Good Friday morning Caps fans. As October continues to zoom by, I hope you all are gearing up for a pleasant and relaxing weekend.
Hope your Halloween parties have been rescheduled (or you’ve come up with a good excuse to stay home), as anticipation is building for the first go round of the best-of-three playoff rendezvous with LAFC (once your heart rate calms down after the Caps’ game, you can watch another three matches on Sunday and a double-header on Monday).
That brings us to the pre-match vibe check and I … actually feel decent about things? The series should be eminently watchable after last Saturday’s feisty second half and the Caps have shown up well in big matches all season, setting aside their CONCACAF Champions League display (OK, now I’m talking myself into being less confident).
But this is a Vancouver team that went toe to toe with two Mexican giants in Leagues Cup, grabbed 11 points against the top three teams in the Western Conference during the regular season and won a trophy in a knockout format already. If you look at it from that angle, there is a lot of evidence supporting the notion that the Caps are set up pretty well for the current MLS Cup format.
The squad (mostly) has a clean bill of health entering Saturday’s match and, crucially, that includes Andres Cubas, who will be all systems go. Russell Teibert, who is entering what is very likely his last spell of matches in Vancouver, is the only question mark. Let’s hope they’ve all been practicing their penalty kicks in training.
The playoffs this year are actually as wide open as I can remember, particularly in a Western Conference where I’m not really convinced that anyone is good (or can beat the Eastern Conference’s best sides).
Do you pick St. Louis, when high-pressing teams have historically been shredded in the playoffs? Trust Houston or Real Salt Lake in the 4 v. 5 matchup (despite the fact that Houston is meh away from home and RSL has been bad lately)? Believe in Seattle or LAFC to do Seattle or LAFC things when LA looks gassed and Seattle has been up and down this season? There’s a lot of intrigue here.
The bracket below is what I plan on entering in MLS’ March Madness-style competition and, well, it’s probably worth taking with a grain of salt from the guy who picked Dante Vanzeir to win the Golden Boot at the beginning of the year. Drop in your predictions in the comments so we can all look silly at the end of next month
Shameless Self Promotion
Best of the Rest
Why the new MLS playoff format is about to reward bad soccer — a good piece looking at the significant flaws of the new plan (which I didn’t consider at the time it was announced)
A look at what Vanni Sartini might do different against a familiar opponent
The Athletic glimpses at how the Caps’ DPs stack up to their counterparts around the league
More on Christine Sinclair’s decision to stick things out for a farewell tour