Good Monday morning folks and it is a good Monday morning because we have real life football matches to discuss.
The doubleheader friendlies on Saturday were a bit of a mixed bag, in large part because Marc dos Santos trotted out his likely first choice opening day lineup in one match and relegated the kids to the second game against USL side Indy Eleven.
Taking anything concrete from MLS preseason is a fool’s errand anyway so this was a pretty sensible move to get the starters some time against MLS level opposition (if we can call the Chicago Fire that) for what will be the only time before the regular season kicks off.
The good news? The team Saturday showed itself to be pretty capable at transitioning from defense to attack, with the addition of Deibar Caicedo alongside Cristian Dajome beefing up the counter-attacking prowess of a team that was already pretty well setup to counter attack.
Moreover, the defense looked pretty solid — no small feat, given that they lacked Erik Godoy, which was basically the kiss of death for the backline last season. One of the goals conceded came via a rather sloppy penalty kick and from the clips I watched, the Janio Bikel/Leonard Owusu/Russell Teibert made things difficult on the Fire to play through the middle of the park.
Now, the fact that we conceded goal 2349 at the back post was not exactly heartening. Neither was the fact that the team was so heavily dependent on Andy Rose and Ranko Veselinovic playing ambitious balls forward, a strategy that ... isn’t going to end well.
Erik Godoy’s eventual return to the lineup will help in this sense but for now the “boot hopeful long balls out of the back” was basically a one-way ticket to turning the ball over and was a big factor in the possession numbers resembling many matches last year.
One big positive has been the performance of Lucas Cavallini, who has bagged several goals during preseason, on top of his strong performance for the Canadian National Team during the World Cup qualifiers last month. That includes a nice free kick to give the Caps a two-goal advantage, meaning El Tanque is looking up to set piece duty this year.
Given that there are legitimate questions about where the goals for this team will come from aside from Cava, it is good to see their number one attacking threat is in fine form already.
All-in-all, a solid enough performance from the first team in their final tune up, although they will have to maintain their level of play for an entire 90 minutes against a Portland Timbers side which is already playing competitive matches in the CONCACAF Champions League.
As for the young’uns, well, it was just good to see them get a run out against one of the more capable USL sides — a good measuring stick for many of them. And while they were held goalless, there were still a number of good individual performances (Habibullah, for instance, showed flashes of why the hype is deserved). The backline also made a good account for themselves, even though half of the defenders were playing out-of-position.
Based on the lineup likely to come out Sunday night against Portland, it is probably best to keep your expectations low. But a win is a win and between Caio Alexandre and Bruno Gaspar getting their visas this week and the season opening up in six days, there is plenty of reason for excitement.
Shameless Self Promotion
Caleb has a fuller recap of the two friendlies on Saturday. He also has a handy primer on each player on the Caps’ opening day roster for those who missed an offseason move or who are just new to the team.
Best of the Rest
Las Vegas is so down on the Caps’ 2021 chances that they have paradoxically become a hot bet for gamblers
BTS with a look at how a crowded midfield unit will fare in the upcoming season
Inter Miami are having to dump $9 million man Matias Pellegrini within MLS in order to become roster compliant and it appears CF Montreal is his destination