Good Friday morning Caps fans, hope you all are having a productive week — and are looking forward to a break this weekend.
It is never too late to make some resolutions, right? I was able to recover my lost column from over the weekend where I looked at some potential New Years’ resolutions for Caps players and figured it would still be timely to run today (though some of us may have already broken our resolutions ...).
I’m not pretending to tell professional soccer players what to do mind, but rather just tossing out benchmarks to hit. Some are concrete, others less so. And if you have resolutions of your own (for the Caps or yourself), feel free to toss them in the comments.
Deiber Caiedo: Hit the 10 goals/10 assists mark
Deiber’s first season in MLS was perhaps lost in the shuffle once Ryan Gauld arrived and turned in a performance worthy of MLS Newcomer of the Year. But fans and Vanni Sartini alike seem to consider Caicedo a key cog, though Sartini seemed to gravitate towards the Colombian as a super sub at times.
Caicedo’s skill set certainly showed some limitations and he was not always the most efficient in front of goal, though at times this was down to bad luck more than anything. The Caps are in need of scorers not named Gauld, Brian White or Cristian Dajome and Caicedo is perhaps the most likely suspect (aside from a potential new striker).
10/10 is perhaps a lofty bar but Caicedo bagged 5/5 in 2,000 minutes last year, a solid platform to build off of for the young player. Most of these occurred in a pre-Gauld era and he also seems like the type of player who will benefit from a healthy Caio Alexandre (see below). This is a season where we can get a true sense of Caicedo’s true ceilings and I remain optimistic.
Caio Alexandre: Play like a new signing
Yeah the joke that Alexandre and Pedro Vite are like a new signing is well worn. But the fact that Alexandre, who fits Sartini’s play style to a tee, never got a chance under the new manager due to injuries seems cruel. I think it’s fair to say the Brazilian didn’t light the world on fire in his limited minutes while healthy but the potential was there and this dovetailed with the MDS black hole days so I don’t think Alexandre’s 2021 is particularly instructive.
Still, Alexandre was in the 89-90th percentile in the following categories (per Football Reference): progressive carries, progressive passes and pressures in the attacking and midfield thirds. Not too shabby — and exactly what the midfield was missing at times, though Leo Owusu grew into the role as the season wore on.
Again, a limited sample size here but if Alexandre duplicates that after a full season of work, that would be a big deal for the team.
Jake Nerwinski and Russell Teibert: Continue the redemption arc
Both of these players have been much maligned and both turned things around in Sartini Year 0. It turns out that Nerwinski is solid depth in a back three and while there is some uncertainty amid the arrival of Tristan Blackmon, the Caps will need both players in all likelihood. Injuries, suspensions, etc. are a fact of life and the teams’ depth pieces could ultimately be what picks up a couple places in the standings.
Meanwhile, Rusty may well be in line for a starting spot, turning into a surprise offensive work while doing the dirty work that he is known for. He seems likely to be a starter come opening day, given how Sartini clearly values his skill set. And the team will be well-served if he continues his strong form and earns his place in the starting XI going forward.
Theo Bair: Score an MLS goal
It’s been a rough couple of years for Theo Bair but things could be looking up. His loan stint in the Norwegian second division was, by all accounts, successful and he will likely have a spot back in the first division next year if the parties involved want another loan deal.
But given the uncertainty with the Caps’ strikers not named Brian White, I think I speak for a lot of fans when I say that I hope Bair is allowed to fight for his place. While his long-term future may not be in Vancouver, I think it would be interesting to see what Sartini makes of the youngster after a full preseason and see if there is promise for him as a White understudy.
For me? My Caps-related resolution is to rededicate myself to thoroughly knowing the youth teams and better understanding who might be making up the wave of the future. This is particularly timely given the new MLS reserve leagues and the potential boost this could give youth development. It might not be as useful as losing 10 pounds but it’s on the list nonetheless.
And now for some non-New Years links for your enjoyment.
Shameless Self Promotion
Caleb Wilkins takes a look at how production in the Canadian Premier League translates into an MLS context
Best of the Rest
Vanni Sartini is “restless” — and that is a good thing for the Caps
A roundup of Canadian Men’s National Team details ahead of a busy month for the team
We’ll have more MLS SuperDraft coverage but the first Top Drawer Soccer mock draft has the Caps taking a CB