Thursday, January 31, 2008

Martinique - Canada result

Nobody ever said being a Canadian soccer fan is easy. But when the team plays against the poor kids of the soccer world, following the team becomes that much harder.

Here are some of the methods we used to try to track last night's friendly:
  • Kept a close eye on livescore. The usually comprehensive, though often inaccurate, site didn't provide a score until an hour after the match was over.
  • Listening to Martinique Radio. For an island of about 400,000, this website, part of the Radio France Outremer network, is quite impressive. We were even fooled for a minute, listening to a 'Radio Journal' which previewed the match, unfortunately this wasn't a live stream, but sort of like a news podcast. On the live radio, we heard more world music and learned more about the ethnoreligious situation in the South Caribbean than we ever cared to know.
  • Lurked over at the Voyageurs board. Except due to a server outage taking down the main site, the whole gang climbed into the way-back machine and took their show to the old, ugly, ad-infested version. Very nostalgic, and all that.
  • Played games with the CSA site. Keyed in the address format for the PDF tracker, but that didn't appear until after the match. Another dynamic page, with the names and positions of all the players, was available, but never changed.
It's a day later, and here's what we know:

For the first time in a 90-minute match against Martinique, Canada won. This may not sound all that impressive, and perhaps it isn't, but the squad Canada sent out there was rather suspect. The final score was 1-0, with the goal by Dwayne De Rosario.

Here are the 4 sentences the CSA has to say about it so far:
Canada’s men’s national team defeated Martinique tonight in its first international game of the 2008 season. The Canucks won 1:0 on the strength of Dwayne De Rosario goal in the 25th minute.

The Canadian squad has been training together in Florida since 20 January and arrived in Fort-au-France, Martinique by boat on Monday. The Thursday night match was played at the Stade Louis-Achille.
From the tracker, we also know the starting lineup and the subs, though we don't know which players were replaced. In a more readable format, here those are:

Starters
# Player
1 Pat Onstad
2 Tyler Rosenlund
3 Paris Nakajima-Farran
4 Adrian Cann
5 Marco Reda
6 Adrian Serioux
10 Martin Nash
11 Charles Gbeke
13 Chris Pozniak
14 Dwayne De Rosario
17 Dave Simpson



Substitutes
# Player Entered
8 Kevin Harmse 53
7 Issey Nakajima-Farran 57
15 Chris Williams 57
12 Antonio Ribeiro 74
16 Dejan Jakovic 80

All the players, besides the two extra 'keepers (Wagenaar and Sutton) saw the pitch for at least 10 minutes. It's hard to guess at a formation without knowing the preferred positions of players like Rosenlund and Paris Nakajima-Farran, but we'll hazard an educated guess. We are reliably informed that De Rosario and Dave Simpson occupied the wings.

Onstad

Rosenlund - Cann - Reda - Pozniak

Serioux

Williams - Nash - Nakajima-Farran - De Rosario

Gbeke


With that information about the wingers (which we admit, maybe isn't that reliable), there don't seem to be any forwards besides Gbeke, so a 4-5-1 seems to make sense. Maybe Paris didn't start in central midfield, which would be a tall order for an 18 year old, and maybe Rosenlund isn't a right back. But we won't know for a while, possibly ever, where they played in this match.

A slightly longer Martinique perspective on the match is available:

La sélection de Martinique de football rate son retour à la compétition en s'inclinant 1 but à 0 face à la sélection du Canada.

Un match amical qui a pourtant permis à nos footballeurs de se remettre quelque peu dans le bain, mais les hommes Guy-Michel Nisas ont peut-être manqué de conviction et de coordination dans leur technique.

Le but canadien a été inscrit dès les premières minutes de jeu et a certainement touché au moral des martiniquais qui revenaient après plusieurs mois sans rencontres officieles.

We won't translate that for you, because if you're Canadian, you should know French.

It should be noted that De Rosario's goal, his 13th for Canada, places him one goal closer to the all-time leaders, Coach Dale Mitchell and John Catliff.

If we hear more, we'll make sure to pass it along.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Hey Nostrodamus!

Let us look into the future, all the way to the year 200--- wait . . .

"Making predictions is for losers", so the saying goes. At least it should. It's hard to feel any differently during the two week build-up to the Superbowl, when sportswriters with nothing better to do make predictions down to the most minute detail, and seem actually to think that these might affect the outcome of the game. But they won't. Patriots will still cruise.

But there is a far more important match this week. The Canada - Martinique friendly at Stade Louis-Achille kicks off tomorrow at 20:00 (the time zone isn't given, but let's assume ET).
The best picture we could find of Stade Louis Achille ... seriously

Martinique are shite, but Canada's lineup is nothing to write home (or blog?) about. Canada should score, but the big questions are who and how often.

