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Coffee with the Caps, Monday July 11

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

Good Monday morning Caps fans. Hope you all had a lovely weekend once the disappointment of Friday night passed by.

It is distressing to me how apropos my prediction that things would go poorly in the Minnesota United match because things had been going so well, the other shoe was bound to drop.

Well, that played out on many different levels. Allowing a 1-0 lead to turn into 3-1 defeat in about 20 minutes is a pretty brutal capitulation. The fact that it occurred against what is currently the Caps’ chief rival for the final playoff spot just rubs salt in the wounds.

But the real object of concern will be the early substitution of Andres Cubas due to a groin injury. This seems to be more precautionary in nature (he was scheduled to go only 60 minutes anyway) and it doesn’t seem as though Cubas will be in line to miss multiple matches but it is a pretty scary development.

That’s because the second half was a return to the dark early days of the season, when the midfield was bypassed with shocking ease. I’m sure Leo Owusu is a nice guy and he has his moments but he is but a cheap imitation of what Cubas offers.

Part of the problem was Vanni Sartini elected to play pretty wide open — which is good! We should be rooting for this, though the end product in the final third has not matched the energy and possession the Caps have had in the last couple of games.

But doing so without Cubas in the lineup reopens the exact problems the team was grappling with — it puts pressure on a back three that isn’t capable of withstanding it, more often than not (Jake Nerwinski really did himself no favors in this one).

Sartini also made some head-scratching decisions (Tristan Blackmon at wingback?) that probably didn’t help things, though the wheels were firmly off the wagon at that point.

This match, however, was mostly an indictment of the depth situation, which is probably what forced some of those odd Vanni moves at the very end. Part of this has also been a biblical run of injuries — the most logical replacement for Cubas, Sebastian Berhalter, is also out and it is unclear what the path forward for Caio Alexandre is. Hence the Owusu/Russell Teibert midfield.

It is great having a player like Cubas in the starting lineup — he’s a brilliant midfielder, perfectly suited to satisfy the team’s need. But it isn’t exactly a shock he might run into injury issues — he did, after all, just play a full European campaign. Not scoping out better depth pieces (ideally guys like Marcos Godinho, who are cheap and domestic and can do a job) has long been a problem for this team and it appears to be the last dragon to slay from a team construction standpoint.

While the front office will likely be pondering this conundrum over the summer, a two-match week comes at a difficult juncture for the Caps, given their injury concerns. It will mean more tinkering from Sartini, who cannot use, say, Pedro Vite for three matches in seven days.

The lone upshot from the match Friday? This team performs best when they have a fire lit under them and the painful way things fell apart for them will certainly provide motivation to get things back on track.

Doing so against FC Cincinnati, the ugly duckling turned playoff contender, will require some finesse, however. Cinci has been in good form as of late and their high-powered attack will surely be licking their chops at a midfield that may or may not be featuring Cubas.

As long as things fare better than the last time the Caps played in Ohio (lest we forget opening weekend), right?

Shameless Self Promotion

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