Tuesday, December 30, 2008

2008: The Year That Was - October, November, and December

See also:

It's hard to comment on recent events with any real sense of perspective. But the last three months of 2008, for fans of the national team, have been a time a much moaning, handwringing, and self-loathing. And Dale Mitchell-loathing. To wit:

OCTOBER

2008.10.06 - Who will replace thee, JDG?: I don't really know enough about the tactical side of soccer to comment expertly on a lot of what happens on the field (which works out nicely, since most of these comments come during liveblogs when I am somewhere between angry and drunk). But roster speculation is a game I like to play, and I was pretty proud of the fact that I campaigned for Sandro Grande and Will Johnson to get called up, and not 45 days later (only a month after the matches that might still have mattered) they got to pull on the red jersey (or did they wear white in Jamaica? Who cares!)

2008.10.11 - Honduras - Canada live blog: This was a joint effort between me and this blog's occasional contributor. I am one to toot my own horn (this line would get a few raised eyebrows from my perverted friends), and I feel the following paragraph is some of the best writing, and most typical of a Canadian fan, that has appeared on the blog:
It's over. (Ok, so there are two minutes left. Whatever. I turned off the TV, Honduras up 3-1). I'm amazingly unpissed off. Mitchell coached a good game today, given the players at his disposal. Harmse was shockingly unshitty. Canada played hard, and lost on quality of finishing, and lucky bounces that went the other way.

Mitchell should obviously be fired, but on the basis of his previous work, not tonight.
You like? I'm particularly fond of the line "Harmse was shockingly unshitty", although the same was the case a few days later against Mexico.

2008.10.13 - So that's what it looks like to celebrate a win . . . : I got wrapped up in Montreal's Champions League run and tried to shit on TFC as much as I could (sorry guys, old anti-T.O. sports teams habits die hard) so Vancouver's enormously successful USL season kind of flew under my radar.


2008.10.15 - Canada - Mexico live blog: For me, this live blog was the most fun of the entire campaign. Partly it was because all hopes had been dashed. The other part was I found an outlet for my emotions in man-love for Radzinski, who was having one of those rare performances where a Canadian is the best man on the pitch against a world class team.

2008.10.29 - Vancouver Whitecaps: Canada's most Canadian pro team!: This post got a lot of page views, in part because I spammed it at the Voyageurs forum, generating some good discussion. What this blog lacks in readers, we make up in cut-and-pasted spreadsheets!


NOVEMBER

2008.11.11 - Hume hurts head, hospitalized: Iain Hume's career-threatening, and briefly life-threatening, head injury at the hands (elbow) of career thug Chris Morgan was one of the important and scary stories of Canadian players in 2008. And of course I go and trivialize it by writing a headline with stupid cheesy alliteration. And on the 11th day of the 11th month, no less. Word is that he is doing better now.

2008.11.13 - How Mitchell are you? Take the quiz? - Almost as scary as a life-threatening head injury is the fact that Dale Mitchell and I picked near-identical squads for the Jamaica match (I got 13 of his 18 right).

2008.11.18 - Canada - Jamaica: How to watch, Short version (Long version): Canada - Jamaica didn't make the boob tube so I didn't see it. Maybe there is a God, and he is merciful.


Some final numbers on the campaign.


DECEMBER


2008.12.12 - De Rosario to TFC: There were some interesting player moves in December. De Rosario to Toronto FC was one, De Guzman to Toronto FC was not.

2008.12.15 - Canadian 2008 Player of the Year nominees: This post is an illustration of how little I have going on in life. I spent a couple of hours on a Saturdfay afternoon (granted it was probably -30 C out) cobbling together some spreadsheets, analysis, and a shot of Kara Lang stretching for the infatuated boys and girls out there. Here's another one:


2008.12.17 - 2008 youtube match "highlights": Watch at your own risk!

2008.12.18 - Stalteri to Borussia Moenchengladbach: I got this one right, but only because I cribbed the rumour from a post on the Vs forums, and did a little googling auf Deutsch.


I wouldn't be a good Canadian if I didn't take the chance to piss all over other Canadians who have had success. I do it in December (Happy fucking holidays!) to De Ro and De Guzman the younger (the term 'Canadian' has a different meaning for him than for most other people).

2008.12.29 - NT debuts in 2008: 5 players who busted their Canada MNT cherries in 2008. Nothing to write home about in this group, though. How many of you will be telling your kids about watching Adrian Cann for Canada?


Let's hope 2009 is a better year for Canadian soccer.

Monday, December 29, 2008

NT debuts in 2008

Last year I tracked which Canadians had made their full national team debut in the calendar year 2007. Before we look at the crew that popped their senior side cherries in '08, let's play a little game of National Team Where Are They Now.

