Good Friday morning Caps fans, hope you all are settling in for a relaxing and enjoyable weekend ahead.
Vancouver is headed back to the postseason and we won’t even have to sweat it out on Decision Day this time. That’s thanks to the attacking prowess of LAFC (and the train wreck that has been the second half of Minnesota United’s season), who did their part to get the Caps over the line.
But the bulk of the work and the credit should go to the Caps, who desperately needed a win over the top dogs in the Western Conference, St. Louis City SC. I thought it was going to go pretty poorly for the Caps, given how St. Louis’ high press seemed destined to give them fits.
Instead, they produced a 3-0 domination. Matters were helped by Bradley Carnell’s decision to rotate but credit to Vanni Sartini for perfectly plotting out a tactical strategy to nullify the press, cut down St. Louis’ passing lanes in the build up and create lots of chances.
The execution was good too. Ryan Gauld was hailed by Carnell as putting in an MVP performance and he was the man in the center of every promising attack. And while it probably won’t happen, the #GauldforMVP train should be picking up steam. That isn’t necessarily because the Caps’ PR team, in a stroke of brilliance, has been sending out Gauld MVP merch (if anyone from the Caps reads these columns, please sell that stuff to the public) but, hey, a little bribery never hurt anyone.
But this was a team effort. Ali Ahmed put in one of his pest performances of the season and Alessandro Schopf was more cohesive in the build up. Heck, even Richie Laryea, who has struggled since arriving in Vancouver, bagged his first goal.
The defense, meanwhile, cleaned up their mistakes and kept their first clean sheet since late August. It wasn’t all sunshine and lollipops after Andres Cubas went off with a serious upper body injury in the second half but that was really the only thing marring an otherwise strong performance.
St. Louis has had their fair share of luck this season and they haven’t been as good in the second half of the year. But they deserve a lot of credit for defying expectations (including those of this blog) and having the best performances by an expansion side in league history.
This was a match, however, that could have gone like so many of the away side’s wins this year — they give up a lot of chances, don’t concede and then hit back and convert the looks they generate in the second half. Vancouver slammed the door on that.
In doing so, the Caps showed that they still can look like a peer of the conference’s elite teams, despite their recent dip in form. They’ll need to do that two more times to earn a home playoff spot, in all likelihood, but Wednesday night was a reminder of how fun this season has been — and that there are still some bright spots left.
And you have to love a group of guys whose instinct was to go celebrate with the supporters. Here’s to mainlining those vibes as we head into the weekend and a date with the Sounders.
Shameless Self Promotion
Best of the Rest
A look at how Vancouver can secure that top four position and home field advantage.
Minnesota United has fired manager Adrian Heath and technical director Mark Watson after their aforementioned disastrous run in
Where do the other MLS teams on the coaching carousel stand and who might wind up at Portland, Chicago, et al. next year?
Sam Adekugbe and Richie Laryea made interim Mauro Biello’s squad to take on Japan during the upcoming international break.
Vancouver’s nominees for MLS’ year end awards are pretty straightforward. Check them out here.