Friday, September 21, 2007

Data Update

It's taken me a while, but all of the records that I maintain with respect to Canada's MNT are now up to date.

These include:
To my great surprise, the CSA site now does a much better job of keeping track of caps, not only senior but with the various youth/developmental sides as well, though they haven't yet added the numbers from the Costa Rica friendly.

The next action for the MNT, barring any further announcements, is a friendly in South Africa on November 21st, with the exact location TBA (as listed at the SAFA).

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Whither JdG2


Canada, in recent history, has had the misfortune of having some talented players choose to play for other countries. In some cases, the Canadian soccer situation and the CSA are partly to blame, but the real motive is pure opportunism and 'old country' navel gazing. Prominent examples include Owen Hargreaves throwing in his lot with England, and Daniel Fernandes electing to suit up for Portugal.

An interesting time is approaching in the career of Jonathan De Guzman, younger brother of Canada's best player, Julian De Guzman. He's spent 6 years in the youth and professional setup with Feyenoord (Rotterdam), and is emerging as a significant talent.

While it is hard for us to understand Canadian players choosing to play for another country, Jonathan has spent a good chunk of his formative years in the land of cheese and weed, and could legitimately claim to be as Dutch as Canadian.

The issue has come to a boiling point recently because of some recent comments that have appeared in the Dutch media. The problem is different reports have highlighted different quotes and slanted things in different ways.

One view offers some hope to Canadian fans:
„Maar wat ik ook besluit, hij zal altijd achter me blijven staan. Ik kan en wil er nu gewoon nog niets over zeggen. Ik wacht af. Waarop ik wacht? Vooral op mezelf. Natuurlijk is het niveau van Oranje veel hoger, maar spelen met mijn broer voor Canada is ook aantrekkelijk. De voor- en nadelen van mijn keuze moet ik nog tegen elkaar afwegen.”
Rough translation:
Whatever I decide, it will always stay with me. I can't and don't want to say anything about it right now. I'm waiting. What am I waiting for? Mostly for myself. Of course, the level of the Dutch is much higher, but playing with my brother for Canada is also attractive. I have to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of my choice.
You could ask for better, but at least he's not closing any doors. Another article paints a less optimistic picture (for Canadian fans):

Jonathan de Guzman gaat snel de keuze maken tussen het Nederlands elftal en Canada. De Guzman heeft zelf aangegeven zijn keuze op korte termijn te maken.

Volgens De Telegraaf lijkt het grote talent van Feyenoord te gaan kiezen voor Nederland. De reden lijkt dat hij met Nederland internationaal beter voor de dag komt dan met Canada.
In het Engels:
Jonathan de Guzman will soon be making a choice between Holland and Canada. De Guzman has set himself a deadline for making a choice. According to De Telegraaf (a major Dutch daily) it appears that the Feyenoord star will choose Holland. The likely reason is, at the end of the day, prospects for a better international career than he could achieve with Canada.
Perhaps this article deserves less weight, as it reads like a summary of an opinion piece rather than a direct quote from the man, but it certainly doesn't give me any warm fuzzies.

Another article concurs
that Holland is the likely choice (kan je Nederlands lezen?), and suggests that he is fully integrated into Dutch culture, which could be a factor in his decision.

All the JdG2 buzz follows an impressive performance over the weekend for Feyenoord against Roda JC, home of another player of ambiguous national loyalties, Marcel de Jong. Jonathan's a player to watch and would be a strong addition to what is already the best midfield in CONCACAF.

Stay tuned.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Minutes Under Mitchell

Dale Mitchell has been at the helm of Canada's national team for 2 matches so far, a pair of 1-1 draws against Iceland and Costa Rica. It may be a bit early to draw any conclusions, but it is interesting to look at the lineups he has fielded so far. Here are the players that have been sent out by the new gaffer:
Player Starter Sub Minutes
Bernier, Patrice 2
180
de Guzman, Julian 2
180
Stalteri, Paul 2
180
Hainault, Andre 2
164
Gerba, Ali 2
151
Imhof, Daniel 1 1 135
Radzinski, Tomasz 2
129
Hume, Iain 1 1 93
Brennan, Jim 1
90
De Rosario, Dwayne 1
90
Hirschfeld, Lars 1
90
Klukowski, Mike 1
90
Nakajima-Farran, Issey 1
90
Onstad, Pat 1
90
Serioux, Adrian 1
90
Occean, Olivier
2 46
Hutchinson, Atiba 1
45
Friend, Rob
1 29
Ledgerwood, Nik
1 18
Totals 22 6 1980

Three players have played every minute so far -- Julian de Guzman, Paul Stalteri and Patrice Bernier -- while three others have started both matches -- Andre Hainault, Tomasz Radzinski and Ali Gerba. Daniel Imhof, Iain Hume and Olivier Occean also played in both matches. 19 players in total have been used by Mitchell.