2007 débutants
  • Kevin Harmse: Of the players to make a splash in 2007, Kevin was the one to get the most action on the field (off the field, who knows, although the Seth Rogen look certainly will never reach a higher apex of popularity). His stats in 2008: 4 matches (4 starts), 342 minutes, including the full 90 in each of the final 3 qualifying matches. He had a nice little run with TFC at the end of year that leads one to believe he may have a little talent to go along with an impressive resume of thuggery.
  • Antonio Ribeiro: I wrote off Antonio last year as a guy who didn't have much of a future with the national team because he was only playing at the USL level. I stand by my assessment of his play, although I would no longer use that argument as USL represents a decent standard of play at times. His stats in 2008: 1 match (0 starts), 5 minutes
  • Nik Ledgerwood: Ledgerwood is a young player that likely will work his way into the core of the team in the next few years. He struggled with injuries in '08, and didn't play in any 'meaningful' matches. His stats in 2008: 2 matches (1 start), 108 minutes
  • Marcel de Jong: Marcel is another guy who will have to take his game to the next level to be a big contributor for Canada. He played in the last few no-hope qualifiers, and got a bit of friendly time. His stats in 2008: 6 matches (3 starts), 274 minutes
In other words, none of the players to debut in 2007 were key contributors to the team in 2008 (at the level of a Klukowski or Hutchinson, for instance). Harmse and de Jong got some time, especially when some of the bigger names were not made available for a variety of reasons, but in total these 4 only amassed about 730 minutes, or just over 8 full matches between them.

That may not sound like much, but just wait until you see how down I am on the 5 players to get their first cap in 2008!

The fantastic 5:

Player Debut against Caps Mins
Adrian Cann Martinique 4 315
Charles Gbeke Martinique 3 181
Dave Simpson Martinique 1 32
Dejan Jakovic Martinique 1 22
Tyler Rosenlund Martinique 1 18

A closer look . . .

Adrian Cann
(28 years old / Esbjerg fB, Denmark)

Of the players to debut in 2008, Adrian saw the most action for Dale Mitchell. He didn't play in the most important matches (Martinique, Panama, St. Vincent and the second Jamaica match), and only the St. Vincent game in Montreal was televised, so it's hard to say how he performed. But it doesn't bode well for a guy who is nearly 30, but is languishing in the reserve side of a mid-table team in Denmark. I don't think he has much of a future with Canada, although that future is somewhat enhanced by the fact that Dale Mitchell is still in charge.

Charles Gbeke (30 years old / Vancouver Whitecaps, USL)

2008 was a good year for Charles. He was transferred out of Montreal, where he wasn't seeing much playing time, and worked himself into shape in time to be the hero in the Whitecaps' USL-1 triumph. He played the Martinique match basically because he was available, got a 2 minute cameo against Mexico as a sort of tribute, and was in the roster for the Jamaica loss because the rest of the forwards had said no. He too likely won't feature in future MNT plans.

Dave Simpson (26 years old / Dunaújváros FC, Hungary)

The remaining trio of players only saw action in the Martinique friendly that was part of January's training camp of mostly marginal players. His professional life in 2nd division Hungary likely won't gain Dave any further invitations, subsequent C-team camps excepted.

Dejan Jakovic
(23 years old / Red Star Belgrade, Serbia)


Jakovic made only a brief appearance against Martinique, but was called to several squads throughout the year. Apparently things aren't going well for him in Belgrade, so he could probably use a change of scenery. He did feature for the U23 side in Olympic qualifying as a centre back and showed promise, so I wouldn't write him off just yet.

Tyler Rosenlund (22 years old / Toronto FC, MLS)

Rosenlund is still young enough that I have hope for his future. He didn't play much for TFC this season, but performed impressively in his U23 matches. He's the kind of guy who should be called to B- and C-team camps until he takes another step or two professionally, which may be difficult in Toronto.



In summary, it's rather disheartening that the two players to see the most action, and the only to play in even remotely meaningful matches, are past the age when players make significant improvements. Jakovic and Rosenlund may have a future with the MNT, but I don't picture either as a key contributor 4 years down the road. In other words, the next coach, or Mitchell if he sticks around, needs to spend the next friendlies, and even legit tournaments like the Gold Cup, giving the future of the squad a chance to take shape. Players I'd like to see blooded in 2009 include David Edgar, Asmir Begovic, and Simeon Jackson.


ADDENDUM: I would be remiss if I didn't clarify the following point: The same training camp last winter that included the Martinique friendly also resulted in a closed-door match against Vejle BK of Denmark, who were training in the same area in Florida. Usually these matches aren't given much attention, but since the CSA has a match report of the affair, I should mention that Cann, Gbeke, Jakovic, and Rosenlund all played in the match. In addition, Josh Wagenaar and Paris Nakajima-Farran, still technically MNT virgins, also participated.


