Good Monday morning Caps fans, hope you all had a restful weekend. It was a nice break but the move to daylight savings has me nodding off as I write this on Sunday night — hopefully it is comprehensible enough.
Vancouver got off the mark in MLS play Saturday, nabbing a single, solitary point off a 1-1 draw with FC Dallas that was long on hard work and gritty play but was otherwise short on meaningful action.
We discussed last week the need to keep positive momentum flowing following the CONCACAF Champions League drubbing and, while there were certainly clear areas of improvement following the first two matches, Saturday was a less than rousing success.
The attack continues to show flashes of brilliance but can’t quite put it together. The defense has baffling errors and gets cooked on headers and then shuts down and denies one of the toughest front threes in MLS much of anything in terms of concrete chances. Vanni Sartini made some objectively good subs and then brought in Mathias Laborda for Julian Gressel, which was ... puzzling. Trying to make a lot of sense of Saturday is a difficult task.
Through three games, the Caps have the exact record as they did 365 days ago (give or take) and while they are at least showing some of those signs of improvement, this doesn’t feel like a playoff team. This seems to be moving towards a middling start, a mid-season sacking and a resurgent second half that still falls just short of our goals. Rinse and repeat.
If you’re looking for a bit of optimism, the Whitecaps 2 side finished up their preseason with a pretty comprehensive 2-1 victory over Tacoma Defiance, who were one of the better MLS NEXT Pro teams last year. While one imagines quality in this relatively new league will be fluid year-to-year, this is certainly a win that put me on notice (as much as a pre-season friendly can).
It is worth sharing again Caleb Wilkins’ analysis of how the team might shake out. And while there are some guys that will cycle through at the end of the year without getting any sort of sniff of the first team, there are others who seem like potential pieces to work with. Jay Herdman bagged a goal in the Tacoma friendly and seems to have some staying power. The team has a few attacking players of note and while some of them seem destined for the CPL, I would be willing to bet there is one who sticks around in the group (my money is on Levonte Johnson but I wouldn’t be surprised if Lowell Wright or Joe Hanson is it).
And then there are the curious cases of Gloire Amanda and Kamron Habibullah, both of whom were considered potential crown jewels but because of injuries (Amanda) and a rocky loan stint (Habibullah) have found themselves in the same team, trying to get things back on track.
Both could! Amanda does not have time on his side (after his college dominance, he stumbled through 18 months in the Austrian Bundesliga hampered by injuries) but he also has had a higher demonstrated peak than any other young Caps player. Habibullah is younger and was seemingly destined for MLS stardom but failed to distinguish with Pacific FC last year, with his 14 appearances lacking a goal.
Will either of these guys amount to much? Possibly not. For every Alphonso Davies there is, after all, any number of youth players that didn’t pan out in the slightest. But at a time when the senior team is approaching a crossroads, it's nice to see how the reserve side is doing on scratching some relatively low-risk lottery tickets. Plus, if you like shaky video footage and bad commentary, boy do I have a league for you.
The Thundercaps 2.0 open their season on March 26 against Portland’s reserve side.
Shameless Self Promotion
If you missed Saturday’s action (the term used somewhat loosely), get caught up here
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