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Coffee with the Caps, Monday August 8

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

Good Monday morning Caps fans, hope you all are caffeinated and ready to go to work with the same energy as Lucas Cavallini climbing a wall at BC Place.

Truth be told, from a football perspective, the only bad thing about the weekend was the fact that this tweet is no longer accurate:

The more cynical among us would argue another problem with the Caps’ 2-1 win on Friday night was that they weren’t very good and the only reason they were able to engineer more drama and grab three points is that Houston also isn’t very good. Those people would be right — but there are still some positives.

This remains a team that is struggling with depth, meaning that even though Andres Cubas is the only starter out in the latest COVID-19 outbreak (seriously, has any other team had as many of these as the Caps have?), the team suffers a disproportionate loss (as anyone who has watched a Russell Teibert/Leo Owusu any time in the last several years can attest to).

The thing that most encouraged me about an otherwise drab first 80ish minutes was that Julian Gressel finally looked like the attacking force we’ve been expecting. The fact that it didn’t lead to a goal was a product of some bad luck and less Lucas Cavallini and Brian White that you might otherwise like to see — Gressel was the real deal.

We’ve seen this in bits and pieces and there are still some hitches to get worked out (a few misplayed passes in the defensive third remain) but Friday was the first time where I think we can see what Gressel can add. The fact that Ryan Raposo turned in another decent performance amplifies this, with a few nice crosses and switches of play between the two wingbacks calling to mind (I’m only slightly kidding) the kind of football a manager like Antonio Conte likes to see.

Speaking of wingbacks, it was excellent to see the Caps’ current academy darling, Ali Ahmed, get a run out and live up to the hype. Ahmed and Simon Becher were both black boxes; it was difficult to know what to expect from them. But thrown into the deep end and they did quite well — particularly Ahmed.

Ahmed showed some nice moments on both ends of the pitch. He can take players on and has a quiet confidence for a young player in a top league that is encouraging. There are certainly things to iron out (and he would benefit from more regular minutes than he would sticking around the first team) but I think MLS will very soon be the appropriate level, if it isn’t already.

Simon Becher remains unlikely to have a long-term MLS future in Vancouver but I’ve also thought that about some other draft picks/homegrown players on other teams (New York Red Bulls basically has built an organization on this type of player) and they’ve found a way to stick around. Maybe Becher, who has a good poacher’s instinct, will be one of those guys.

Either way, he combined with Cavallini to give us a fantastic memory on Friday, one that very much keeps the Caps in the playoff picture. Whether they will remain there long term remains uncertain — the west is pure chaos right now. The Caps sit in 11th on 30 points, while third place FC Dallas is only six points ahead. Its going to be a turbulent few months.

Shameless Self Promotion

Its all about the Cardiac Caps in Friday’s post match story, And Sam runs down what to make of a strange, difficult to evaluate match in the report card.

Best of the Rest

With the European leagues up and running, here is your cheat sheet for watching Canadians abroad

In a deadline day swoop, DC United nabbed former Crystal Palace striker Christian Benteke

Meanwhile, in the Canadian Premier League, Forge FC signed former Toronto FC man Jordan Hamilton

Giorgio Chiellini had the wildest handball you will ever see Saturday against Real Salt Lake