Cup Group A - French Guiana v Canada Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Good Monday morning Caps fans — welcome to the first Coffee with the Caps of the new year. We hope that it is filled with happiness, good health and that all your resolutions may come to pass. 2021 can’t be any worse than what we just went through, right?

It was actually a fairly busy last week in MLS world but I wanted to circle back as I promised to the Canadian Men’s National Team, who will convene in Florida later this week for its first organized action in some time.

That layoff means they will have to get up to speed quickly ahead of a long and winding World Cup qualifying journey. The MLS-heavy roster will have a few days to get oriented and then will likely have some friendlies on the agenda, both among themselves and against some outside opponents (Panama has been rumored as a potential option).

Current and former Whitecaps abound in the roster for the camp, with Max Crepeau, Cristian Gutierrez, Derek Cornelius and Lucas Cavallini making the cut.

Outside of those guys, the big intrigue is around the inclusion of Ayo Akinola, who appeared in a US National Team friendly a few weeks back but is not cap tied for the Americans and would be a big coup for John Herdman and Co. to keep in the Canadian fold.

But there are some questions about three Caps players who did not make the cut: Russell Teibert, a mainstay for the national team, Theo Bair and Michael Baldisimo, whose good form seemed like it should have been enough to earn him inclusion in the roster.

Let's take these as they come. Teibert’s exclusion is a bit odd, especially given that Herdman seemed to be leaning on veteran experience. Perhaps his relatively stale performances for Vancouver and the fact that he was getting moved around positionally a lot left Herdman to decide that Rusty has become less vital in the last year and that new blood was important to mix in as well.

It’s important to note that there are a number of young’uns in the mix on this roster who probably will not be on the final World Cup qualifying squad, meaning Rusty still has a decent shot of featuring for the side in the coming months.

But given the young blood on the roster, it is strange that Herdman passed up a chance to bring Baldisimo into the fold. In excellent form, Baldisimo earned more first-team minutes than two Toronto FC youth players who got a call-up, Noble Okelo and Ralph Priso (Okello was on loan in Denmark but still wasn’t playing as much as Baldi). Recent form clearly was a factor in Herdman’s decision making process, as they elected to call up a CANPL player, former Caps man Marco Bustos, to the roster, presumably on the basis of his MVP caliber season in the league.

I don’t presume to speak on behalf of actual Canadian national team fans but it seems that Baldi would be in a good position to get some real minutes going forward, as his progressive passing and skill on the ball don’t seem to be something that a lot of other, more defensive midfielders in the player pool bring to the table (we’re setting aside the more attacking-minded mids for a second here). Obviously, Mark Anthony Kaye and Jonathan Osorio rule the roost among the MLS Canadian contingent but Baldi seems a better shout than some of the other lottery tickets the coaching staff scratched.

Bair is probably the least surprising — out of favor seemingly with Marc dos Santos and not as match fit, Herdman elected to start with a couple of youth teamers from England who have bright futures and who could use some intensive training time with the rest of the squad. Presumably if one or both of them were to be unable to join, Bair would get a look for inclusion but based on his current form it isn’t exactly a mystery as to why he wasn’t included.

Kudos are in order, however, for Cornelius and Guti in particular. It was a rough year for DC, who found his place in the centerback pecking order questioned (despite performing adequately when called on). Some time with his national team mates should help improve confidence and, given that he has often performed better for country than for his club, he could get some real momentum from both the camp and the March qualifiers ahead of a crucial preseason.

And Guti will be pleased with his inclusion, a fine reward for a breakout season in Vancouver. The upshot is that he will be increasingly enticed to pick Canada over Chile for his national team future and he is another player who could benefit from being able to hit the ground running in MLS camp thanks to some tune ups with the national team.

Max and Cava? Well, this is old hat for them but they will be assuredly key for the Canadians as they aim to pick off Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Aruba and Suriname. The relatively weak competition could be a good place for Cava to get his goal scoring boots fired up before the MLS season as well.

Shameless Self Promotion

Caleb looks at where things went right for the Whitecaps’ defense in 2020 — and where things could be bolstered in the transfer market

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