Have a look again at the lineup. Where are the goals going to come from? Friend is staying home, mind, and he represents Canada's biggest threat from the forward position. The other players listed at the forward position (Charles Gbeke and Dave Simpson) are relative unknowns. Issey Nakajima-Farran has never scored for Canada, but he is the second leading scorer with his club side.

But the man we'd be watching (if that were possible for this match) is Dwayne de Rosario. DDR is already the leading goal-getter among active Canadian players, and beating up on a Caribbean side would be a good way to get closer to Catliff and Mitchell on the all-time list.

Here's a starting lineup we could see, but with such a mish-mash of players, anything is possible:

Onstad

Pozniak - Serioux - Reda - Williams

I. Nakajima-Farran - Nash - Harmse - De Rosario

Gbeke - Simpson

Nash could occupy the holding role in front of the back 4 like at the Gold Cup, and Mitchell mind find a way to fold this 4-4-2 into a 4-3-3 or 4-5-1. Sadly, we know so little about players like Williams, Jakovic, Rosenlund, and Paris that it is hard to know where (or what side) to slot them in. Hopefully Dale Mitchell has a better idea.

Prediction: Canada 3 - 1 Martinique

Goals: De Rosario (x2), Gbeke, some French colonial outpost loser

Post your own predictions in the comments, and impress your friends!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Related developments?

CONCACAF launches new club championship:
The CONCACAF Champions League will feature four teams each from Mexico's First Division and USA's Major League Soccer; three Caribbean sides; two from Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama; and one coming from Canada, Belize, and Nicaragua.
Future of Voyageurs Cup

Yes, it's a short one today. But very interesting things are afoot.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Island swapping

Although it must be frustrating most of the time to be a Canadian national teamer, there are times where things are pretty darn OK. Take today for instance. The team, training in Florida, had their Caribbean vacation plans cancelled as the St. Lucia friendly fell through. But instead of heading home to more northern climes in Europe or North America, the boys will simply be hopping to a different island paradise.

From the CSA:

Canada to face Martinique on 30 January

Canada's men's national team announced today that it will face Martinique in an international friendly match on 30 January at the Stade Louis-Achille in Fort-de-France, Martinique. The match was set after Canada learned its 2 February friendly with St. Lucia was cancelled.

Canada's men's national team is currently holding its first training camp of the 2008 season in Fort Lauderdale, FL. The team will fly to Fort-de-France on Monday before playing Martinique at 20.00 on Wednesday night.

The 30 January match will be the third meeting between the two senior men's teams. Canada won 2:1 on penalty kicks over Martinique at the 2002 CONCACAF Gold Cup and drew 1:1 with Martinique at the 1993 CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Canada's head coach Dale Mitchell is currently assessing talent for the upcoming run to the FIFA World Cup South Africa 2010. While CONCACAF’s first phase of 2010 World Cup Qualification begins in February, Canada will wait until the second phase to play their first game on 15 June in Saint Vincent & the Grenadines.

Of note, the match moves up from Saturday to Wednesday, and the opponent is Martinique.

Martinique, you ask? You can't find them in the FIFA rankings? That's because these French colonial leftovers aren't really a country, and as such aren't considered official. So that takes us off the hook if Canada shits the bed, at least rankings-wise.

As we see it, there are two main advantages to playing Martinique over St. Lucia:
  1. They don't suck royally. St. Lucia are 181st in FIFA's rankings. Martinique aren't ranked by FIFA, but the bitchingly awesome ELO ratings have them pegged at 110. (Canada ranks 55th by this system, just one place off from their FIFA standing). Martinique should provide Canada a stiffer test than their Caribbean brethren.
  2. There's some history. Martinique has played Canada twice, and played tough both times. As the article mentions above, Canada faced Martinique twice in the Gold Cup (1993, 2002), and both ended in draws (well, the 2002 team lost to Canada in PKs, but who's counting?!) With the ragtag squad Canada has together for this match, the game will likely be a close one. And that ragtag bunch just got ragtaggier (see below)
So we'll be glued to our computer screens this coming Wednesday, searching for whichever third world website will give us news about this match. Surely one of the Voyageurs will find something.


From the if-it-sounds-too-good-to-be-true-then-it-probably-is department, news that is not nearly as awesome. Rob Friend, suspended for the first 2. Bundesliga match of the season, has decided to stay in Germany anyway (well, he's in Spain right now, so I don't blame him) instead of cross the pond to play a minnow. Instead of stretching this aquatic metaphor any further, we'll give you the straight dope, auf Deutsch:
Friend bleibt in Gladbach

Zwei Länderspiele stehen für die kanadische Nationalmannschaft Anfang Februar auf dem Programm. Rob Friend, der eigentlich nominiert war, bleibt aber in Mönchengladbach, um Borussia zur Verfügung zu stehen.

