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Coffee with the Caps, Monday March 22

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MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps FC at LA Galaxy Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Good Monday morning Caps fans, hope you all are gearing up for the week ahead and we’re happy that you’ve chosen us to help start your week off right.

Another column, another matchday for the Canadian Men’s National’s U-23 squad, as they march on in CONCACAF’s Olympic qualifiers. A 2-0 win lifted them past El Salvador thanks to a quickfire double from Tajon Buchannon, who is very much the hot item at the moment among the Canadian youngsters.

But it was a good shift for the Caps’ men, specifically Patrick Metcalfe, who started a move that led to Buchannon’s first goal, and Michael Baldisimo, who was his immense creative self. Derek Cornelius was strong in defense and Theo Bair even made a cameo off the bench.

Metcalfe’s performance was especially encouraging after a season in which his development was effectively nil owing to the pandemic and the fact that Marc Dos Santos declined to give him much of a run out (not without reason; Metcalfe seemed off the pace when he did get a look).

But he was excellent when it came to winning back the ball and moving it up the pitch, where Baldisimo could help work his magic. The Caps are a bit stacked in terms of players who have a similar player profile to Metcalfe and I don’t envision a meteoric rise on the level of Baldi last year but it would be nice to see someone push Leonard Owusu on the depth chart.

Baldi, of course, is a different matter altogether. I don’t want to get too far ahead of our video podcast series but one of the questions on our roundtable was an effort to predict how many minutes he would get, setting aside the uncertainty about a potential trip to Tokyo this summer.

Obviously the verdict was unanimous: Baldisimo needs to play and he needs to play a lot if the Caps are going to find success. There was some skepticism that MDS shares this opinion, however, but I’m choosing to be optimisic.

I’m not saying the concern over the coaching staff’s assessment of Baldi isn’t warranted — there were times when he was inexplicably rested last season, to the team’s detriment. But if you look at the Caio Alexandre signing and how he so perfectly fits in with Baldi’s skillset, I genuinely have to think there was consideration given to how the team’s prized midfield pieces would be able to work together in a first-choice starting XI.

The real question for Baldisimo is defensive awareness, which seemed to be the main sticking point in the minds of MDS and Co. It is not without merit — Baldi is still growing into his role in the team and, while he does not lack for energy, needs some work in his positioning. His defensive work rate is quite good and his tackling and duel performance is quite good — as it was Friday afternoon against El Salvador.

I’m not sure there is a player that will benefit from a fit Janio Bikel more than Baldisimo. The Caps looked so much steadier with Bikel back to soak up pressure and this will free Baldi up, hopefully alongside Alexandre sooner rather than later, to focus on what he does best: winning back the ball and moving it up the pitch.

This could all go out the window if Baldisimo winds up getting deputized for the Olympics and such a prolonged trip away from the club could stagnate his development. It is also true that the midfield group is a lot more crowded than it was last year, meaning he will have to do more to keep his place. But after watching the national team on Friday, is there any doubt he can maintain the form from his impressive 2020?

Shameless Self Promotion

A more fully formed preview of the U-23 qualifying effort from our own Sam Rowan. And part 2 of our season preview podcast is here, looking at new men Deibar Caicedo and Bruno Gaspar

Best of the Rest

An in-depth recap of the 2-0 win over El Saldavor and the tactical look for the Canadian U-23s

Alphonso Davies picked up an early red card Saturday (not that it halted Bayern from picking up three points)

We have an intrasquad match! Not as good as a friendly but at least Vancouver is guaranteed a win, eh?

Its MLS-Liga MX merger szn, folks!