As Mitchell's tenure continues, it will be interesting which players make their way to the top of this table to form the Canadian team for the World Cup qualifying campaign. We're not sure yet when the next friendly will take place, but you can be sure that the "Minutes Under Mitchell" topic will not escape our attention.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Canada - Costa Rica wrap-up


The Canada - Costa Rica friendly has come and gone. Protesters of the CSA and their recent handling of things made their point, I think, and the game itself (a 1-1 draw) was not bad.

A few things come to mind as encouraging signs:
  • Lars Hirschfeld back between the posts. He's missed a lot of call-ups due to flaky or inconveniently timed injuries, but his presence here is comforting. Sure, he was scored upon with Costa Rica's only real chance, but he looked comfortable and strong on set pieces.
  • A dominating midfield performance. With players like Julian De Guzman, Atiba Hutchinson, Dwayne De Rosario and Tomasz Radzinski, as well as the under-appreciated but hard-working Patrice Bernier, it could be argued that this side boasts the best midfield in CONCACAF. In addition, the level of commitment among this bunch seems high.
  • Dwayne De Rosario is still hot. His beautiful strike from a gorgeous De Guzman long ball gives him 5 goals in his last 7 games for Canada, and 12 overall, placing him 4th all-time.
  • Canada dominated. Costa Rica was under pressure whenever they had the ball, while Canada was able to work the ball around their talented midfield.
A couple of discouraging signs:
  • Despite their advantage in quality of play, Canada didn't manage more than the De Rosario goal. It is critical to generate quality chances and capitalize on those you get, and Canada didn't do it well enough.
  • The crowd in Toronto. 9,325 would be a respectable number if the support for TFC had not created such high expecations, but those expectations now exist and can't be ignored. Perhaps ticket prices are to blame. I should mention, though, that the supporters who did show up, especially those in the packed south end, were boisterous and vocal and made for a strong, pro-Canada atmosphere.
  • Hutchinson picked up a knock and couldn't play the 2nd half. It would have been interesting to see if Canada could have turned it up a notch with him out there.
Some match-related downloads for you:

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Canada's soccer blogs

I'm hoping to offer my readers a comprehensive list of Canada's soccer blogs, in order to direct them elsewhere in case they find themselves in disagreement with what they read here. I've started by looking for blogs from some of Canada's (sports) media outlets, and have found the 3 below. Any others that you are aware of, and personal blogs (especially those with a Canadian soccer, rather than Toronto FC, focus), leave a comment with the address.

Media blogs
Gerry Dobson (Sportsnet.ca)
Gerry is the play-by-play man for Sportsnet's underwhelming coverage of Canada's MNTs. He is in position to offer an insider's perspective, but not wanting to shake the boat, he steers a pretty steady course. A recent post about the CSA, though, ranges into controversy:
Here's what I've come to believe. In my humble opinion there are not enough soccer professionals in position to affect meaningful change in policy at the CSA. This belief continues to get reinforced by those who have been on the scene much longer than I. Many of you reading this will know it already.
Not exactly earth-shattering, but there's an ounce or two of real feeling and personality there.

The Footy Blog (theScore.ca)
You know what you're getting with James Sharman and Co. England and more England, with some TFC stories and occasional CSA/MNT nugget. They do host a podcast, which has been interesting to follow through 2 episodes.

Planet Soccer (John Molinaro, cbc.ca)
Molinaro maintains a fairly sympathetic set of opinions (anti-Andy Welsh sentiment, for example) with this irregularly maintained blog. He also allows his attentions to drift from European soccer to the Canadian scene and MLS. His columns index pretty good as well, if you prefer long-form writing.


Friday, September 07, 2007

Strike rates

Some national teams have the luxury of being able to trot out a bona fide goal scorer. Raul has scored 47 times in 102 matches for Spain. Jurgen Klinsmann managed the same total in 108 matches for Germany. Johan Cruijff played only 48 matches for the Netherlands, but managed 33 goals in that period, a rate of 0.69 goals per game. Pele scored 77 times in 92 matches for Brazil, a rate of 0.84.

The player with the most international goals is Ali Daei, of Iran. In an incredible 149 national team apperances, he notched an astonishing 109 goals (0.73/game).

