Good Monday morning Caps fans and happy May. Hope you are mentally OK with April going by in the blink of an eye because, like it or not, it did.
There isn’t a ton to report from Saturday night’s 0-0 stalemate with Colorado Rapids, with the away side effectively neutralizing the Caps best efforts offensively. If you replay that exact match 100 times, with the exact same tactics, I feel as if the Caps would get a goal more often than not but, alas, that’s not how football works.
The Rapids knew exactly what they were doing and did it quite well, yet the Caps were beginning to pierce their defensive shell when a strange thing happened. In the 70th minute, just as Vancouver’s hopes of getting a goal were reaching their apex, Vanni Sartini brought on Simon Becher.
This was a totally defensible move, one that much of the Twitterverse had been clamoring for. But he was brought on at the expense of Ali Ahmed and, well, that made all the difference.
I was curious to see if Ahmed retained his place in the starting XI now that Alessandro Schopf was fully fit again but there never should have been any doubt. Ahmed was not perfect on Saturday night but he was very, very good and an integral part of the attacking blueprint.
Ahmed remained crucial at winning the ball back at key junctures and he did what he does best: taking on guys and opening up space for his teammates to make probing runs on a night where the Caps’ off-the-ball movement was frustratingly low at times (in part because the Rapids did such a good job at hemming things in).
There was one moment, for instance, where Ahmed went to ground to win the ball back in the Rapids’ attacking third, flicked it on for Luis Martins and watched as he found a relatively open Brian White in the box. White pushed the shot well wide but that was a bit of a let down, given that he had more space than he had to work with basically all night.
Taking Ahmed out seemed to basically flip a switch — in the wrong direction. The penalty given away shortly thereafter didn’t seem to help, even as Yohei Takaoka held firm (and got yet another clean sheet). But even without that moment, this was an attack that was holding on to possession less decisively and creating far fewer chances.
It is possible Ahmed was tiring but if there was ever an argument for why he needs to be included in the starting lineup, well, this match was a very good advertisement and a nice way of underscoring Ahmed and Takaoka as the two most pleasant surprises of the young season.
Part of the struggles of Saturday night stem from the fact that the Caps are a team that has only recently come to play with more of a possession-based approach (this is also taking some getting used to as a fan). Unpicking locked doors remains something that frustrates this team, which will need to change.
But against a more free flowing Minnesota side next week, the door will be opened just a bit more. And that means the Caps can once again let Ahmed cook.
Shameless Self Promotion
Best of the Rest
Three on field referees during the Caps/Rapids match were women on Saturday night, an MLS first. While I may have quibbles with Tori Penso’s refereeing, this is pretty cool.
The Whitecaps 2 side saw an early lead slip away to fall 2-1 to St. Louis City 2, though Antoine Coupland continues to impress.
An interesting look at the stark differences in approach to recruitment/scouting across MLS teams.
Former Caps striker Erik Hurtado is back in MLS with DC United and the Fighting Carl Robinsons.
Defending champion Forge FC topped Pacific FC in CPL action on Sunday.