2008.12.30 addition: Honourable mention goes to Andrew/Andrzej Ornoch. He played 2 minutes against Hungary back in '06 back when he was called into the team because he was the nearest live body when someone else pulled out for injury reasons. 2008 was the year he got his first real look, even if it was only 25 minutes against Jamaica in November. He is playing at the same level on the same team as Cann (although seeing a few more first team minutes) but is on the upward arc of his career. I thought he was excellent for the U23s in spring and none other than Julian de Guzman once went on record saying Ornoch was a player to watch.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Leedvermaak***

*** Leedvermaak is a Dutch word for Schadenfreude, which is a German term to describe, amont other things, the feeling I get watching something like this. It's use here is only partly in jest.

For obvious reasons, I haven't been following the career of Julian's little brother Jonathan de Guzman very closely of late. But I noticed his mug on the front page of the Eredivisie website, and upon investigation learned that Jono will be on the shelf for a time.

The article in question is a short one:
De Guzman begint 2009 met operatie
26 december 2008

Jonathan de Guzman start het jaar 2009 met een operatie aan zijn knie, zo meldt Feyenoord vrijdag op zijn website. De middenvelder heeft al geruime tijd last van zijn meniscus. Eerder zag het er naar uit dat De Guzman niet onder het mes hoefde, maar door het herstel is nu alsnog besloten om de speler op 5 januari te opereren.

De speler van Jong Oranje kwam dit seizoen nog maar tot twee competitieduels. Begin december kwam hij voor het laatst in actie in een wedstrijd van Jong Feyenoord.

A rough translation (my own):
Jonathan de Guzman will begin the year 2009 with an operation on his knee, according to Feyenoord's website on Friday. The midfielder had been experiencing problems with his miniscus. At first it appeared that de Guzman would not have to go under the knife, but after this setback a decision was made to operate on January 5th.

The Oranje youth player only played in two competitive matches this season. He played for the last time for Feyenoord reserves at the beginning of December.
Now, I've experienced significant knee ligament injuries myself, so I'm not one to actually take pleasure in this situation (at least not any more pleasure than I would normally derive from an injury to a player for the Feyenoord scum). But I'd like you to note his career arc: Jonathan chooses Holland, finishes a mostly successful season for Feyenoord, fails to win a medal for Holland at Beijing, and then struggles with injury and form for half a season with a Rotterdam team struggling in the bottom half of the table, before going under the knife.

Couple that with Owen Hargreaves' career-threatening knee condition and you see a pattern developing: if you turn your back on Canada, your knee will explode!

(Of course, in the case of Hargreaves, he has had a few minor accomplishments after the traitorous decision: 2 Champions League wins ('01 and '08), playing in a few World Cups, you get the idea . . .)


* * * * *


The reason I was consulting the Eredivisie site in the first place was to get a rundown of the final set of matches before the winter break. But let me ask you: why use the internet for something an antiquated European television news delivery mechanism can do just as well?

The week's matches (and no, I didn't snap a photo of a TV in Holland somewhere; Paint simply mangled the screen capture somehow)

AZ still leads the proceedings and play on Sunday along with nearest chasers, the New York Yankees of Dutch football, Ajax. myp2p should have links to all of this weekend's matches.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

One of the merrier moments in 2008. I am continually frustrated by being unable to find a high-quality image of this occurence.

Here's wishing all Canadian soccer fans (and even Dale Mitchell) a merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. To all of my readers: thanks for being a part of things in 2008. Tell your friends to join in on the fun in '09.

(Oh yeah, I nailed the Stally to Monchengladbach thing. No big deal. The club has made it official. That's the kind of thing you're missing when you're not reading this blog.)

Friday, December 19, 2008

CSA Fan's Choice 2008: Say it ain't De Ro!

The CSA is nothing if not unorthodox. They hire a failed youth coach to head up the World Cup team. They ask Toronto, the most Jamaican city outside of the islands (NYC perhaps excepted) to host a WCQ against Jamaica, and Montreal to host Honduras when that city is within driving distance of a veritable army of Hondurans. A thorough airing of grievances could last the whole holiday season.

To my understanding, it is not common practice to release the results of awards voting mid-stream (I notice that the Academy Awards have yet to adopt that practice), but I received an email that does exactly that. The crack (or is it 'on crack') communications department informs me that the results to date are as follows:

Women
1. Melissa Tancredi 26.6%
2. Christine Sinclair 20.2%
3. Kara Lang 16.0%
4. Rhian Wilkinson 12.8%
5. Diana Matheson 8.5%
6. Erin McLeod 7.4%


Men
1. Dwayne De Rosario 23.5%
2. Tomasz Radzinski 22.1%
3. Julian de Guzman 20.6%
4. Ali Gerba 17.6%
5. Rob Friend 4.4%
6. Michael Klukowski 2.9%

First of all, I can't say much about the women's voting. I'm sure Tancredi deserves the lead, and the fact that she is not one of the "high profile" players (I am referring here to Sinclair and Lang) likely means that she is in first on merit.

