Good Friday morning Caps fans. No, it wasn’t all a dream — the Caps really did win the Voyageurs Cup Tuesday.
The victory is of course more than a moral one. It provides entry into the CONCACAF Champions League next season, a place the Caps haven’t been in some time and a nice measuring stick for how far the team will (hopefully?) have come by then.
But the joy that the fans, the players and a shirtless Vanni Sartini felt was not because of this.
To slay the demons that have plagued Vancouver teams in 90% of finals was pretty sweet. To do so at the expense of a Toronto FC, who seemed to be playing with the expectation (shared by many of their fans) that the Caps would simply roll over for them, was even sweeter.
And no matter what happens now, this season will carry with it an echo of success. No doubt, making the playoffs or not will be the biggest indicator of whether or not 2022 lived up to expectations.
But Vancouver doesn’t add a trophy to their cabinet every season. And the performance that earned the title was not a lucky one, but rather featured the Caps showing that they can truly hang with any other team.
Every player put in a gritty, technically sound performance — even Russell Teibert (who was getting well and truly stuck in) and Jake Nerwinski (who pocketed Lorenzo Insigne, a sentence I never thought I’d write). And in a final, you need your best players to show up and that happened in spades with Ryan Gauld, Andres Cubas and Brian White.
We can split hairs over the Sarini/Bob Bradley scuffle but it was fun seeing a team and manager who embraced the moment and reflected the energy that a brilliant BC Place eminated back to us all in spades. Being a Caps fan over the years hasn’t always produced a bountiful number of joyful moments but Tuesday certainly was one.
OK, OK, that’s the past. Great teams are always thinking about what’s next. So, what’s next?
Well, aside from Nashville SC on Saturday, the Caps appear close to adding a new face to the lineup: Alessandro Schopf from Arminia Bielefeld. The 28-year-old Austrian central midfielder is a veteran of Axel Schuster’s time at Schalke and the signing appears to be a pretty logical one, particularly if Caio Alexandre is moved on, as is increasingly expected.
Looking at Schopf’s Football Reference profile and it is clear he is very good at creating shots, fairs pretty well in the assists, expected assists and progressive passing category and is adequate in defense. It is worth noting, as with all European signings from big leagues, that he will likely see a bump in some of his weaker categories simply by moving to MLS, though this is of course no guarantee of success.
Given the Caps’ current weaknesses (cough, cough, creating shots), this seems a savvy pickup. Given his past relationship with Schuster, this seems a logical pickup. And given how the front office has pinpointed the team’s needs and found players who perfectly addressed them (Cubas), there is reason for optimism.
Setting aside Sebastian Berhalter’s prolonged absence, a Cubas/Schopf midfield is pretty darn good on paper. Michael Baldisimo showed some signs of promise and might be an intriguing pairing with Cubas, given that he can pick up the defensive slack. And there are Teibert and Owusu to fill out as depth (maybe?).
Can this team can ride their newfound momentum to a playoff spot? Well that remains to be seen. But if Tuesday night is any indication, it should be a fun ride.
Shameless Self Promotion
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