Wednesday, December 19, 2007

MNT Player of the Year

Over at the Voyageurs board, there is a thread debating which player should be named Canadian MNT Player of the Year. Whether or not it is an actual award, the question is still an interesting one to think about.

For our part, the winner should be a player who:
  1. contributed positively to Canada's performances in important matches (in 2007, the Gold Cup would represent our most important set of matches)
  2. had a strong season with their club sides
We insist on reasonable scores on both of these, which would rule out a player like Ali Gerba (great tournament in the Gold Cup, but a barely a club career to speak of) and Jim Brennan (great year as the leader of Toronto FC, but hardly an impact at all on the MNT scene in 2007).

Here are our top 3, in reverse order.

3. Rob Friend (Borussia Moenchengladbach, Germany)
MNT resume in '07: 4 appearances (3 starting, 1 sub), 290 minutes, 0 goals.

This third spot was difficult for us to choose, as for me there was no clear winner. Pat Onstad, winning another championship with Houston Dynamo was a strong contender, especially given his outstanding emergency appearances for Canada, and we also considered Atiba Hutchinson. But we continue to be impressed by Friend who is leading his team, currently the top candidate for promotion into the 1. Bundesliga at the mid-point, in goals, and is second overall in scoring. This outweighs his less impressive contribution to the national team in 2007, with 4 appearances, most of which were impressive but didn't yield any goals.

2. Dwayne de Rosario (Houston Dynamo, MLS)
MNT resume in '07: 8 appearances (all 8 starting), 698 minutes, 5 goals

Dwayne had a very impressive year in 2007. Since the MLS season runs in a single calendar of year, it is easier to look at it as a single body of work. His regular season output wasn't as impressive as other years, but he did come through when it was most important, putting in another MLS Cup MVP performance and scoring the winning goal against DC United. He also had a nose for the net while representing Canada, scoring 5 times and closing in on the all-time leaders Califf and Mitchell at 19. He is emerging as a leader for Canada, and is already a leader for his club side, who are repeat champions in MLS (I believe this year was Dwayne's fourth championship overall, and the second time he scored the winning goal).

We had a hard time putting him in second, but our #1 clearly earned his spot

1. Julian de Guzman (Deportivo la Coruna, Spain)
MNT resume in '07: 10 appearances (all starting), 868 minutes, 2 goals

Those of us who watched Canada's Gold Cup match against Costa Rica will never forget that performance. We have never seen a Canadian midfielder take over the game in the way that Julian did that night. His two goals were first rate, but there was plenty of fine work besides, as this youtube video shows. Julian has always been a solid performer for Canada, but this was the year that we saw him take the next step and become the leader on the field for Canada. Whether it was getting up from an atrocious Bocanegra tackle (how that wasn't a straight red is beyond me, thanks Archundia!) or scoring key goals, De Guzman was the man for Canada. If we add in the fact that he is a regular starter in the world's best league, we are entirely comfortable naming Julian our player of the year.


Now if only he can get his brother on side...

Friday, December 07, 2007

Debutants ball

Canada's national team had a fairly successful year in 2007, with a good Gold Cup run and some reasonable friendly results (South Africa notwithstanding). This year also saw a fairly consistent group being called into the squad for the first time in a while. We don't think this is a coincidence.

As such, there weren't a lot of new faces in 2007. I crunched the numbers, and these were the only players to earn their first caps this year:

Player Debut against Total caps Minutes
Kevin Harmse Bermuda 5 86
Antonio Ribeiro Venezuela 1 45
Nik Ledgerwood Iceland 1 30
Marcel de Jong South Africa 1 17


A closer look . . .

Kevin Harmse
(23 years old / LA Galaxy, MLS)

The 23-year old midfielder saw action mostly as a 2nd half substitute for Martin Nash in the Gold Cup tournament, and debuted in the year's first friendly against Bermuda. He hasn't done a lot to stand out for Canada, but has earned a reputation for a nasty streak playing the Dave Semenko role for Beckham.

Don't expect him to become a midfield regular for Canada, with a group that features talents like Julian De Guzman, Atiba Hutchinson, and Dwayne De Rosario, but he does provide some depth, and could well be called up for North American games.

