Good Monday morning Caps fans, hope you all are coping with the disappointment that the season is finally, officially (maybe a little bit mercifully) over.
The improbable, odds-defying run for Vancouver had to end at some point and things came crashing back down to reality away to Minnesota United — both things that have had the Caps’ number this season.
Indeed, this match featured some of the worst habits of the Caps’ 2022 season: 1) Cross and inshallah, 2) laying an egg on the road and 3) Brian White (and others) disappearing at the worst possible time.
Simply put, you can’t win a big match when you don’t get your best attacking players looks and Minnesota pretty well and limited the freedom of movement for Brian White, Ryan Gauld, Pedro Vite and, when he entered the match, Lucas Cavallini.
Credit to the Loons for forcing the Caps into a series of low probability crosses and credit to Dayne St. Clair for showing why Vancouver should’ve mortgaged the farm to get him last offseason, as he snuffed out the chances that were created.
Combine all of this with a missed penalty call and an out of character gaffe from Andres Cubas to allow Minnesota to score early and it is easy to have a very bad taste in your mouth after this one.
But, as I wrote in the post-match, the blueprint is pretty clear.
Add a more dynamic left back, a pacier striker and a central midfielder who can impose himself more on the match than Russell Teibert (I’m not sure Alessandro Schopf is it and it doesn’t seem as if Vanni is either) and this is a different match. The backline mostly was good and a plus goalkeeper (which Minnesota clearly has) also helps make up for a lot of sins.
The pieces remain there for the Caps — Gauld, Gressel, Vite and Cubas will remain first choice off the team sheet and I think the true Brian White probably resides somewhere in between what we saw in 2021 and what we’ve seen this season.
Who knows what is going on with Cava. And there are legitimate questions about which of the depth players should or will be brought back, but if the same brain trust that has figured out how to make Sebastian Berhalter and Luis Martins viable bench options can keep working their magic, I think equitable solutions can be reached.
Perhaps the one big plus with a disappointing defeat to fall short of the playoffs? There can be no rationalizing, as there was last season, that changes are unnecessary. Not a lot of them — again, this core is of a very high quality. But there can be no denying that action is needed, which will hopefully prevent the team from deferring some of these big choices to the middle of next season, muting the impact of, say, Cubas to half a season. While the end of the season burst of good form was exciting, it shouldn’t change the big decisions that will have to be made.
This was not the way we wanted the season to end. And Minnesota have been so poor I talked myself into it shaking out a different way, against my better judgement.
But there is a lot to be positive about after this year, something it shares in common with 2021 (even if this year didn’t end in a miracle playoff appearance). Let’s hope we can keep that momentum heading into the offseason.
And on behalf of everyone at 86 Forever, thank you for another season of following along with our match coverage and analysis. We hope you had half as much fun reading as we did writing it (though maybe “fun” is the wrong word) and can’t wait to break down all of the silly season developments.
Shameless Self Promotion
Yours truly has the final match recap of the year on what went wrong on decision day.
Best of the Rest
Orlando City and Real Salt Lake grabbed the other playoff spots up for grabs Sunday, finalizing the field
Nashville SC’s Hany Mukhtar snagged the Golden Boot and made his final case as league MVP
Alaska Airlines have publicly rebuked the Portland Timbers/Thorns amid growing pressure for Merrit Paulson to sell the club in the wake of the NWSL abuse scandal
Alphonso Davies suffered a skull bruise during Der Klassiker Saturday, though a timeline for how long he might be out is unclear
The Canadian Premier League also has their playoffs locked in, with Atletico Ottawa hoisting the regular season crown