As to the men's voting, I am shocked. I suppose it's not just the Association that makes bad choices!

Here's what the voters have done well: of the 9 short-listed candidates, the bottom 3 that don't make this list (Stalteri, Hutchinson, and Serioux) don't really belong in the conversation (though I could imagine that a case could be made for Hutch and Serioux).

The problem: the player ranked #1 doesn't deserve to be in the discussion either. In my brief analysis of each of the candidates, I wrote off Dwayne ("Dwayne De Rosario has been excellent in the past and won at least one of the awards last year. But both his NT and club play with Houston Dynamo have declined since 2007. He won't get my vote."), and of the 40 or so Voyageurs who have stated their choice for their own award, only 2 have included Dwayne in their top 3. This latter group includes most diehard Canadian fans and includes nearly all of the well-informed followers of the game in this country.

My question: who are these CSA "fan" voters, and what kinds of fans are they? Are they MLS johnny-come-latelys who voted for the only name they recognized? Are they fans who only tuned into the St. Vincent match at Saputo and none of the others? This is beyond any semblance of reason.


Here's Dwayne's year in a nutshell: in 9 matches for Canada, he had 3 goals (against Martinique and 2 against St. VAG), got himself suspended in WCQ, and provided no offensive spark whatsoever in the group stage. For Houston, he scored 7 goals and added 2 assists in 24 matches. Solid, but far from spectacular, especially considering his previous seasons.

The fact that he has been in the news lately certainly doesn't hurt his profile, and if this Fan's Choice Award is indeed "based on popularity" and not performance, as stated in the original presser, then I guess whichever player is currently the highest profile Canadian on TFC is likely to win.

I know there are bright Canadian soccer fans out there, not just myopic Toronto fans new to the game (or at least Canadian players of the game). The gang at some canadian guys writing about soccer (two Gerbas and a de Guzman), Duane at 24th minute (Friend), and the Footie Fool (Radzinski) all make entirely defensible choices.

If you voted for Dwayne, or can defend choosing him ahead of the likes of de Guzman, Radzinski, Gerba, Friend, or even Klukowski, for his body of work in 2008, then be my guest. I wait with baited breath for my comments section to be flooded.

To the 60.3% of you who voted for Gerba, Radzinski, and de Guzman, well done. Those are my top 3. To the nearly 24% of fans who voted for TFC's newest lovechild, you have some 'splainin to do!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Stalteri to Borussia Moenchengladbach


There is some interesting news coming out of Germany.

From Bild:
Gladbach-Manager Max Eberl bestätigte gestern: „Wir sind uns mit drei Spielern einig. Noch können wir aber keinen Vollzug melden.“

Weil in allen drei Fällen noch die Ablöse-Modalitäten geklärt werden müssen.

[. . .]

Paul Stalteri (31): Der Kapitän der kanadischen Nationalmannschaft (dort spielt er mit Rob Friend zusammen) spielte von 1998 bis 2005 für Werder in der Bundesliga. In Tottenham versauert er nun aber auf der Bank. Bei Borussia soll er die Probleme auf der rechten Abwehrseite beheben.
The fish offers a sort of translation.
Gladbach manager max of Eberl confirmed yesterday: „We are us with three players united. Still we can announce however no execution. “Because in all three cases still the replacement modalities to be clarified must.

Paul Stalteri (31): The captain of the Canadian national team (it plays there with Rob Friend together) played from 1998 to 2005 for Werder in the federal league. In Tottenham it versauert now however in the bank. With Borussia it is to repair the problems on the right defense side.
I don't think it could be any clearer!

Ok, so it's not a done deal, but if it goes through this is, for me, one of the better player moves involving a Canadian in 2008. Stalteri was doing nothing with Tottenham the last season and a half, and his lack of playing time showed when it came time for qualifying. I'm also a fan of multiple Canadian players on the same team in Europe, so I have fewer teams to follow. Plus I don't like watching the EPL.

Unfortunately, for fans of the Canadian MNT, this is happening two years too late. Stalteri is too old to be considered an important part of the team in 2012 when critical matches will next be played. At least he should be in decent form for next year's Gold Cup.


More player of the year stuff: The Voyageurs have their own contest for player of the year. I announced that Ali Gerba was my choice for the CSA Fan's Choice award, but given more time to think about things and the flexibility of a preferential ballot, I voted 1-Radzinski; 2-Gerba; 3-de Guzman.

FIFA rankings: It's been a while since I devoted any attention at all to the FIFA rankings. In the latest edition, Canada has fallen to 90th overall, and 9th in CONCACAF. 8 months ago I was arguing that Canada's relatively high ranking (4th or 5th in CONCACAF) was part of the reason that their qualifying group was a Group of Death, in addition to the strong positions of Mexico, Honduras, and Jamaica. Now, I have a hard time disputing Canada's placing.

