A midweek match against one of the best teams in the Western Conference without the team’s best player, a patchwork midfield and only one natural centerback seemed like a recipe for disaster.
There was a bit of fortune, to be sure. Ranko Veselinovic was hauled down in the box on the stroke of stoppage time after a poor bit of goalkeeping from Jimmy Maurer led to a scramble in front of the FC Dallas goal. Lucas Cavallini dispatched the resulting
But by and large this was an improved performance from the Caps, who entered the match with a rotated squad. Javain Brown and Jake Nerwinski flanked Veselinovic in a return to the three-at-the-back formation, with Russell Teibert and Michael Baldisimo in midfield.
Cristian Gutierrez and Ryan Raposo were the wingbacks, with Cristian Dajome, Cavallini and Deiber Caicedo up front.
The first half was a rather quiet one in terms of clear cut opportunities. The best chance was Jader Obrian slicing open the backline, beating Javain Brown and collecting a nice pass from Brandon Servania but Cody Cropper made a huge chance.
The Caps were generally assured and racked up lots of possession, with Caicedo in particular looking dangerous on through balls over the top and doing well to win the ball back in dangerous areas. The final ball was lacking, however, and it seemed inevitable they were going to be left open at the back and exposed.
That finally came in first half stoppage time, when a Caps turnover prompted a well-drilled break for FC Dallas. A scrambling defense honed in on Jesus Ferreira but left a streaking Paul Arriola wide open. A quick sequence of passes played Arriola in on goal unmarked and he put one through the wicketts of Cropper.
The Caps came out and pressed from the word go in the second half, however, and looked a lot more focused and began to put more and more balls into the danger zone.
That finally paid off when Cristian Gutierrez found Brian White, who came on as a substitute, with White powering a perfect headed past Maurer to equalize.
While it seemed as if Sartini was content with a draw, the Caps did keep up at a pretty high level, stringing some really sexy counter-attacks together, despite a lack of end product.
The Cavallini penalty, however, came almost out of nowhere. Maurer almost inexplicably rushed out to claim a through ball but spilled it and FC Dallas were forced to scramble and prevent a shot on the open net.
Edwin Cerrillo wound up conceding the penalty and Cavallini made no mistake, sending Maurer the wrong way to earn the winner, which was heartily celebrated.
Thoughts on the Match
This was certainly a much-improved performance and one that was relatively unexpected, given that FC Dallas have been among the best teams in the Western Conference this season.
It seemed as though the Caps made a conscious decision early on to play through Ryan Raposo and Deiber Caicedo. Multiple times, play would begin with a long ball from a centerback to Raposo, who would play in Caicedo and it would usually create a chance. Caicedo was missing the final product at times and he would take touches that would let him down, but it was a really impressive performance.
Not to be outdone was Raposo, who was again dangerous even though he was playing out-of-position. And Cristian Gutierrez really grew into the match after starting slow, pinging several dangerous balls into the area before finding Brian White on the winner.
This match showed both the benefits of the three-at-the-back system and its limitations. The first half was pretty end-to-end and the Caps had some real, honest-to-God chances created.
It also opened up lots of opportunities for Ferreira and the FC Dallas attacking band to attack Caps’ centerbacks one versus one, a prospect that was not particularly enticing. In general, I felt the backline was pretty good, even though all three players had some nervy moments. Brown in particular I give credit for growing into the match and improving in the second half.
At some points, the Caps were playing liquid counter attacking football (one break right after the equalizing goal comes to mind) and Wednesday’s match was a roadmap for what the team could do under the right circumstances. It wasn’t a perfect performance by any means (see: the FC Dallas goal, which was a chaotic mess) but this win could serve as a real boost to a team that is starting to see its bad luck and bad play equalize out a little bit.
Man of the Match
I really was very impressed with Caicedo but his ability to not quite capitalize on the good chances he created grew frustrating. Cavallini was everyone as well and the penalty at the end was a just reward, so I’m happy bestowing him with the honors. But Cristian Gutierrez deserves credit for really turning on the afterburners in the second half; he seems to much prefer the wingback role and after Wednesday, can you blame him?