Canada has nobody that even approaches this level of goal scoring brilliance. This might be because the team is rarely on the right side of any lopsided scorelines, or because the country has never produced a truly world class forward.

The players called up for Wednesday's match against Costa Rica haven't exactly set the soccer world alight with their goal scoring prowess. Here is the team, sorted by strike rate:
Player Caps Goals Rate
Ali Gerba 13 5 0.38
Tomasz Radzinski 34 9 0.26
Dwayne De Rosario 44 11 0.25
Olivier Occean 13 2 0.15
Jim Brennan 43 6 0.14
Paul Stalteri 60 7 0.12
Atiba Hutchinson 29 3 0.1
Iain Hume 20 2 0.1
Ante Jazic 20 2 0.1
Julian De Guzman 24 2 0.08
Rob Friend 12 1 0.08
Daniel Imhof 33 0 0
Patrice Bernier 25 0 0
Chris Pozniak 20 0 0
Lars Hirschfeld 19 0 0
Adrian Serioux 9 0 0
Andre Hainault 8 0 0
Issey Nakajima-Farran 7 0 0
Kevin Harmse 5 0 0
Kenny Stamatopoulos 5 0 0

Ali Gerba's done well for himself over a small set of matches, while Radzinski and De Rosario have proven their goal scoring ability over a longer period, although both of these now play as midfielders for Canada.

Let's see how these compare to some of Canada's goal scorers from history. I took the top 20 goal scorers (and ties) and calculated their strike rate. Player name in italics indicates he is currently part of MNT player pool.
Player Goals Caps Rate
Tom Kouzmanis 4 5 0.8
John Catliff 19 43 0.44
Ali Gerba 5 13 0.38
Momcilo Stojanovic 5 14 0.36
Dale Mitchell 19 55 0.35
Igor Vrablic 11 35 0.31
Tomasz Radzinski 9 34 0.26
Les Parsons 7 27 0.26
Dwayne De Rosario 11 44 0.25
Kevin McKenna 9 36 0.25
Alex Bunbury 16 65 0.25
George Pakos 5 22 0.23
Eddy Berdusco 4 18 0.22
Paul Peschisolido 10 53 0.19
Carlo Corazzin 11 59 0.19
Ian Bridge 5 33 0.15
Jim Brennan 6 43 0.14
Paul Stalteri 7 60 0.12
Geoff Aunger 4 44 0.09
Bob Lenarduzzi 4 47 0.09
Colin Miller 5 61 0.08
Jason DeVos 4 49 0.08

What jumps out, aside from the great strike rate over a small sample size from Tom Kouzmanis, is how well Catliff scored. His rate is the same as Jurgen Klinsmann's, although he played less than half as many matches. The numbers we see from Corazzin and Peschisolido, less than 0.2 goals per match, aren't good for forwards although the bunker mentality of the Canada teams they played with could have contributed.

Of currently active players, Kevin McKenna has an impressive rate (0.25) considering he has played most of his Canada matches as a central defender. Dwayne De Rosario has probably scored more of his goals as a midfielder (including 3 in 5 games at the Gold Cup) than as a forward.

Still, it doesn't look like Canada will boast a 100 goal scorer like Ali Daei anytime soon. 40 is almost as unlikely; heck, it could take years before someone challenges Catliff and Mitchell for the all-time lead with 19.

I mentioned in my Canada - Iceland post-mortem that I would inform my readers if a video of the match became available for download. Well, 2 weeks later, the time has come. It has Icelandic commentary, and is ripped from a webcast so I don't know about the quality but it should be just fine.

Use a BitTorrent[?] client like Azureus to download the match.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Canada - Costa Rica Roster Info

Dale Mitchell announced today his roster for next week's friendly against Costa Rica. The release is here, but I've listed the players below in addition to their club affiliations, which the aforementioned release neglects to do:
# Player Pos. Team League
1 Lars Hirschfeld GK Rosenborg Norway
2 Daniel Imhof D/M Bochum Germany
3 Ante Jazic D LA Galaxy MLS
4 Adrian Serioux D/M FC Dallas MLS
5 Andre Hainault D SIAD Most Czech Rep.
6 Julian De Guzman M Deportivo La Coruna Spain
7 Paul Stalteri D/M Tottenham Hotspur England
8 Patrice Bernier M Kaiserslautern Germany
9 Tomasz Radzinski M/F Xanthi Greece
10 Rob Friend F Monchengladbach Germany
11 Jim Brennan D/M Toronto FC MLS
12 Issey Nakajima-Farran M FC Nordsjaelland Denmark
13 Atiba Hutchinson D/M FC Copenhagen Denmark
14 Dwayne De Rosario M/F Houston Dynamo MLS
15 Olivier Occean F Lillestrom Norway
16 Ali Gerba F IFK Goteborg Sweden
17 Iain Hume M/F Leicester England
18 Chris Pozniak D/M Toronto FC MLS
19 Kevin Harmse M LA Galaxy MLS
22 Kenny Stamatopoulos GK Toronto FC MLS