Sure, we'd probably win a tournament with T&T, Cuba, and Panama (currently 6th to 8th in the region) based on quality, but we haven't done anything on the pitch to merit a good reputation.

CONCACAF:
FIFA : CONCACAF : Country : Points
22 1 USA 853
26 2 Mexico 811
40 3 Honduras 689
53 4 Costa Rica 578
65 5 Jamaica 487
77 6 Trinidad and Tobago 459
79 7 Cuba 439
88 8 Panama 413
90 9 Canada 410
102 10 Haiti 357
Hmm.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

2008 youtube match "highlights"

Another stroll down memory lane . . .


2008.01.30: MARTINIQUE - CANADA (win, 0:1) - no footage

2008.03.26: ESTONIA - CANADA (loss, 0:2)


CAUTION: Extreme Nickelback warning!

2008.05.31: CANADA - BRAZIL (loss, 2:3)


2008.06.04: CANADA - PANAMA (draw, 2:2) - no footage

2008.06.15: ST. VINCENT - CANADA (win, 0:3) - no footage

2008.06.20: CANADA - ST. VINCENT (win, 4:1)



This one is extremely poor quality and shows only one goal (as far as I can tell) but is the only video of the match I can find that actually shows the match instead of the fans.

2008.08.20: CANADA - JAMAICA (draw, 1:1)


2008.09.06: CANADA - HONDURAS (loss, 1:2)


2008.09.10: MEXICO - CANADA (loss, 1:2)


2008.10.11: HONDURAS - CANADA (loss, 1:3)


2008.10.15: CANADA - MEXICO (draw, 2:2)


2008.11.18: JAMAICA - CANADA (loss, 0:3)


Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

2008: The Year That Was - July, August, and September

See also:
(if you're into the self-inflicted wound thing)


JULY

2008.07.04 - The Voyageurs Cup: With no matches between St. Vincent and Jamaica at the end of August, July was much like the calm before the shitstorm that was the semi-final round of World Cup qualifiers. This gave me time to turn my attention to other things, including the Voyageurs Cup / Nutrilite Canadian Championships, which was in mid-stream by this point. Included in this post is a deft Home Improvement analogy to explain the relative place of Canada's pro clubs which ultimately falls apart since Montreal (Taran Noah Smith, youngest brother and child star freakshow) ends up winning the whole thing.

2008.07.05 - VCup Canadian Content: My first foray into becoming the soccer version of the CRTC began with this humble look at how many Canadian players were seeing the pitch in the tournament. Later that month followed an update post, and a final accounting, though when I went back a few months later to compile the full season totals, I think I ended up with a different set of numbers.

2008.07.16 - WCQ Opponent Preview: Jamaica: I also used this downtime to do a little archival research and learn a bit about our WCQ opponents and historical head-to-head records. This data (I posted on Honduras and Mexico as well) likely made me a little more hopeful than I should have been.

AUGUST

2008.08.04 - Canada all-time in WCQ: The numbers speak for themselves. Read them and weep.

2008.08.06 - MNT adopt-a-player: An admission of man-love for the mullet and a Luciano Borsato reference in the same post. A must read. And as much as WCQ sucked, I was happy with my choice of Klukowski for adoption.

The man, the mullet, the legend.

2008.08.09 - Liveblogging the ladies: Canada vs China: The women's olympic tournament provided a nice diversion in the leadup to the Jamaica match. The hours sucked, and so too did the commentary at times, but I powered through. (Other olympic liveblogs included: Canada vs Sweden, and Canada vs USA)

The face of summer was a lot nicer before the semi-final round began

2008.08.20 - Canada vs Jamaica Live Blog Full Game: Mercifully, in retrospect, I was in semi-wilderness and away from a TV for the days preceding and following the match. I handed off blogging duties to the able Headhunting Canuck who pitched in one of the more widely read posts this blog has seen. Upon my return, I chipped in a tape delayed live blog, which kind of set the tone for all of WCQ.

SEPTEMBER

2008.09.06 - Canada-Honduras live blog: I started the month with a week of anticipation leading up to the clash in Montreal with Honduras. This is where it went from bad to worse, and the fact I didn't update between the 2-1 goal and the end of the match shows how stressed, frustrated, and likely drunk I was.

2008.09.07 - Taking stock: Contemplating life, Canada national team supporter misery, and seeing the end.

2008.09.08 - The Mike Report: The only thing to keep my spirits up was to pat myself on the back for choosing Klukowski, one of only a few players to bring some semblance of an 'A' game. The others are graded more harshly.

2008.09.10 - Canada vs Mexico LiveBlog: Headhunting Canuck held the reins on this one, and did a fine job. Canada did not. Goodbye South Africa.

2008.09.11 - Qualification so far: In a word, putrid shit. Or two words.

