Happy Friday Caps fans, hope you all are having a lovely week and are getting tantalizingly close to having some well deserved time off.
It was a productive midweek for Vancouver, who saw off Austin 2-1. Despite the away side drawing level shortly after the halftime break and giving us all visions of Saturday’s heartbreaker against Seattle, the Caps held their nerve, played their way back into the match and were a deserved winner.
That victory came courtesy of Sergio Cordova’s first league goal of the season, a moment that we all have been waiting anxiously for (though probably not as much as Cordova, who was mobbed by a hoard of teammates who seemed to perfectly understand the significance of the moment). The Venezuelan has been showing real signs of improvement in recent matches and though the ship has sailed on him having the impact that you would have expected from a DP striker, I also think it is entirely possible that this goal allows the floodgates to open and he can bag a half-dozen or more goals by the time the regular season wraps up (he also figures to get some significant game time during Leagues Cup to build on his recent form).
But it wasn’t just Cordova who impressed. Alessandro Schopf, whose signing I have been fairly pessimistic about, has really kicked on lately and had a fine performance on Wednesday, linking up well with both the wide players and Ryan Gauld and while you would like to see a hint more danger in the final third, he has really become a very effective player and part of the midfield. His influence seemed to wane when Vanni Sartini moved to this new formation but Wednesday saw him regain his effectiveness as a conduit for attacking play.
Sebastian Berhalter and Levonte Johnson, both of whom are unconventional wingback choices, looked good at their newfound positions as well. Berhalter added some real defensive steal and had some really nice set piece delivery (one free kick was so well taken that I mistakenly thought it was Gauld; a Twitter follower had to correct me). Johnson still has some work to do in buttoning up his defensive duties but his skill in taking defenders on and his confidence in his own abilities reminds me a bit of Ali Adnan on the left wing. If the Caps are willing to construct a similar role where he doesn’t have to be relied upon defensively, Johnson could quickly become a secret weapon, who also happens to bring a lot of tactical flexibility as a match goes on and changes to shape or personnel are required.
After two losses in a row, Wednesday’s result helps get things back on track. This Austin FC team is in a very different place than when the two teams played to a rather dull 0-0 draw in Texas earlier this year, reeling off a four match unbeaten run since mid-June, a streak that vaulted them up to the middle of the Western Conference pack. A win is no small feat, as this is the kind of team the Caps will ultimately be hoping to surpass in the table.
I’ll have a treatise next week on how seriously the Caps should take Leagues Cup but first there is the matter of LA Galaxy, who visit BC Place and represent another must-win match if the Caps are to take advantage of their last respite before a prolonged slate of away games. The Galaxy are also in a different place than when these two teams met at the beginning of the season — but instead of moving up the table, they have plummeted down it. With a possible return of Ali Ahmed, Julian Gressel and Javain Brown from Gold Cup duty (Ahmed could have played Wednesday but had a knock), this will be a chance to see what Sartini has in mind tactically for the run-in and, hopefully, pick up another key result.
Shameless Self Promotion
Best of the Rest
In the best news of the week, the Caps announced they inked Andres Cubas to a contract extension — now do Julian Gressel
Mark-Anthony Kaye is headed from Toronto FC to New England in a trade that sees Latif Blessing going the other way
MLS owners will consider whether to allow sovereign wealth funds to invest in its teams because of course they will
Canada and England played to a scoreless draw in a friendly behind closed doors before the World Cup kicks off next week