Good Friday morning Caps fans, hope you all are getting geared up for the weekend and that a little midweek smack down for the good guys helped the week pass a little faster.
Indeed, it is such a rarity for things to go according to plan for Vancouver that I was more than a little taken aback by the 5-0 smackdown the Caps gave Real Espana in the CONCACAF Champions League on Wednesday.
Simply put, the Caps outplayed a team that was overmatched so, in that sense, a 5-0 result is what should have happened. But we have all watched this team enough by now to know that what should happen does not always come to pass (see: the matches against CPL opponents in the Voyageurs Cup).
Instead, this looked like a well-oiled machine, never mind the back-to-back defeats in the league. Ryan Gauld and Julian Gressel were especially strong, helping the attack-minded squad find space in and behind the Espana defense (which admittedly seemed to dispense with man marking after the third Vancouver goal).
Meanwhile, Ryan Raposo stepped up to the plate amid questions about who would be best at the left back position. His goal was nice but I was even more impressed with his assist on Brian White’s goal, the Caps’ fifth, where Raposo won the ball back, evaded a defender and competed a very nice through ball to White while being fouled. Luis Martins has struggled in the same role this season and Raposo made the case that he should be permanently shuttled off to the bench.
Two things I thought were noteworthy. It was great to see Yohei Takaoka come up with a big save early, especially after an early snafu with his central defenders over a long ball into the box. You could envision a scenario where an early Real Espana goal sets the stage for a very different match. Instead, the save about 10 minutes in was the last meaningful opportunity they had and it was one way traffic from there on out. The Caps don’t need prime Buffon, just saves like that.
And it was great seeing J.C. Ngando and Karifa Yao get their club debuts. I thought Ngando looked decent in an admittedly short period of time and would like to see him get a run out next week in Honduras (talk about trial by fire). Yao got burned badly shortly after coming on and came close to conceding a penalty but recovered and had at least one excellent moment defending 1v1 that I can remember. The nice thing about blowouts is you can get minutes to some of these guys.
The question remains, however, whether the Caps can carry the momentum through to the weekend and beyond in league play. The dominance of the result will mean that key players got more of a rest (and might not have to feature at all on the return leg next week) and that means the expectations for Saturday’s match against FC Dallas will be even higher.
This is not to try and rob the team of credit for what was an excellent performance. But given that Vanni Sartini’s seat had been getting mighty hot, I’m not sure one excellent performance is going to be enough to restore faith in the direction of the team — unless it is followed by a reversal of fortunes in MLS play, which it very well might.
Here’s hoping the same starting XI (or close to it) can appear in Dallas to give a sense of how things will click against a stiffer opponent. I’m feeling optimistic again and am ready to be hurt.
Shameless Self Promotion
A busy week for us at 86F, with the obligatory post-match and report card from the CCL tie. Meanwhile, Caleb runs down who to watch for on the Whitecaps 2 squad this season.
Best of the Rest
The Caps could have lost Wednesday and still avoided ‘most embarrassing MLS CCL performance’ after Austin FC lost 3-0 to Haitian side Violette
The Leagues Cup schedule is confirmed and it means a visit from Club Leon on July 21
With PSG out of the Champions League, it is officially ‘Will Messi come to MLS?’ season
The Canadian Women’s National Team recoiled at the federation’s CBA offer, on the same day Canada Soccer got a shellacking in a parliament hearing