2008.09.30 - Stir crazy: Supporting Canada makes you crazy, and this post is evidence. I pimped John Limniatis to replace Dale Mitchell, and suggested Will Johnson and Sandro Grande should be called up (which eventually happened for the Jamaica game in Kingstown).



This has honestly been a painful exercise. I've got the week off (actually 3), and have been enjoying the warm fuzzies that are the episodes of Friday Night Lights season 3, so reliving this past summer has come as a bit of a shock to the system.

Monday, December 15, 2008

De Guzman to TFC?

Umm, no. It's not going to happen.

One writer, though, must be smoking the crack, because he seems to think it is a possiblity:

Sources say another Canadian international, Julian de Guzman, has been Mo's long-time target and the club is holding hope that something can be done to bring another Scarborough native home.

De Guzman, 27, is out of his contract at the end of the season and can begin negotiations with other clubs in the New Year. He repeatedly has reiterated his preference to stay in La Liga with Deportivo de La Coruna. But de Guzman's injury-riddled start to the season may have made the crafty midfielder more expendable, considering contract talks are at a standstill.

Aside from TFC, there's been other interest in de Guzman across Europe, including the English Premiership. But de Guzman needs to ask himself, at this point of his career: What is the right move?

If de Guzman believes he's better off being a major player on one of England's or Europe's middle of the pack clubs, then so be it. On the flip side, returning home to become one of the faces of Canadian soccer may be a profitable and worthwhile venture.

De Guzman and De Rosario have instant marketing potential and also can have a long-term impact on the legacy of soccer in this country. Leading the way as a star player with a Canadian club in an ever-improving brand of MLS soccer is an option now more than ever.

Aside from the off-field possibilities, the on-field lineup options are even more intriguing.

DYNAMIC DUO

Ideally, de Guzman and Amado Guevera would run the show from the middle of the pitch. That would allow Carl Robinson to move back to central defence; a problem spot for TFC.

Paired with a proper sweeper, someone who's an experienced ball-winner and has the ability to keep the side organized at the back, Robinson could be extremely effective.

And a midfield featuring De Rosario, de Guzman, Guevara, and Rohan Ricketts from left to right would be among the most talented, if not the most talented in MLS.

Step 1 is done with D-Ro. Let the day dreaming begin with Step 2.

The bolded sentence nearly made me spit out my coffee. Excuse the imperfect analogy, but this is like saying to, say, Mats Sundin in his prime that he should play for his hometown Swedish club instead of being the star of an NHL team so that he can become the face of hockey in Sweden.

Quite frankly, the sort of marketing opportunities that Wheeler (the author) is dangling in front of de Guzman do not exist for Canadian soccer players plying their trade in Canada. De Guzman will play more and better soccer, earn more money, and have more opportunities to improve his game if he stays in Europe, either in Spain (option #1), England, Germany, or anywhere else.

Keep dreaming, Toronto fans.


. . . and Sharman confirms the obvious, getting it right from the horse's mouth: Julian won't be playing for TFC anytime soon.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Canadian 2008 Player of the Year Nominees

The Canadian Soccer Association has released their list of nominees for 2008's Fan's Choice and 2008 adidas Canadian player of the year awards. The shortlists are the same for each, but fans are informed that their vote is merely part of a popularity contest, while the media will be sure to vote for players based on performance! Condescend much?
Fans can select any Canadian player. The list of senior nominees is the same as the list for the 2008 adidas Canadian Players of the Year award. Unlike the player of the year vote (based on performance, voted by coaches and media), the CanadaSoccer.com Fans’ Choices is based on popularity. Each fan can make one male selection and one female selection.
As always, the CSA is on the cutting edge when it comes to making use of internet technology:
Fans can email their Fans’ Choices to rscott@soccercan.ca with the title ’CanadaSoccer.com Fans’ Choices’ in the subject line.
The following are the male nominees:
Male Nominees from the Men’s national team / Nominés de l’équipe nationale masculine senior
- Julian de Guzman – Scarborough, ON
- Dwayne De Rosario – Scarborough, ON
- Rob Friend – Rosetown, SK
- Ali Gerba – Montréal, QC
- Atiba Hutchinson – North York, ON
- Michael Klukowski – Oshawa, ON
- Paul Stalteri – Etobicoke, ON
- Tomasz Radzinski – Toronto, ON
- Adrian Serioux – Scarborough, ON
- other selection
My own view is that this award should recognize performance with the national teams as well as the player's club side. This complicates things as certain players were key components of a successful club season but failed to perform to the same level with Canada (I'm looking at you Rob Friend), some were brilliant for Canada but struggled to find a regular club place (Ali G), and still others had solid but unspectactular campaigns on both fronts (Serioux, Hutchinson). Further complicating things is that the award is for the calendar year 2008, so for European based players one must consider halves of two distinct seasons.

