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Coffee with the Caps, Monday March 20

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps FC at LA Galaxy Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Good Monday morning Caps fans, hope you all are well rested heading into Monday morning — or that some coffee at least awaits you on the burner.

It was another ho-hum result over the weekend for Vancouver. On a matchweek that was filled with drama, the Caps and their opponent for the second week in a row traded first half goals, with the added twist on Saturday that LA Galaxy had two goals ruled out that would have given them a victory.

On the surface, a 1-1 draw isn’t awful. It is the first away points the Caps have gotten in seemingly forever (or, at least, since August of last year) and the Galaxy could eventually turn a corner and be a real contender, though they too are winless through their first three matches. Everyone has struggled away in Carson in recent years, so a point is adequate.

But the Caps’ result on Saturday stood in sharp contrast to Saint Louis City SC, who won their unprecedented fourth match in a row, the first time such a feat has been achieved by an expansion side. This is a team that was hardly on people’s radars for the playoffs to start the season; you generously could have called them a rival for the final playoff spot.

And, to be sure, there remains plenty of time for the debutants to fall back to earth. It is a long season, expansion sides are known for struggling in the depth department and there are a whole hosts of unknowns about how this season in particular might play out (given Leagues Cup entering the mix this summer).

But the new arrivals are playing fun, relatively open soccer. They’ve gotten some lucky bounces but part of that is the relatively high press they play that allows them to make their own luck.

The Caps, by contrast, lack that kind of energy. There were positive moments on Saturday and they actually fortified their defense in the second half and eventually pushed for a winner. Some tweaks by Vanni Sartini (bringing Alessandro Schopf on for Christian Dajome, allowing Pedro Vite and Ryan Gauld to push forward) were good but were really nibbling around the edges of what was required.

But this is still a team that tries to play for the counter with little success on the end product. It has two strikers (one of whom might be hurt) who are sorely in need of their first goal of the season in league play. Ryan Gauld has also not tallied; two of their four goals have come from defenders and only one tally has come from the run of play.

Not all the lessons from Saturday were bad. The midfield remains stout and Andres Cubas was the man of the match once again, cementing his status as one of the elite defensive midfielders in MLS. The second half was much better defensively and, despite some communication and cross-handling struggles, Yohei Takaoka remains impressive at his shot stopping.

But you can feel a change coming, as a team with a win-now mindset that is still chasing, well, its first win doesn’t inspire much confidence. Whether that change happens before it is too late to turn things around, on the other hand, remains to be seen.

Shameless Self Promotion

More on Saturday’s draw in Carson, including a blow-by-blow (so to speak) and the broader report card takeaways.

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