The 20-man roster is larger than usual, although with the match taking place in Toronto, expenses to bring in the three TFC players must be pretty minimal.

League tally: MLS (7), Germany (3), England (2), Denmark (2), Norway (2), Czech Republic (1), Greece (1), Sweden (1), Spain (1). Toronto FC (3) and LA Galaxy (2) both have multiple players on the roster, and Houston Dynamo might as well if Pat Onstad again has to replace Hirschfeld for some freak injury.

Compared with the roster for the Iceland friendly, this group is slightly more experienced. That group averaged 19.29 caps. There are no first-timers this time, with Stamatopoulos and Harmse the least experienced (5 caps each), and Stalteri with the most appearances (60).
Player Caps
Paul Stalteri 60
Dwayne De Rosario 44
Jim Brennan 43
Tomasz Radzinski 34
Daniel Imhof 33
Atiba Hutchinson 29
Patrice Bernier 25
Julian De Guzman 24
Ante Jazic 20
Chris Pozniak 20
Iain Hume 20
Lars Hirschfeld 19
Ali Gerba 13
Olivier Occean 13
Rob Friend 12
Adrian Serioux 9
Andre Hainault 8
Issey Nakajima-Farran 7
Kenny Stamatopoulos 5
Kevin Harmse 5
Average 22.15

Dale Mitchell's second roster selection also owns a few more than the 27 goals scored by the players for the Iceland friendly. The total is boosted significantly by the inclusion of De Rosario (11 goals) and Brennan (6), as well as the goal Occean scored against Iceland.
Player Goals
Dwayne De Rosario 11
Tomasz Radzinski 9
Paul Stalteri 7
Jim Brennan 6
Ali Gerba 5
Atiba Hutchinson 3
Iain Hume 2
Julian De Guzman 2
Olivier Occean 2
Rob Friend 1
Adrian Serioux 0
Andre Hainault 0
Ante Jazic 0
Chris Pozniak 0
Daniel Imhof 0
Issey Nakajima-Farran 0
Kenny Stamatopoulos 0
Kevin Harmse 0
Lars Hirschfeld 0
Patrice Bernier 0
Total 48

And, if you're scoring at home, this lineup also has 5 last names starting with the letter 'H' (Hutchinson, Hume, Hainault, Harmse and Hirschfeld) as well as 4 'Z's (De Guzman, Jazic, Pozniak and Radzinski).

Other factoids:
  • With his next goal for Canada, Dwayne De Rosario would move into 4th all time, behind only Alex Bunbury (16 goals), John Catliff (19) and coach Dale Mitchell (19).
  • Paul Stalteri's next cap will be his 61st, tying him for 6th all time.
  • 13 of the 20 players participated in June's Gold Cup. The exceptions are Radzinski, Brennan, Imhof, Occean, Serioux, Stamatopoulos and Hirschfeld.
  • Kevin McKenna was called but a deal was reached with his coach for FC Cologne to keep him there because that team is already 4 players to international duty.

Monday, September 03, 2007

The results are in!


I've been running a poll on the sidebar to the right that I introduced when I posted on Canada's goalkeeping depth.

Well, the results are in (perhaps a poor choice of words as the polling software keeps a running tally and the results are always available). And after a few weeks on this site, a whopping 7 votes were cast, which is a surprise since I didn't know that many people read my blog.

Here's how it breaks down:
Lars Hirschfeld - 5 votes
Kenny Stamatopoulos - 2 votes

While I wasn't surprised to see Lars in the lead, I wasn't expecting Stamatopoulos to receive much support. Perhaps it's the TFC factor kicking in.

Anyway, I'll leave the poll up there until I have a better question to ask.

Now, for any of you budding writers out there that would like to expand your readership from whatever it is now to 6 more people, and you'd like to give me your take on the CSA/Linford/board fiasco, leave me a comment and I'll post your thoughts here. I'm not well informed on the situation and I'd love to learn more.