Antonio Ribeiro (27 years old / Montreal Impact, USL-1)

This call-up came as a bit of a surprise, but equally surprising was the reasonable performance he put in during his 45 minutes in Maracaibo. He was involved in the game-tying goal (from Gerba, if I'm not mistaken) and made himself useful in offensive situations.

Unless Ribeiro moves up a level or two professionally, we won't be seeing much of him for Canada. He's an important player for a good team in North America's second division, but that's no longer enough. Ribeiro is a bit old to be talking about a bright future.

Nik Ledgerwood (22 years old / 1860 Munich)

Ledgerwood may have been excited to earn his first cap for Canada in the Iceland friendly, but his season since then has surely been disappointing with the major injury he suffered.

He is a young player, and is playing at the same level as MNT teammates Rob Friend, Patrice Bernier, Josh Simpson and Kevin McKenna, so he clearly is a good option for the future. Canada has depth at his position, but he will be around for a while.

Marcel de Jong (21 years old / Roda JC Kerkade)

While Jonathan De Guzman hasn't settled on an international side yet, Marcel de Jong opted for Canada when he joined the squad against South Africa. He clearly has quality, and showed as much for Dale Mitchell's U-20s in 2005. Once again, the left back position is one of depth for Canada (Klukowski, Jazic and Brennan are all options) but Marcel is young enough to be considered a long term solution.

His appearance against South Africa was only 17 minutes long, but we hope to see more of him in 2008, if only to see how strong his commitment is to his adopted country.



None of Dale Mitchell's U-20s have suited up yet for the senior side except for Will Johnson, who was first called up by interim head man Stephen Hart, and Jaime Peters, who debuted for Frank Yallop at far too young an age. Given the team's performance at the WYC, there are no real strong candidates for the near future, but expect David Edgar to get a shot soon, and Asmir Begovic to get called up in a backup role.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Old news?

Our faithful readers (perhaps using the plural here is a bit too hopeful) will notice that the poll question in the sidebar has changed. Readers decisively chose Lars Hirschfeld as Canada's #1, and are now being asked to speculate instead of select. So far people seem to think (or hope) that De Guzman the Younger, Jonathan, will opt for Canada, and not the Netherlands.

It seems they know more than he does:
De Guzman wil Nederlander worden
door onze Telesportredactie
AMSTERDAM - Jonathan de Guzman weet nog niet of hij ooit voor het Nederlands of voor het Canadees voetbalelftal uit wil komen. De Feyenoorder heeft wel alvast een Nederlands paspoort aangevraagd. Zelf ziet hij alleen maar voordelen van een dubbele nationaliteit. Zo kan de talentvolle middenvelder, doordat hij EU-burger wordt, eenvoudig overstappen naar buitenlandse competities.

De Guzman verblijft inmiddels al langer dan vijf jaar in Nederland en kan zodoende zonder al te veel problemen in het bezit van het Nederlands paspoort komen. De keuze voor Oranje of Canada zal hij in september 2008 maken.
Translation (mine, if you don't like it, try the fish)
AMSTERDAM - Jonathan de Guzman still doesn't know if he will ever play for the Netherlands or for Canada. The Feyenoord player has indeed applied for a Dutch passport. But he sees only the advantages of dual citizenship. This way the talented midfielder, as an EU citizen, can more easily transfer to another league.

De Guzman has lived in more than five years in the Netherlands and can therefore obtain a Dutch passport with little difficulty. He will choose for the Oranje or Canada in September 2008.
Now most of this is old news for anyone who follows the Canadian scene and reads the Voyageurs boards. This only makes sense, as the article was published on November 13th. But what was news to us was the last line: that Jonathan has set a timetable for his choice, and it is September of 2008.

That is an important date. It marks the beginning of World Cup qualifiying in Europe, it comes after the Euro 2008 tournament has been played out, and it also falls near the beginning of Canada's qualification campaign for 2010 (though the St. Vincent matches will already have been played out).

Is this something we should be happy about? Probably not. But the fact that he would set a date a year after obtaining his Dutch passport is a pretty strong indication that that move was career-related, as he says, and not a step towards suiting up with the Oranje.


Wouldn't that look great in red and white?