Good Monday morning Caps fans, welcome to the first column of October. Hope you all enjoyed the last home match of the season and got a heaping dose of fall on the side.
Well, the chaos Caps remain alive and well. Not only did they see off Austin FC, results elsewhere went about as well as you could ask — San Jose beat Minnesota and LA did enough to dampen Real Salt Lake.
Decision Day is far from a gimme but you also don’t have to work nearly as hard to see the Caps snatch that final spot, or at least the path is a lot clearer than it was Friday at this time. Results went the Caps’ way once again meaning that, improbably, a win on the final day of the season over Minnesota United gets them in the playoffs.
Even if things don’t shake out on right, it is encouraging to see the retooled formation firing on all cylinders. Three wins in a row also represents three big tallies in the column for this 4-2-2-2, which takes the better elements of the back three and improves upon it by asking much less out of Julian Gressel defensively and maximizing what their offensive pieces do well.
What types of players the team decides to go after in the offseason will be vital; this is a team that must be more decisive than it was last year in the transfer market, with the opportunity to move on some deadwood and really shape what is already a playoff-caliber roster wide open for Axel Schuster.
You add a left back who is similarly dynamic to Gressel (and have Nerwinski and/or Javain Brown play in the defensive oriented right back slot) and you have a team that is pretty well positioned to maximize this new look.
For now, however, credit where credit is due. The Caps limited one of the most free-scoring teams in the league, one featuring the likely MVP winner. While Austin did get chances as the match wore on, the Caps did a good job in limiting the lethality and someone always stepped up to make a play, whether that was a defender (Jake Nerwinski with a big block on Sebastian Driussi comes to mind) or Thomas Hasal in net.
Indeed, it was an excellent match from Hasal, who seems to be growing in confidence. I think an upgrade is needed in goal (I feel like we’ve made the mistake of falling for a hot streak from Hasal enough times) but it is still encouraging to see the youngster look good — he is, by all accounts, a likeable fellow and I would like to see him come good in MLS.
Attacking-wise, this was a scintillating performance from Ryan Gauld and Pedro Vite, who took advantage of the space that Austin FC gave them going forward (something which could be Austin’s limitation in the playoffs). Gauld was so good that he almost doesn’t even need any additional column inches here (I waxed poetic about him in the report card).
I have long been a Pedro Vite fanboy, however, and am happy to give the guy column inches whenever and wherever I can. His skill set is nicely suited to his new formation and his through ball to Gauld for the first goal was beautiful. A smart player as well, he had a quickly taken free kick expertly placed to catch Austin off guard and nearly lead to a goal from White.
Going on the road and getting three points is something this new formation has not yet done. And Minnesota, who has been in wretched form, has often had the Caps’ number (see the home leg earlier this season). But the vibes are going in Vancouver’s favor at the moment and who is to argue with that most reliable soccer prognostication tool?
Shameless Self Promotion
Caleb runs down what the result Saturday means for the playoff odds. And I have the report card grades, one of the easier report cards to write in recent memory.
Best of the Rest
LAFC have wrapped up the 2022 Supporters Shield and enter the playoffs as the favorite
Meanwhile, at the other end of the table DC United will officially nab the wooden spoon, a sign Wayne Rooney has his work cut out for him
Its a non-issue in Canada but MLS’ move to Apple TV will kill off local television broadcasts across the league
The Canadian Women’s National Team has their squad unveiled for a slate of October friendlies