This coming Friday the ‘Caps head on the road to face another fierce match at Sporting Kansas City (6 p.m. PT on TSN2, TSN 1040 radio). After a tough defeat at home this past week, the team will be motivated to rebound.
That’s how it’s been for this group over the past year. 392 days, to be exact.
For 40 consecutive MLS matches, the ‘Caps hadn’t lost twice in a row. Every good streak must come to an end, and it did on Friday the 13th.
But those 40 games speak to something greater. It's a foundation for success that's been built by Carl Robinson and his staff. Only NYCFC’s current 42-match streak compares to the ‘Caps recent run. The Red Bulls are next at 30 games, with no one else close to Salt Lake’s 21 matches.
That’s a very high level of consistency in this league, one that takes a full team to buy-in, and a mental toughness to bounce back.
Listen to any coach in the league, and they'll tell you that they don't like having to face the 'Caps. They've been among the toughest teams in the league to play over the past year. For those 392 days, opposition have known that they’ve needed to be laser focused and ready to battle to give themselves a chance.
That is the ultimate nod of respect.
“When I said at the beginning about a competitive edge and mentality, there are certain games where that counts even more,” noted LAFC head coach Bob Bradley after Friday’s match. “I think teams around the league know that to come to Vancouver and take points, it’s not just about your football. It’s about how are you going to compete in all those other ways.”
The ‘Caps success has forced their opposition to adjust more often than not. For those who savour the tactical intricacies that sometimes only a coach can truly love, that's part of the fascination of it all.
The last two matches at BC Place have seen both LA sides come to town and uncharacteristically play with three centre backs to stymie the 'Caps.
And they got their tactics right.
Robinson put his hand up and acknowledged as much. Many times prior he and his staff have got the better of the tactical battle, as results have shown. He noted that he toyed with playing three at the back himself, with Yordy Reyna up top as a false nine – essentially adding another attacking player higher up the field. But with Kei Kamara’s injury taking place literally right at the end of the week’s preparations, the coaching staff felt that the best chance at winning would be to stick with what they trained for during the week, rather than change the game plan at the last second.
Now they go back to the drawing board, preparing the group to forge forward in a highly competitive Western Conference.
With 11 new players, the team will likely continue to evolve. Players who haven’t featured prominently such as dynamic young striker Anthony Blondell, midfield force Aly Ghazal, Crystal Palace loanee Jordan Mutch, and last year’s stand-out Reyna may yet play key roles when fully fit, among others.
Seven games into the season, the ‘Caps sit tied for second in the Western Conference. It will take the same hard work that has got them to where they are to continue to push onwards.
But I, for one, am looking forward to seeing what lays ahead.
Because the foundation for success has already been built