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Coffee with the Caps, Friday January 6

Seattle Sounders FC v Vancouver Whitecaps FC Photo by Christopher Morris - Corbis/Getty Images

Good Friday morning Caps fans, hope your weeks are going well and that you all are inching closer to the freedom of the weekend.

Today is a big day, marking the first time Caps players will report for work in 2023 ahead of a departure for a pre-season training camp in Spain next week, including a friendly with Hamburg SV. A pre-season tournament in Palm Springs waits in the wings as well.

There will be few new faces in that camp, with Mathias Laborda’s deal still in its final stages and the quest for a striker and wide player still meandering its way to completion.

But that doesn’t mean manager Vanni Sartini isn’t tinkering with what the Caps might look like on the field next season, with a Province story from Thursday outlining some of his potential tactical wrinkles.

This isn’t a massive shock given that the Caps, well, shuffled between three- and four-man backlines last year. The more interesting piece to me is the bit about a three-man midfield, opening up door for a 4-3-3, and the possibility that Pedro Vite might be deployed as a number 8, a role he played in South America and would seem naturally suited for in Vancouver, assuming Andres Cubas remains behind him.

Given the sheer quantity of competitions the Caps will be in this season (fighting on four fronts) having a bit of tactical and positional flexibility makes a lot of sense. But this feels like more than a break glass in case of emergency option given the selection of J.C. Ngando in the SuperDraft and the targeting of an additional wide player (allowing Gauld to be that deeper lying playmaker referenced above).

I’m still not sold on Alessandro Schopf long-term but I will be watching him closely in the pre-season, particularly depending on the formation used. If he is able to realize his potential that would be a very strong midfield base that could certainly help the Caps be more efficient offensively, which Sartini said in the above story is one of his top goals.

Factoring in Sebastian Berhalter as another potential option would mean the Caps really are quite stacked at midfield. Given their recent shopping at centerback, this does feel like a roster that is close to completion, more than I think many people realize.

If Cristian Gutierrez is welcomed back from being banished to the shadow realm, there seems like a plethora of options at fullback to accommodate these different formations, though I have a feeling we will see at least one unexpected development in training camp as far as where guys might be playing (a la Cristian Dajome as a wingback, a move which we can only hope has been relegated to the history books).

Buckle up folks. There are lots of questions remaining (particularly around who the final major signings will be) but the good news is the speculation about this team will soon be abandoned to what we can make out from grainy friendly livestreams. I can’t wait.

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