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Coffee with the Caps, Monday May 9

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MLS: Toronto FC at Vancouver Whitecaps FC Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Good Monday morning Caps fans, hope you all are off to a positive start to your week.

Well, it was certainly an interesting weekend, eh?

For a match featuring two of the weakest sides in the league, Vancouver’s 1-0 win over Toronto FC had ample drama and was a pretty engrossing game, all things considered.

Part of the entertainment value was, naturally, the debate over the refereeing, though the word debate would imply some measure of disagreement.

While I generally find TFC fans to be a pretty insufferable group, there is little argument that they wrongly had a goal chalked off after Jayden Nelson appeared to step on Thomas Hasal’s hand — after Hasal had already spilled the ball.

The uproar from, well, everyone was understandable — it was a bad call. I’m sure there will be untold thinkpieces about the referees (though, in my estimation, this was the fault of the VAR for not requiring the on-field official take another look. In real time, I could see where you might see a foul).

For our purposes, it is easy to feel a bit dirty about this one. While I’ve changed my tune on the Tos Ricketts winner after seeing a freeze frame on TSN that pretty clearly shows him behind the ball, it feels like the Caps stole this one — despite playing pretty well.

Part of that feeling, however, surely stems from taking 90 minutes to score against a Toronto FC side missing many of its key pieces. While the Caps had many positive moments (and several positive individual performances), they will not play a more beatable opponent for a long awhile this season, if ever again. This was the chance to really impose their will on a team without its best players and build some momentum. Instead, they needed a heaping dose of fortune.

The defense continues to switch off at the worst possible times. If you look at replays of the “goal” from Toronto and ignore the Hasal/Nelson portion of the action, you’ll see a cadre of Caps defenders sitting around while the Toronto FC attacker is allowed to latch onto the ball. Sure, you could say Hasal should’ve done better not to spill it but the guy just made a pretty impressive double save — you’d think his defense would be working a bit harder to deal with the situation.

And the midfield — well, I joked on Twitter that this match should’ve convinced the front office to grease Canadian immigration officials to speed up Andres Cubas’ visa because it was again porous on Sunday. Sebastian Berhalter had some positive moments but Toronto FC’s general difficulty in finding a way past the Caps was down to some decent defending (notably by Erik Godoy, who returned to action), not because they were getting snuffed out in the middle third of the pitch.

Praise is in store, however, for several individual performances. It was a nice moment for Tos Ricketts to nab a winner against his old team and it was a great run and assist from Lucas Cavallini (as well as a sub performance more broadly).

Ryan Gauld was immense, pulling the strings, particularly in the first half, and looking like he never missed a second with a knock. Deiber Caicedo was generally positive as well before being subbed off.

And big ups to Javain Brown, who turned in his best performance of the season on Sunday. Toronto FC gave him lots of room to maneuver and he made the most of it, sending in some really dangerous crosses and racking up four key passes, the most of any Whitecaps player. He had a couple really important plays defensively as well and looked like the Brown we saw last season.

There were certainly some positives to take away from this one. Vanni Sartini showed some long-awaited tactical flexibility and went to a 4-2-2-2. While I don’t know that that was the formation I’d have picked, it is promising that there was some sort of change after the three-at-the-back seemed to have run its course, at least with the current personnel.

It will take more than a win over a depleted Toronto FC side to get this season back on track. But with a run of home games ahead and a key match in the Canadian Championship upcoming against Valour FC, we can hope the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Shameless Self Promotion

For the full rundown of Sunday’s match, check out our post-match story and report card grades for the squad.

Meanwhile, Caleb has some quick thoughts on Luis Martins’ signing, the Caps’ last roll of the dice in the primary transfer window

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