Good Monday morning Caps fans, hope you all are settling in at your desks for another work week — but take heart, as we have a midweek match this week to pull you back in.
If you’ve checked out from this season already, I wouldn’t blame you. When the Caps return to BC Place soon there is a distinct possibility that even the novelty of seeing the team back in action won’t be enough to get a meaningful number of butts in seats to welcome the squad home.
The drab affair Friday night against San Jose didn’t really help change anyone’s perception of that. I wasn’t able to watch in real time but came back Saturday morning to watch the tape for the report card and ... oof. I had to stop myself from dozing off at certain points in the match. It was rough.
A point isn’t a bad result in a vacuum but as we tweeted on Friday night ... matches aren’t played in a vacuum (for player safety if nothing else). The fact is, time has more or less run out on playing catch up in the playoff race and a point against a team of the level of San Jose isn’t going to be enough (the Quakes are weirdly in a similar boat, which is why Friday’s match was so strange).
One upside, however, from Friday’s match is the continued improvement of one Ranko Veselinovic, who was left for dead earlier this season but steadily played his back way into Marc Dos Santos’ plans (injuries and the continued mediocrity of Andy Rose likely helped with this).
He has really blossomed in recent matches, capped off with his performance on Friday — arguably his best since becoming a Whitecaps player.
If we look at his Football Reference scouting report for the 2021 season we see ... the makings of a pretty good player. While his comically high goal/creation numbers are an anomaly, it is worth noting how useful he can be in terms of progressing the ball, with his midfield runs scaring the hell out of me a lot less than some of the Caps’ past center backs.
His defensive categories are mostly seeing significant improvements over 2020, with noticeable uptick in his tackling stats. To put it simply, he has put himself in better positions to win the ball and when he does need to put in a tackle, has been far more successful in doing so than he was in 2020.
His ability to cut out crosses/shots was quite good last year (given his height) and has remained a real strength — something which has certainly been true in recent matches. The Caps have had a series of CBs who have excelled at using their height and physicality in this sense and Ranko is starting to figure out how to do this more effectively.
And what is perhaps most encouraging to me is that Ranko looked so good alongside Andy Rose on Friday. There has been a narrative, formed by the waning matches of 2020, that he needs a particular type of CB partner to look half decent. This was largely accurate at the time, as Erik Godoy basically dragged Ranko into looking like a league-average CB (a massive improvement over where he was before). The fact that he can take the lead and thrive in his own right is a great sign and while the Caps should be in the market for another central defender (to replace the aging Rose if nothing else), I am firmly aboard the Ranko Veselinovic redemption arc.
One final note: The team announced Sunday evening that three Academy players were targeted in what appears to be a racially motivated attack earlier in the weekend. One player is in the hospital and is expected to recover fully following surgery but the trauma of such an event will surely linger for all three, as for the communities of color in British Columbia for whom similar events happen too frequently.
Solidarity and love with the three players implicated in this attack. Hatred has no place in our society and our club. While I suspect the overwhelming majority of folks reading this agree with that message I would urge us all to go farther and actively work to spread love, openness and kindness as we all start our week.
Shameless Self Promotion
Caleb crunches the numbers and tries to assess the development of Ryan Raposo who ... seems to do good things now
Best of the Rest
A look at the Caps as we have passed the midway point of the MLS season
A nice video on Tajon Buchanan’s rise and what might await the young talent in Europe
What the path forward might hold for the Canadian Woman’s National Team after their gold in Tokyo
The MLS coaches who could be out of contract this summer ... Just going to leave this here in case it is needed