Good Monday morning Caps fans. Bad news: I’m back after I loaned Sam the keys to the Coffee with the Caps car on Friday. It’s a bit like trading in a Corvette for a used Buick LeSabre but you all are used to my hijinks by now, right?
Sunday was a bit of a bust from a Canadian National Team perspective — the senior team saw its match against the Cayman Islands chalked off, at least until Monday, owing to the Caribbean nation being unable to get its COVID-19 tests in before game time (talk about a sign of the times).
Then, hours later, the U-23 side crashed out of the Olympic qualifiers to Mexico, coming up just short in their do-or-die clash for a ticket to Tokyo. Canada were certainly stuck with the more difficult of the two options (if we’re being honest) after they were unable to put Honduras to the sword last week, a result which would have seen them top the group and face the United States.
It capped a bit of a strange tournament for the young Canadians. There were some strong individual performances (really all of the Whitecaps, save perhaps Ryan Raposo, could credibly say they had a very good tournament) offset by the fact that the team could not quite create enough chances to see them through.
The team was quite defensive Sunday night against Mexico but would have pulled it off if not for some brutal individual mistakes. James Pantemis was excellent in goal ... until an errant pass gave Mexico the lead. It was these kinds of dichotomies that existed throughout the tournament.
That included trying to rely too much on Tajon Buchanan, not relying enough on Luis Dias and not enough tactical flexibility from Mauro Biello.
This isn’t a fatal blow for a talented crop of young players and as someone who doesn’t have a whole lot of skin in the game from a Candian National Team perspective, I’m OK with seeing Michael Baldisimo and Derek Cornelius not have to jet off for several weeks in the dog days of the MLS season.
In fact, I would argue Canada showed about as much as the U.S. did over the course of the qualifying stage, even though the Yanks had higher expectations. This was a team that is on a similar level as their southern neighbor, something that has not happened in some time. The result may have ultimately been painfully similar to pass Olympic qualifying efforts but this was the best team Canada has actually put on the pitch in awhile.
And while an uninspired display against Honduras ultimately did them in, Honduras only got a goal differential leg up thanks to the weirdness of Haiti’s COVID-19 troubles to start the tournament. At the end of the day, there is simply no way to account for CONCACAF being CONCACAF.
I’ve watched the tournament (as much as I can due to the slightly less favorable time slots) but I would be curious if the Canadians out there believe I’m being too charitable. Are you feeling good about the future? Ambivalent about not going to Tokyo? Overjoyed that the Caps won’t be down some key players? Feel free to slide into the comments.
A key Whitecaps-related development: Jasser Khmiri is heading out on loan. The move is not to Stade Tunisien, as initially reported, but rather to San Antonio FC in the USL.
The deal is in service of a couple different goals. Firstly, Khmiri needs consistent game time and won’t get it in Vancouver. His resale value is, in effect, nil right now and a loan will, at worst, get him some time in the shop window for a permanent move elsewhere. Best case, he kicks on and regains his pre-Vancouver form to the point where he can be a useful piece (which I think a lot of us thought he could be when he signed).
The loan move also obviously frees up a much needed international slot, one which will be used immediately on Caio Alexandre. With Javain Brown staying, somewhat inexplicably, in Vancouver, it is looking like the roster math might not be there for a DP number 10, at least not quite yet.
I think everyone associated with the club is rooting for a quick return to form for Jasser in Texas. The “what ifs” might always haunt his Caps career in Masato Kudo-like fashion but San Antonio is a quality USL side (one who also employed Caps legend Eric Hassli) and it will be a good place for him to find his feat. Plus the move gives me a rooting interest for USL matches, something I’ve been yearning for since the demise of the Thundercaps.
Shameless Self Promotion
Sam posted this on Friday but I figured I would re-up our Jasser Khmiri-related preseason roundtable given its timeliness (and the fact that we were spot-on in our analysis).
Best of the Rest
The Caps’ schedule is out and boy is it nice to have a somewhat normal, 34-game slate on the horizon. Which matches should we be watching intently?
More on the team’s scheduling setup this season, from The Province
More on the adaptability of Tajon Buchanan, who has impressed during the Olympic qualifiers
And a rundown of what the future holds for Luis Dias, the youngest player on the side