Good Friday morning Caps fans and happy June. Hope you all are starting the month off right and that you have a relaxing weekend.
It was not a relaxing match on Wednesday night, not unless absolute pants-on-head wildness is your idea of a good time. The Caps were peak MLS After Dark TM, breaking numerous records in their 6-2 steamrolling of Houston Dynamo.
The first half, however, was a rollercoaster that I don’t think many fans will want to board again any time soon. It involved some defending that bordered on the tragi-comic (admittedly, this was true for both sides), with the right-side duo of Javain Brown and Mathias Laborda looking all out of sorts. Tristan Blackmon had a couple moments where he looked like he was on ice skates on turf and Houston had all sorts of space in between the lines in which to work.
This is a match that, in years past, could have quickly gotten away from the Caps as soon as they were pegged back 2-1 and started losing the plot defensively. But credit to the team for responding well AND to Vanni Sartini, for making what was seemingly an obvious tactical adjustment to bring on Ranko Veselinovic to settle everything down, push Mathias Laborda out wide, where he added a bit of solidity, and give Blackmon his usual defensive partner back.
Striking before Ben Olson made any adjustments (combined with the near instantaneous goal to start the second half) gave the Caps a window of time where they bossed play, returning to their preferred possession-based play and dictating terms in a way that Houston was unable to keep up with. Some vastly improved midfield play meant the Dynamo could barely even cross midfield before losing the ball and finding themselves up against another Whitecaps attack.
The entire attacking band sparkled, as did Julian Gressel and, in fairness, Alessandro Schopf. Ryan Gauld finally got on the scoresheet and Brian White has quietly regained his status as the most reliable striker (an admittedly low bar) and his assist and dink to set up a Gauld shot that he eventually scored on showed quality. And Pedro Vite continued his run of good form and finally seems to be evolving into the player we (I?) predicted he would be at the start of this season, despite an anonymous start to the season.
This is the rate of goals that the underlying numbers predicted from the Caps earlier this year, though the defensive struggles continue to cause concern. Perhaps the full time return of Ranko will help, though with the Caps’ hectic fixture list for the next couple of weeks, relying on him and Blackmon full time at centerback seems unlikely. Laborda has been inconsistent, as has Brown, and seem tough to rely on. Beyond that, its Karifa Yao which … is not super encouraging.
But then again, the Caps have Yohei Takaoka, who has continued to step up in a big way. And I guess if you score six goals in a game, then the defensive concerns will be of lesser importance. Vancouver likely overperformed when they had their record shutout streak and they’re likely underperforming now. If they can land in a middle ground while maintaining this attacking output (and either upgrade Sergio Cordova or get him to kick into gear, something that was simply not happening on Wednesday with a rather low energy performance off the bench), then we’re cooking with gas.
And the Caps have another chance to notch a home victory. While Sporting Kansas City has been better as of late, they still are one of the poorer teams in the west and three points at home is certainly going to be the expectation, particularly when a team that just scored six goals in one match goes up against a rocky defensive backline. Just save us the heart attack inducing first half and things will be peachy.
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