Good Monday morning Caps fans. Mercifully my Canadian brethren doesn’t have to suffer through a sleep-deprived Monday because their neighbors were shooting off fireworks at 1 a.m.
It was a busy weekend in Caps world and I’ll do my best to run it down here. However, I admittedly did not watch the match last night (I was sitting on a lake watching the legal fireworks show) but I have been able to glean a few things from watching the highlights.
Probably the biggest lesson is that dropping back and defending for an entire half is no bueno.
It is telling that I didn’t watch the match to know exactly what happened here and it has since been confirmed by reading/watching after the fact. It is hilarious to look at an xG plot over the course of the game; the Caps’ total simply stops after about the 60th minute. Simply put, putting 11 men behind the ball for a protracted amount of time is not a winning strategy.
There is a reason good teams don’t do this when they take the lead; heck, there is a reason mediocre teams don’t do this when they take the lead. Only bad, relegation threatened teams employ this strategy and the Caps embracing it really only confirms fan’s beliefs about the team.
And if you are going to attempt this, screwing up the tactical cohesion by throwing on defenders willy nilly at the end is a recipe for disaster. I feel for Ranko Veselinovic; the own goal at the end wasn’t really his fault and yet it is exactly what a guy who has been unfairly deprived of minutes doesn’t need. I hope he finds his way back into the starting XI anyway.
The good news? There were some solid performances from Max Crepeau and Lucas Cavallini. Crepeau especially had slipped some in form recently and it was good to see him standing on his head like the keeper of old. Cava picked up a stupid yellow card (the latest in a season of stupid yellow cards) meaning he will miss another match on top of the Gold Cup but he seemed really up for things offensively and the team appeared to do a slightly better job of getting him engaged.
All-in-all a point against FC Dallas isn’t horrible. This is certainly a match the Texas side needed to win as they attempt to mount a playoff charge and walking away with a draw is a fine result. But the fact that this is an example of more points lost from winning/drawing positions speaks to the fact that, even though this team may like to defend desperately, they are not quite organized enough to pull it off. I don’t want to question the mental toughness of the squad because I think they have pushed through adversity at times this year. At some point this pattern of conceding late is on the manager.
I would be remiss if I didn’t address the other big news of the weekend: the departure of Ali Adnan, whose contract was terminated by mutual consent after his visa purgatory continued to drag on.
This has prompted a pretty divisive reaction on Caps’ social media ranging from people wondering (fairly) why the team didn’t plan ahead better and was unable to secure a transfer fee for Ali to people who said he was crap.
Now, I am not an immigration lawyer. But my reading of U.S. law suggests it would have been tough for the team to do too much more than they have. Ali’s Iraqi nationality and his history of political activism in his home country (which I think is badass) probably didn’t play well with U.S. authorities.
At some point you have to move the guy on for his own good, if nothing else. It sucks not getting a fee back for a guy the Caps sunk a lot of money into but they didn’t have a ton of leverage here given how soon his contract was going to expire. Eating a potential fee and opening up a DP slot probably has a bit of merit on its face anyway.
As for Ali’s talents, there have been a lot of hot takes out there. I will defer to other people for a more data-driven look at his time in Vancouver but I think that bears out my opinions pretty well.
For a fan base that denigrates (with reason) this team’s ability to progress the ball forward and create attacking moves, it is odd that many are critical of a player whose entire raison d’etre was exactly that. Yeah, his defensive duties left something to be desired at times. And Adnan had the ability to disappear at times, which is admittedly not ideal for a DP.
But on his day, Adnan was unplayable and genuinely one of the best at his position in MLS. When is the last time the Caps could say that? The legion of fans he commanded, while kind of a meme at this point, underscores his popularity in his home country and the dude’s story is undeniably potent. He had a great rapport with many of his teammates, most notably In-Beom Hwang. And he gave us some pretty memorable moments during his time in Vancouver.
The Caps can use the DP spot for a new, game breaking player who may give a bit more value than Ali. But I think he deserves more respect for what he brought to the table while in Vancouver. Godspeed Ali, you’ll be missed.
Shameless Self Promotion
Best of the Rest
More on the Caps’ penchant for conceding stoppage time goals