A quick rundown, including 2008 NT stats, should serve as a refresher before you all dutifully fire off your emails, remembering to base your vote on popularity and not performance.

Here we go:

Player Date Opponent Competition Role Mins G YC RC
Julian de Guzman 03/26/08 Estonia Friendly starter 90 0 1 0

05/31/08 Brazil Friendly starter 78 1 0 0

06/15/08 St. V & G WCQ starter 70 0 0 0

06/20/08 St. V & G WCQ starter 67 0 1 0

08/20/08 Jamaica WCQ starter 90 1 0 0

09/06/08 Honduras WCQ starter 90 0 0 0

09/10/08 Mexico WCQ starter 90 0 0 0
Totals



575 2 2 0

I have difficulty imagining a scenario where Julian de Guzman does not win the award. He is the most popular player and by far the most successful professionally. His MVP 2007-08 season with Deportivo needs to be recognized. His NT play was excellent for his first 5 matches of '08, but not up to his usual standard for the last two.

Player Date Opponent Competition Role Mins G YC RC
Dwayne de Rosario 01/30/08 Martinique Friendly starter 90 1 0 0

03/26/08 Estonia Friendly starter 90 0 0 0

05/31/08 Brazil Friendly starter 80 0 0 0

06/15/08 St. V & G WCQ starter 90 0 0 0

06/20/08 St. V & G WCQ starter 90 2 0 0

08/20/08 Jamaica WCQ starter 90 0 1 0

09/06/08 Honduras WCQ starter 90 0 0 0

09/10/08 Mexico WCQ starter 90 0 1 0
Totals



710 3 2 0

Dwayne De Rosario has been excellent in the past and won at least one of the awards last year. But both his NT and club play with Houston Dynamo have declined since 2007. He won't get my vote.

Player Date Opponent Competition Role Mins G YC RC
Ali Gerba 03/26/08 Estonia Friendly starter 45 0 0 0

06/04/08 Panama Friendly sub 45 0 0 0

06/15/08 St. V & G WCQ sub 83 2 0 0

06/20/08 St. V & G WCQ starter 90 2 0 0

08/20/08 Jamaica WCQ sub 12 0 0 0

09/06/08 Honduras WCQ starter 64 0 0 0

09/10/08 Mexico WCQ sub 20 1 0 0

10/11/08 Honduras WCQ starter 45 0 0 0

10/15/08 Mexico WCQ starter 90 1 0 0
Totals



494 6 0 0

Ali Gerba was arguably the most impressive national teamer in 2008, but couldn't hold down a regular job for much of the year.

Player Date Opponent Competition Role Mins G YC RC
Rob Friend 03/26/08 Estonia Friendly sub 45 0 0 0

05/31/08 Brazil Friendly starter 90 1 0 0

06/04/08 Panama Friendly starter 45 0 0 0

06/15/08 St. V & G WCQ starter 7 0 0 0

08/20/08 Jamaica WCQ starter 78 0 0 0

09/06/08 Honduras WCQ sub 26 0 0 0

09/10/08 Mexico WCQ starter 81 0 0 0

10/11/08 Honduras WCQ sub 45 0 0 0
Totals



417 1 0 0

In many ways, Rob Friend was the anti-Gerba. He was one of the top strikers in the 2. Bundesliga in 07-08, and has continued to score as his Moenchengladbach made the jump to the 1. Bundesliga (if only they could defend). However, apart from his boner-inducing goal against Brazil, he didn't do a whole lot for Mitchell's Eleven.

Player Date Opponent Competition Role Mins G YC RC
Atiba Hutchinson 03/26/08 Estonia Friendly starter 73 0 0 0

05/31/08 Brazil Friendly starter 82 0 0 0

06/04/08 Panama Friendly starter 90 0 0 0

06/15/08 St. V & G WCQ starter 90 0 0 0

06/20/08 St. V & G WCQ starter 90 0 0 0

08/20/08 Jamaica WCQ starter 90 0 1 0

09/06/08 Honduras WCQ starter 90 0 0 0

09/10/08 Mexico WCQ starter 90 0 0 0

10/11/08 Honduras WCQ starter 90 0 0 0
Totals



785 0 1 0

Atiba Hutchinson has been a consistent performer for FC Copenhagen in league and UEFA Cup play, and in my view was one of the underrated performers in qualifying. Mitchell used him in a role that doesn't garner a lot of attention, which probably works against him.

Player Date Opponent Competition Role Mins G YC RC
Michael Klukowski 03/26/08 Estonia Friendly starter 90 0 0 0

05/31/08 Brazil Friendly starter 90 0 0 0

06/04/08 Panama Friendly starter 90 0 0 0

06/15/08 St. V & G WCQ starter 90 0 0 0

06/20/08 St. V & G WCQ starter 45 0 0 0

08/20/08 Jamaica WCQ starter 90 0 0 0

09/06/08 Honduras WCQ starter 90 0 0 0

09/10/08 Mexico WCQ starter 90 0 1 0

10/11/08 Honduras WCQ starter 90 0 0 0

10/15/08 Mexico WCQ starter 90 0 1 0
Totals



855 0 2 0

Mike Klukowski is still my boy. And he was one of the top performers of WCQ, though like Hutch, in an understated role. His Club Brugge continue to be the top club in Belgium, and he's an important of that league success as well as their UEFA Cup push.

