Coffee with the Caps, Monday January 9
Good Monday morning Caps fans. Hope you all had a restful weekend and are gearing up for a productive and pleasant workweek.
The Whitecaps are doing just that, putting in some training in Vancouver before heading to Spain for their preseason. On Friday, we dug into the logistics and some of the big themes that we might see from Vanni Sartini as training resume.
But it got me thinking a bit about who the players I will be most interested in seeing in training camp are. Assuming we get a friendly stream later this week when the Caps take on Hamburg, it will really be the first window into where some of these guys are at ahead of the 2023 season and will allow us to jump to all sorts of reasonable, well thought out conclusions (right?).
The first two guys that come to mind are midfielders, J.C. Ngando and Alessandro Schopf.
We obviously got to see Schopf in a Caps uniform last year but it wasn’t on a full-time basis, as he arrived during the summer transfer window and never really kicked on during the stretch run.
But making sweeping generalizations based on a mid-season transfer isn’t always wise. I was underwhelmed by Schopf but not every signing in this window is like Ryan Gauld — a guy who hits the ground running with an instant impact. Some tactical tweaks and a full pre-season with the club could really put Schopf on a path that lets us see the guy we expected when he signed.
And the two number 8s Vanni Sartini could employ will obviously be quite useful. Overreliance on Ryan Gauld will get this team nowhere and Schopf’s arrival was to help generate chances. And with Andres Cubas back and fit, Schopf will have more freedom to focus on what he does best, which is progressing the ball and getting it to the feet of the (hopefully) new striker, Deiber Caicedo or even Gauld himself.
Ngando presents a very different profile and he seems to be Schopf’s logical backup at the 8 and, given the number of matches the Caps will be playing this year, he will certainly get time to show his stuff. The Caps clearly see something in him to want to trade up and I want to see how his excellent creativity and dribbling abilities in college translate at an MLS level. This won’t be a guy sitting on an MLS NEXT Pro bench somewhere; the future is now for Ngando.
Finally, the Caps have thus far elected not to bring in another keeper, leaving Thomas Hasal again the number one choice. Hasal is a known quantity at this point; I don’t think another preseason is going to give us any more earth-shattering revelations about who he is or what he can do.
But I do want to see how comfortable he looks in goal and I think the Caps probably do as well. I could see a situation where it becomes increasingly clear that an upgrade at keeper is needed (which it probably still is) and the front office looks to make a move after watching how the situation plays out in training camp/pre-season. What Sartini choses to say about the goalkeeping will be worth keeping an eye out, as it was the only big need the Caps are apparently choosing to stand pat on.
The season is approaching and soon some of these questions will be less theoretical. But, for now, who will you be keeping an eye on in Spain and Palm Springs? Drop us a line in the replies.
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