Good Monday morning Caps fans, hope you all are getting geared up for the week ahead — which will feature the start of another MLS season. Prepare yourself accordingly.
We’ll have our usual dose of season preview content here at 86 Forever over the next week, where we all will debase ourselves with woefully inaccurate predictions that will become hilariously wrong halfway through the season. I can’t wait!
In the meantime, we still had one more friendly to sink our teeth into, despite me being a dummy and continually forgetting that the Caps have one more game to play in Palm Springs.
If the last friendly is any indication of how the season will be going, book your playoff tickets for the fall right now. The Caps blanked Minnesota United 2-0, continuing their streak (if the highlights are to be believed) of limiting teams to low-probability chances from outside the box. Ryan Gauld and Julian Gressel nabbed the goals in this one.
HIGHLIGHTS | 'Caps finish preseason with a dominating 2-0 win over Minnesota United FC #VWFC pic.twitter.com/eb9QznqtC7— Vancouver Whitecaps FC (@WhitecapsFC) February 18, 2023
With one change (Ryan Gauld for Cristian Dajome), I imagine the starting XI Vanni Sartini rolled with in the final friendly will also be the one we see Saturday night on BC place against Real Salt Lake.
The 4-3-2-1 has been something Sartini clearly feels like he has hit on and that involves pushing new man Mathias Laborda out to the fullback position, a move I find interesting as his ability to play all four positions was clearly viewed as a positive for Laborda when he was signed.
That kind of flexibility means Vanni will have his pick of players at right back, with Luis Martins and Javain Brown seemingly the two most likely to start on Saturday, though Ali Ahmed may have had a better preseason than either of them.
In terms of depth, this is a team with some questions but surely is one of the better stocked teams in recent memory (which will be needed to adequately fight on three fronts). The fact that Pedro Vite v. Cristian Dajome v. Deiber Caicedo is a problem Sartini will have is certainly a good thing, even though there are surely legitimate question marks about the attack.
In short, this is a team that should be positioned to do better than just sneak into the playoffs and dip out after a round. I’d be curious as to what everyone else’s expectations are but I would say anything below a comfortable finish in a playoff spot, a legitimate run in the Voyageurs Cup and a credible performance in the CONCACAF Champions League would be a disappointment.
Am I ready to be disappointed? Yes.
The Caps’ preseason finale was also marked with Yohei Takaoka’s debut between the sticks, with his transfer made official late last week. We’ve already discussed why this move could be transformative, even if Takaoka doesn’t put in a Goalkeeper of the Year performance. There might be some growing pains as he transitions to MLS but, hey, he has one clean sheet under his belt already. Here’s to many more.
Shameless Self Promotion
As we muse about the Caps’ starting XI, Sam Rowan evaluates who will be first-choice to kick off the season.
Best of the Rest
More on Takaoka’s arrival in Vancouver and why the Caps were so interested in the former J League keeper
The Canadian women bounced back with a SheBelieves Cup win over Brazil Sunday night
Phil Neville blasted MLS for not releasing info on its playoff format until the start of the season, saying it is why the league isn’t “elite.” It’s tough to disagree
Can the Caps’ Bloodlines jersey beat out the FC Dallas clip art uniforms in the annual kit rankings?
Atiba Hutchinson is reportedly departing Beskitas, with the club potentially terminating his contract