Good Friday morning Caps fans, hope you all had a great week and are getting ready for some rest and relaxation. Its 80 degrees here, as we enjoy the blissful moment before summer really sets in and we all roast.
Speaking of getting roasted, it was a painful midweek for the Caps, who were officially booted out of the CONCACAF Champions League after a 3-0 loss to LAFC.
The match to me was defined by some strange lineup choices from Vanni Sartini, who started both Ryan Gauld and Russell Teibert, seemingly unsure if he wanted to go for the miracle or give his stars some rest. The players largely followed his lead of being caught between trying to make something happen or being demoralized and expending as little energy as possible.
This is understandable. While disappointed at the final scoreline (and the fact that they couldn’t even manage a single goal in all of this), there was little hope among the fanbase that this was one the Caps could pull out. A one-off win over LAFC at home is doable, as recent seasons have shown. Surviving a two-legged tie against arguably the best team in North America is a task that there was little chance Vancouver would be able to pull off.
In some sense that is OK. LAFC has a gear that the Caps do not … which makes Vancouver like just about everyone else. I just would have liked to have seen a more concerted strategy and effort to try and stay relevant, even after Ryan Raposo gave away what was seemingly the fatal penalty. If the Caps wanted to fold their tent at that point, fine, but then why bring in Julian Gressel? There was a lot about this that doesn’t make much sense.
The good news is the club can firmly re-focus on the league for the foreseeable future and they will travel to Austin to square off with Los Verde, who have not quite matched the lofty heights they reached last season.
In more good news, Andres Cubas appears to have escaped serious injury after exiting the last match early. And, because Sebastian Berhalter filled in admirably against Portland, it wound up really being no harm, no foul.
Cubas was back to full team training today getting back to his usual self 💪
✅ Scoring goals
✅ Winning balls in the middle of the pitch
✅ Assisting pic.twitter.com/ujg62grHiL
— Vancouver Whitecaps FC (@WhitecapsFC) April 13, 2023
We would be remiss in this column if we didn’t fully address the incident last weekend in the Red Bulls/Earthquakes match, with Dante Vanzeir confirming he used a racial slur and being hit with a six-match ban, a fine and mandatory training (on top of the training he should have received last offseason).
This is one in which no one, aside from Vanzeir’s teammates, who urged his immediate substitution, come out looking good. Manager Gerhard Struber effectively shrugged off Vanzeir’s actions at the time and issued a follow-up statement that was the definition of a non-apology apology. The organization seemingly didn’t take this all that seriously as an issue either.
Struber’s actions seem disqualifying (not helped by the fact that he has been fairly lethargic in leading the Red Bulls for some time) and I think it is reasonable to question whether he should be managing the team when the dust settles on all this. Similarly, I think it is fair to say that Vanzeir should be sold at the soonest available opportunity.
Language is difficult but either the organization did not do its due diligence in prepping Vanzeir for what you would think is a fairly basic level of cultural and diversity awareness or Vanzeir neglected that lesson (or some combination thereof). I don’t disagree with the importance of second chances but you would hope this is one where the league will take the lead for what its players of color recommend in terms of action. Six games is not a fitting punishment when front office personnel who have broken essentially made up rules regarding made up currency have been all but led to the guillotine.
Moreover, it is the third instance of racial abuse in a year in the league and it should raise broader questions about what MLS is doing to prepare its players to, you know, not say racist things.
Kudos to the Red Bulls players for seemingly taking a stronger stand than the corporate overlords.
Asked #RBNY captain Sean Nealis what the consequences from MLS for Dante Vanzeir should be:
Nealis: “He’s got a long road to go to regain the trust and respect of the guys in the locker room. We’ll see what the consequences are.” pic.twitter.com/MrJAlqcAoR
— Felipe Cárdenas (@FelipeCar) April 13, 2023
Shameless Self Promotion
A post-mortem on the Caps’ CCL crash out in LA and the latest podcast sizing up where things go from here. And Caleb takes a fascinating look at the best ever Whitecaps players according to advanced analytics.
Best of the Rest
Julian Gressel’s strong performances have earned him another U.S. Men’s National Team callup, this time for a cash grab friendly against Mexico
While the Caps flamed out, Philadelphia Union notched a famous 2-2 draw to advance past Atlas for their date with LAFC
Kamal Miller is headed to Miami, after a blockbuster trade with CF Montreal was finalized. A rough season for Montreal only gets worse
If you want to know where to find our former SB Nation blog friends, this handy list can help keep track