Good morning Caps fans, hope you had your fill of soccer over this busy weekend.
The Caps did not embarass themselves against Seattle on Saturday but it was certainly a rude reminder of the shortcomings of this team. Simply put, Ryan Gauld can’t play defense or serve as a healer to bring the entire backline back to full health.
The absence of three natural center backs, including arguably their top two CBS, was less noticeable against weaker teams thanks to the success of Max Crepeau and a style of play which was better at holding onto the ball (though not in every match). But better teams are more able to take advantage of some of these shortcomings.
All hope is not lost. Jake Nerwinski has turned into a really capable right center back in a back three, though he looked a bit off on Saturday, perhaps showing his limitations in the position against better teams. Florian Jungwirth continues to look fine and one imagines that Ranko, Erik Godoy or Andy Rose will have to heal eventually (right?). The Caps could have had an additional goal or two on Saturday if they had brought their finishing boots and the fact that they lost (with a scoreline flattering to the hosts) against the best team in the Western Conference is hardly cause for concern. Minnesota’s second half collapse against Colorado Rapids on Sunday ensures the Caps did not lose any ground in the race for a playoff spot either.
But one imagines an alternate history in which Derek Cornelius is not shipped out on loan and/or Alexis Duarte or another international centerback is brought in during the transfer window. The Cornelius move is especially infuriating, as he has been, by all accounts, decent in Greece and his height and physicality would be something the team is missing at the position with their ramshackle backline.
Spare a thought for Patrick Metcalfe, who is not (and I would argue never will be) an MLS caliber centerback (I’m not ruling him out as a defensive mid, however), yet is still being forced into the fray in the back three. A CPL loan would likely have done him some good, yet the ship long ago sailed on that given the personnel decisions made by the prior administration.
And the Caps are without Crepeau to help paper over the cracks for at least one more match, which is of obvious concern given that Sporting Kansas City possesses a potent attack which thrashed the Caps (admittedly in the pre-Gauld doldrums) earlier this season. I’m not going to lose my mind over a poor performance from the youngster given that he a) has replaced Crepeau to good effect this season and b) often has a habit of responding well to blinders or matches in which he has struggled to shake off the rust. Anyone out there who thinks Hasal isn’t a preferable option to Evan Newton or a guy with a definite future in MLS (or perhaps even Europe, if he so chooses) based on one match is ... well, the perfect embodiment of this team’s fanbase on Twitter. Relax folks, it’ll be fine.
The Caps will need to address the defensive woes (and their particularly problematic opening 30 minutes) if they are to make a playoff appearance. But one imagines this will be priority numero uno for the brain trust this offseason and, based on their current signing record, I expect they have some good names to resolve the depth conundrum the Caps currently find themselves in.
With that, onto the links.
Shameless Self Promotion
Sam Rowan with a particularly incisive rebuttal to the Metcalfe/Hasal discourse as he runs down the Sounders match. Meanwhile, I give the mixed bag of a report card Saturday’s performance deserved.
Best of the Rest
Three Canadian women are finalists for the Ballon d’Or. A nice moment for Canadian soccer.
Inter Miami manager Phil Neville says his team “was cheated” and wants an investigation into MLS refs because that’s definitely why Miami has struggled.
Sporting Kansas City’s Felipe Hernandez was suspended for the season for betting on MLS games. While this is a strange story, it does sound like he has gotten treatment for gambling addiction — a good thing.