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Coffee with the Caps, Monday April 19

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MLS: Portland Timbers at Vancouver Whitecaps FC Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

Good Monday morning Caps fans, hope you all are getting a boost to the start of your week from last night’s result.

My prediction of Lucas Cavallini nabbing a goal to open the Caps’ account was on point but basically everything else I expected out of the team last night was wrong — and I couldn’t be happier.

I don’t think anyone is taking the 1-0 win over Portland as a sign that everything is hunky dory — most of the same flaws from last season were present last night. But that’s to be expected when the roster is, effectively, the same one from last year and it just goes to show how the Caps were able to successfully outmaneuver not just Portland but the difficult circumstance they were in personnel-wise.

The Caps were drubbed in terms of expected goals and shots, which was hardly a surprise. They sought to take their few chances on the counter and via set pieces — exactly what we expected of them. But the team made it work, thanks to a few tweaks and a good heap of luck.

Some of the positives included a strong start from Deibar Caicedo and Cristian Dajome, the latter of whom appeared to pick up right where he left off from last year. Caicedo made a credible account of himself on his debut, although he certainly looked like a player not fully settled as of yet.

Dropping Michael Baldisimo deeper was a welcome sight and it helped disperse some of Portland’s pressure, while also letting Baldi spray his trademark deep balls forward. This is a welcome sign, not just because it was a prescient tactical tweak from Marc dos Santos but also because it shows he is trying to think of new ways of involving his talented youngster — a welcome signal after a season where the manager seemed largely ambivalent about Baldi.

He heaped praise on Baldi for his 69 touches and 55 passes, which were key in breaking down a well-drilled, but tired, Timbers team, noting specifically how “comfortable” he looked in the role. It probably will be a moot point when Caio Alexandre is in the lineup but, as of now, it is nice seeing MDS building a tactical strategy that revolves around Baldi, rather than the team’s most exciting young player serving as an afterthought.

Cristian Gutierrez picked up right where he left off from last year as well and his execution on the set play goal was first-rate. He was arguably the Caps’ best player, as he matched his assist with a good defensive shift — his four tackles included one that snuffed out a strong Timbers’ chance on the break. Also worth a shout to the remaining members of the backline, who all put in solid shifts even though they aren’t first choice on the team sheet.

This was not how we want the Caps to play going forward — nor what MDS wants to see offensively. But it was a performance that will undoubtedly serve as a building block going forward. In some respect that will literally be true — most, if not all, of this lineup will likely be called upon to face Toronto FC next weekend and the same underlying tactics will probably also be on display. The result last night, however, showed this is a workable, if short-term, strategy.

Onto the links...

Shameless Self Promotion

Luis brings you our new and improved post-match format, with plenty of his own takes on how the Caps’ fared in game one.

Best of the Rest

How our Cascadia friends viewed their 1-0 defeat, which came after a promising CONCACAF Champions League start

Some heat maps and xG analysis of Sunday’s match from Between the Sticks

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An argument in favor of an MLS Super Cup, something I am wholeheartedly in favor of (although I don’t envy whoever has to work out the logistics)

Bob Bradley accidentally subbed off Carlos Vela 20 minutes into LAFC’s opener, although the MLS Cup favorites dispatched Austin FC anyway