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Coffee with the Caps, Monday April 18

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps FC at CF Montreal David Kirouac-USA TODAY Sports

Good Monday morning Caps fans, hope you all had a lovely weekend. If you are celebrating one of the numerous religious holidays going on right now, we hope that was a safe and enjoyable time as well.

Once again, watching Vancouver was less than enjoyable and the sense of existential dread that the second half of last season seemed to have erased is back in full force.

The team remains bereft of points away from home (not that they’ve been lighting the world on fire at BC Place either) and even if Tosaint Ricketts had kept himself onside to smash and grab an equalizer, it wouldn’t have erased the broader issues present in the club.

In some ways the problem is inexplicable. Guys who were quite good in the halcyon days of 2021 have been poor. Take Javain Brown, who was out to sea not once but twice in the build up to the Montreal goal inside one minute of game time. A player who was brimming with confidence and initiative in his rookie season, Brown now looks tired and a step behind, seemingly without a good reason. Several other players fall into a similar category.

In other respects, however, it is much more clear what is going on. The heady early days of the Vanni Sartini era saw the club punching above their weight and expected goals in a way that was unsustainable without more work. Whether the failure to do that this season lies at the feat of Sartini, Axel Schuster, the players or all three is less immediately clear and will undoubtedly be a point of contention among the fanbase.

I have sympathy for Sartini, who has a clear system but not necessarily the players to implement it. Subbing out Russell Teibert for Andres Cubas can’t hurt but who knows when that can be completed? And with Caio Alexandre out for two months, the Caps could effectively be eliminated from playoff contention before Sartini can trot out his first choice midfield.

Even one of the few saving graces — Ryan Gauld — is a question mark for the foreseeable future as well after exiting Saturday’s match with a concussion. Gauld is tough and apparently suffered a concussion in the preseason as well but this is one where the team will need to let him recover in due course. Better to take their lumps and ensure a full recovery than have persistent head injuries in this season and years to come that sideline one of the few consistent attacking avenues the Caps have at the moment.

Brian White finally got on the scoresheet Saturday, one area where fans can feel a sense of much-needed relief. And while Pedro Vite continues to look dangerous, it isn’t quite the same as having Gauld on the pitch. If he is forced to miss multiple matches, it will be interesting to see what tactical wrinkles, if any, Sartini tries to introduce to make up for his action. One wonders if a return to both White and Lucas Cavallini on the pitch is in order and worth another spin now that White is back to full fitness.

No two ways about it, however — it is crunch time for the Caps. While I could see a fit and replenished side launching a late season turnaround, there is a point where the team will be in such a hole that such a move would be impossible. Something — a change in formation, a change in personnel — needs to happen to keep them alive and begin to build the blocks, slowly but surely, towards progress.

Shameless Self Promotion

Sartini vented about the Caps’ “naive” approach to the Montreal match, as well as road games more broadly. Meanwhile, the report card grades are in and ... leave something to be desired.

Best of the Rest

The Thundercaps 2.0 earned their first MLS NEXT Pro win Sunday, defeating Tacoma Defiance 2-1

Pacific FC, meanwhile, notched a 3-2 win over Valour FC in their second match of 2022 in the CPL

MLS and Liga MX will ditch the Leagues Cup this year in favor of a double header between the two LA clubs and top Mexican opponents at SoFi Stadium

San Jose Earthquakes are set to part ways with Matthias Almeyda, bringing to a close one of the weirdest managerial sagas in recent memory

Djordje Mihailovic is looking more and more like an MVP contender for CF Montreal. Maybe the Caps shouldn’t feel quite so bad, eh?