Good morning Caps fans, hope you all are getting those dancing shoes (or your Netflix logins) ready for Friday night.
If you would have asked me to write this column at halftime of the Austin-Vancouver match on Wednesday, it might just be one long string of expletives and I would be fired by noon. Instead, the Caps turned a lackluster first half into a dominant second 45 to come back from their 1-0 halftime deficit.
While in hindsight the first half might not have been quite as bad as I thought at the time, there was no doubt that they didn’t take chances that Austin FC was gifting them, including some mightily sloppy play out of the back. Then there was the frustration of conceding late in the first half against a team which has struggled to score at all the year.
But this is a second half team and that is doubly true when Ryan Gauld comes on a halftime. The Scotsman quickly proved how he can transform this team — he was largely responsible for both of the team’s goals, although he was only credited with an assist on one of them, and he was unlucky not to bag a goal of his own.
It wasn’t just an isolated few chances — the caps xG soared in the second half and it wound up being one of the most lopsided matches (in their favor, that is) in terms of xG that they had all season. You could argue that this should be the expectation against a team like Austin who is struggling at the moment but this is the Caps we’re talking about here — nothing is ever guaranteed.
Gauld’s work was so impressive, he earned a spot on the MLS Team of the Week (for the midweek matches that is), something which rarely happens for a substitute.
The entire team deserves credit for fighting back in the way they did. While it ultimately may not have been the prettiest win you’ll see all season, it was defined by grit, toughness and all the other cliché words commentators use all the time — but in this case they are apropos.
The good vibes will extend into this weekend. The return to BC Place is a big deal but it shouldn’t be overlooked that the LAFC match is important in its own right, given how that team has struggled this season, sitting right below the cutline for making the playoffs. LAFC have not won a match since mid-July and their loss to Atlanta United is their third in a row.
While LAFC have had some injury issues (Eddie Segura, for instance) it mainly has been down to underperformance. After the midweek match, a start for Ryan Gauld is a must and if he does, the boost of playing at home with fans could give the team a flying start. Or they’ll break down and lose in heartbreaking fashion. There will be no in between.
In any event, I can’t wait to see the team back at BC Place. I can only imagine how the players — many of whom have never even played a match in Vancouver with fans — feel about returning home. After a long 18 months, Saturday will be a small sigh of relief — not because the pandemic is gone but because some small piece of normalcy will return.
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