Good Monday morning Caps fans, hope you all enjoyed the myriad of matches available to you over the weekend and are well rested ahead of the upcoming work week.
The Summer of Soccer TM peaked over the weekend with the humanity of Argentina and Lionel Messi finally getting a major tournament victory, the brutality of someone having to lose on penalties in the Euros (in the end, the inexperience of England shone through) and the Gold Cup starting with more of a bang than expected.
While the Copa America and the Euros were absorbing in their own way, the Gold Cup is certainly the most relevent to our blog and it is there we will focus our attention.
Canada’s victory over Martinique was a solid one, although it was perhaps not as dominant as the most optimistic of fans will have expected (the Martinique goal was poor but the Canadians seemed to do well to recover from there). Cyle Larin and Tajon Buchannon were the highlights for the Canadians, with both players making a statement of intent ahead of a big tournament, given they will be without Alphonso Davies.
Still, there are some kinks to work out for Canada — set piece defending in particular left a bit to be desired (perhaps they’ve been watching the Caps too much ... ). Mark-Anthony Kaye also didn’t sparkle for me as much as I expected, perhaps in part because he was outshone by his central midfield counterparts, both of whom tallied goals.
At least Canada won, however, with the real shock result of the first round coming Saturday night, as Trinidad and Tobago held Mexico, against all odds, to a 0-0 draw. While there isn’t a ton of evidence that Mexico will ultimately have any trouble advancing (particularly after Curacao had to drop out of the tournament with COVID-19 complications), it is perhaps a harbinger of one of two outcomes.
Either the Mexicans, the clear favorites, will use it as a rallying point and will bounce back better in the remaining group stage matches, laying down a gauntlet before cruising through the knockout stages. Or it is a warning shot that Tata Martino doesn’t have his men focused and ready to play, which really opens up the tournament and gives Canada and the U.S. more of a pathway to being competitive.
They will perhaps not be helped out by their fans, although CONCACAF’s already milquetoast policy towards the goalkeeper chant was comically applied by the referee on Saturday night in Dallas. To begin with, the first step in the protocol (bringing players to midfield) didn’t occur until the 80th minute, despite the chant being clearly heard. And when it continued, the ref disregarded the second part of the protocol (abandoning the match) and instead pulled the players to the center of the pitch again.
It is hard to imagine a scenario where the officials actually apply the toothier penalties to Mexico which, in turn, means it is hard to imagine a scenario when fans actually stop with the chant. In any event, it made for a controversial (if problematic) start to the tournament and really, who among us doesn’t love a little controversy.
Meanwhile, my U.S. Men’s National Team ... did some things. Haiti was probably the softest possible opponent for the USMNT C team to draw, given they were without a few starters due to COVID-19, yet it was a pretty nervy win for the Yanks. There were certainly some kinks for the Americans to work out before their date with Canada next week and losing Paul Arriola to injury halfway through the first half will be a real blow for a team who was already lacking major tournament experience.
Positives existed too — Shaq Moore, Gianluca Busio and the central defenders were solid — but the concerns (Gregg Berhalter’s tactics, the timidity of the attacking band) leave me pessimistic for the big game next Sunday. Hopefully I’ll be proved wrong.
Shameless Self Promotion
Caleb has a pretty compelling argument for the way forward for the Caps — and why there is more there there than many fans might want to admit at the moment.
Best of the Rest
The Caps are set to loan Derek Cornelius out to Greek club Panetolikos. It is uncertain what this means for his Whitecaps future but it will almost certainly help his career development and maybe help him get back in the Canadian National Team picture
More on the Gold Cup nightmare for Curacao
Venezia is newly promoted to Seria A and is targeting a bevy of young American talent to help them stay there, including Tanner Tessman and Gianluca Busio
Ake Loba is officially signed for Nashville SC and I love that move for them, despite the hefty $6.8 million price tag
Marco Bustos: Remains good at soccer (at least at the Canadian Premier League level)