Good Monday morning Caps fans, hope you all had a restful weekend and are slowly starting to ease into everything this week has to offer.
It was a fairly humdrum affair on Saturday night in Austin, with the Caps walking away with a point on the road in a match where the Caps didn’t concede any major chances — but also didn’t finish the few good opportunities they gave themselves offensively.
I won’t spend a ton of time on this result, as I think it was an aggressively fine match. Finishing chances remains a problem but the gameplan from Vanni Sartini worked here, as far as limiting good looks for Austin and creating a few high-probability shots for yourself. It wasn’t going to win any plaudits from neutrals for beautiful soccer but given the fixture congestion the last couple of weeks and the Caps general inability to get results on the road, it made sense.
I said this in the match thread but it is worth underscoring that this is not a match where Vancouver gets a result last year. In part, that’s down to better organization, Julian Gressel playing like one of the best playmakers in the league and a bit better of tactics.
But the biggest reason, I think, is because of good goalkeeping. There were any number of matches last year where the difference between an OK goalkeeper and a great one would have won points. Sometimes this was because stoppable chances were missed but, more often than not, it was because no one was able to step up and make The Save.
Max Crepeau is obviously the gold standard for making The Save, probably more so than anyone else in the club’s history (with the possible exception of David Ousted). Thomas Hasal in MLS is Back had this quality and occasionally shows glimpses of it but last season, when a big stop was required, it often was lacking.
If we look at some advanced goalkeeping stats last year, the Caps ranked dead last when you subtract actual goals allowed from post-shot expected goals (which quantifies the xG based on how likely a keeper is to save the shot). This year, they’re in the top ten.
When you look at goals added, Yohei Takaoka is off the pace of a guy like Brad Stuver (whose 4.49 goals added is almost entirely down to his shot stopping ability) but his .32 number is better than what the Caps were getting last year.
Basically, Takaoka has been, at worst, league average this season and has had matches where he was better than that, including Saturday night, where he made a few key saves down the stretch. They weren’t anything absurd but were very good stops, stops that a lesser keeper might not have made and thus allowing Vancouver to hang around. The team’s focus was once again on locking down good chances in the penalty area and knowing Takaoka would stop any long range attempts made that strategy feasible.
The odds Yohei goes prime Buffon the rest of the way and wins the best goalkeeper award probably isn’t all that high. But that simply wasn’t what was needed — the Caps just required someone to bring their goalkeeping play up to an acceptable level for a playoff contender. Takaoka has certainly done that and has, thus far, proven that those who doubted his abilities because of his height (a weird take from the get go) are idiots.
Shameless Self Promotion
Best of the Rest
Vancouver Whitecaps 2 picked up their first loss of the season Sunday, falling to LA Galaxy II in a 4-3 shootout
In CPL action, Pacific FC opened their season with a BC derby win over new entrants Vancouver FC
Both LA Galaxy and New York Red Bulls fans boycotted their teams’ home matches this weekend amid different strands of profound dissatisfaction with their management
In 2023 Cascadia derbies, who knows what to expect — I certainly didn’t envision Portland bodying Seattle on Saturday
(Image Credit: VWFC 2)