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Coffee with the Caps, Friday August 26

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Real Salt Lake Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

Good Friday morning Caps fans. Hope you’re wrapping up your work week and are getting geared up for one of the last weekend’s of summer (maybe?).

The Caps have a big playoff bubble six-pointer against Nashville SC at BC Place, another must win match as they try and inflate their playoff hopes.

Vanni Sartini is likely in the midst of match prep but he took some time this week to frustrate a segment of the fan base with some of his media comments.

Asked about the oft-maligned Jake Nerwinski, Sartini grew defensive of his play and the fan criticism.

I’ve been called many things on this blog but I think this is the first time I’ve been a troll.

The truth is there are two strands of critics for Nerwinski, Russell Teibert (and a few other players but this mainly applies to those two guys). One is the exact type of person Sartini is describing: people who go beyond grumbling fans to be mean, vulgar or otherwise over-the-top.

In truth, some of the negativity towards these two guys has grown old. We get it, they aren’t very good! They shouldn’t be starting! I don’t get why they’re starting either! There are people whose only remarks about the team’s play center on these two guys and it just isn’t interesting to hear that “analysis” over and over.

Don’t get me wrong — I don’t endorse how much these guys have started. The club needs to move on from them and it is mystifying as to why they have played so much.

That’s what makes Sartini’s reaction strange. It is a completely valid question to ask why Nerwinski has started over Tristan Blackmon multiple times this season, despite there being no discernable justification for doing so. The same can be said for Teibert.

That is the question 99% of the fanbase has been asking. There will be a number of factors that resulted in the Caps missing the playoffs, if that does in fact happen. Some of them are out of Sartini’s control (the biblical injury luck they’ve had) but this is one that firmly is.

And part of being the manager is sometimes having to articulate why you made certain decisions in lieu of others. Fans who want an answer to that are not “trolls” but rather reasonably concerned about the direction of the team.

It was unrealistic to expect Vanni to come out and say “yeah, he sucks.” I get defending your player. But this is not an articulation of why Nerwinski deserves to play and what qualities he brings to the lineup. He effectively is saying it should be obvious (it isn’t) and that anyone who disagrees is an idiot (they aren’t).

One comment really isn’t that big of a deal. I probably didn’t need to dedicate a whole column to it. But it gets at the larger question of why inferior players have been favored at various times this season — one that is central to the Caps’ season. Hopefully next time Vanni is asked about it (and he will) he will have a better answer.

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