Player Date Opponent Competition Role Mins G YC RC
Paul Stalteri 03/26/08 Estonia Friendly starter 90 0 0 0

05/31/08 Brazil Friendly starter 90 0 0 0

06/04/08 Panama Friendly starter 65 0 0 0

06/15/08 St. V & G WCQ starter 90 0 0 0

06/20/08 St. V & G WCQ starter 90 0 0 0

08/20/08 Jamaica WCQ starter 90 0 0 0

09/06/08 Honduras WCQ starter 90 0 0 0

09/10/08 Mexico WCQ starter 90 0 0 0

10/11/08 Honduras WCQ starter 90 0 0 0

10/15/08 Mexico WCQ starter 90 0 1 0

11/19/08 Jamaica WCQ starter 65 0 0 0
Totals



940 0 1 0

If there was an award for playing the most for Canada in 2008, Paul Stalteri would win it. And he would also win any award for playing the least for his club. But he's not really in the conversation when it comes to who played best in 2008.

Player Date Opponent Competition Role Mins G YC RC
Tomasz Radzinski 03/26/08 Estonia Friendly starter 73 0 0 0

05/31/08 Brazil Friendly starter 74 0 0 0

06/04/08 Panama Friendly starter 9 0 0 0

06/15/08 St. V & G WCQ starter 75 0 0 0

06/20/08 St. V & G WCQ starter 90 0 0 0

08/20/08 Jamaica WCQ starter 90 0 0 0

09/06/08 Honduras WCQ starter 22 0 0 0

10/11/08 Honduras WCQ starter 90 0 0 0

10/15/08 Mexico WCQ starter 90 1 1 0
Totals



613 1 1 0

Tomasz Radzinski may have played his last match for Canada, a virtuoso performance against Mexico in Edmonton. Club-wise, he is scoring regularly in 2nd division Belgium, a move that looks like the first step towards retirement.

Player Date Opponent Competition Role Mins G YC RC
Adrian Serioux 01/30/08 Martinique Friendly starter 90 0 0 0

05/31/08 Brazil Friendly starter 90 0 0 0

06/04/08 Panama Friendly starter 45 0 0 0

06/15/08 St. V & G WCQ starter 90 0 0 0

06/20/08 St. V & G WCQ starter 90 0 0 0

08/20/08 Jamaica WCQ starter 90 0 1 0

09/06/08 Honduras WCQ starter 90 1 0 0

09/10/08 Mexico WCQ starter 90 0 1 0

10/15/08 Mexico WCQ starter 90 0 0 0
Totals



675 1 2 0

I really liked Adrian Serioux's work for Canada in 2008. I didn't see much of FC Dallas this year, but I know he was an important cog in that machine as well.



Who will win . . . Julian de Guzman is at the height of his popularity right now, and was in the discussion for the recently awarded Lou Marsh prize for best Canadian athlete. He'll win, and likely deservedly so.

Who gets my vote . . . I'm a bit conflicted here, and not entirely convinced that I should be voting for a guy playing in the English 3rd tier, but Ali Gerba was the best and most consistent performer for Canada and only really offensive threat (you might include Radzinski here as well).

Ali G: OOT's choice for 2008 Man of the Year

As for the fairer sex, the nominees are:
Female Nominees from the Winners – Women’s national team – presented by Teck / Nominées de l’équipe feminine Winners, présentée par Teck
- Candace Chapman – Ajax, ON
- Martina Franko – Squamish, BC
- Kara Lang – Oakville, ON
- Diana Matheson – Oakville, ON
- Erin McLeod – Edmonton, AB
- Sophie Schmidt – Abbotsford, BC
- Christine Sinclair – Burnaby, BC
- Melissa Tancredi – Ancaster, ON
- Rhian Wilkinson – Baie d’Urfe, QC
- other selection
I had to comb over some Olympic liveblogs, and concluded that Sinclair was probably best. Since this is supposed to be a popularity contest, Kara Lang could win. My search referral stats ('kara lang hot', etc.) can attest to her appeal among a certain segment of fans.

This kind of thing floats some boats, apparently.


* * * * *


I'll be watching AZ - Feyenoord this afternoon. The Rotterdam side is in the bottom half of the table right now, and I can't think of a better place for them. AZ need points to stayalone on top of the Eredivisie after Ajax knocked off a surprise NAC Breda team 3-0 on Friday [20:45 central European time; P2P streams]