Am 2. und 6. Februar haben die Kanadier, die derzeit in einem Trainingslager in Florida sind, Testspiele in St. Lucia und in Guatemala. Gestern telefonierte Rob Friend mit dem kanadischen Nationaltrainer Dale Mitchell, und bat ihn, auf seine Dienste zu verzichten. "Ich habe ihm die Situation hier bei Borussia erklärt. Ich bin zwar im ersten Spiel gegen Kaiserslautern gesperrt, möchte aber trotzdem lieber in Gladbach bleiben, um mich gut auf die danach kommenden Spiele vorbereiten zu können", so Rob.

Beim nächsten Länderspiel werden die Kanadier aber nicht mehr auf Borussias Torjäger verzichten. Diese Partie findet aber in Europa statt, am 26. März in Estland, und das an einem Termin, an dem in der 2. Liga ohnehin Länderspielpause ist.
Don't bother thinking too hard on this. The Friendly Giant is staying in Moenchengladbach to support the team, etc. He talked to Mitch and explained that he wants to be ready for the following match, after his suspension. Also says he'll have no excuse to miss the next one for Canada, because it's in Europe. The article predates the St. Lucia announcement, so that's nothing to get excited about. What is interesting is that the article suggests Friend would be missing two internationals, the second against Guatemala on February 6th. This a rumour that has popped up elsewhere, but we've yet to hear anything to confirm it. To be honest, it's a little frightening to imagine Tyler, Dejan, Paris and the boys playing a half-decent, urine-flinging side like the Guats.

Speaking of which, a lot of you seem to want to more about Dejan Jakovic. We do too. For now all we know is that more visitors are drawn to this site by his name than any other keyword. We can offer you an update on Paris Nakajima-Farran, another popular search string. He's listed in the last post as a defender (thanks, CSA), but his club has him listed as 'Midtbane'. Not being experts in Danish, we'll leave you to decide that one for yourselves.

(Most esoteric search string: some dude from India searching for 'videos of doing poty'. Try the search yourself. This blog is the 7th result. Perhaps he was thinking of peyote).

Later that day . . . We are loath to make a new post just for one snippet of news, in Danish. Here it is. Andrew Ornoch, who has one cap for Canada (an emergency callup for the Hungary friendly a few years ago, basically because he happened to play in town) has signed with Esbjerg fB in Denmark.
The strange part of the article is the last paragraph, which mentions Vancouver Whitecaps defender and Martinique friendly callup Adrian Cann:
Canadieren har under opholdet i Esbjerg, hvor han har haft selskab af forsvarsspilleren Adrian Cann, allerede markeret sig som et åbent, udadvendt og ydmygt menneske, der er taknemlig for at få lov til at forsøge at bruge EfB som springbræt til en større europæisk klub.
A little help?

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Weekend Links: St. Lucia Edition

You've heard it said that you should 'know thine enemy'. Old English personal pronouns notwithstanding, we catch the drift. From around the web, some info you should, or shouldn't know, about St. Lucia and the players called for the upcoming friendly.
There's the map. All the rest of the details about this little slice of Caribbean paradise are in the CIA World Factbook. The island is home to some 170,000 residents, larger than Kelowna, BC, but smaller than Barrie, ON.

We all know that the St. Lucia national squad is nothing to get worked up about. Their most illustrious player, judging by the fact that he is the only one to have a Wikipedia entry, is forward Earl Jean, who has played in England and elsewhere, but is currently plying his trade in Trinidad.


Now, for our Canadian players . . .

Issey Nakajima-Farran's club side, FC Nordsjaelland, is currently running a poll on their main page, with the question: "Hvem bliver FCN topscorer i saesonen 2007/2008?" We're not 100% sure, but dollars to donuts this means "Who will be FCN's topscorer in the 2007/2008 season?". Issey is currently 2nd on the team with 5 goals, 2 behind the leader, and predictably perhaps, he sits 2nd in the poll. We don't condone ballot stuffing, but we really haven't anything against it either. Here are the results.

We're sure you were just as surprised as we were by Rob Friend's inclusion in the squad, given that his side, Borussia Moenchengladbach, play on the same weekend. It explains here (it's German, but trust us) that he's suspended on accumulated yellows, and wouldn't be able to participate. He trades a training camp in southern Spain for a training camp in Florida and a trip to St. Lucia.

Dejan Jakovic's profile on the official UAB athletics site. A bit tacky, but after reading it, we know about 100% more about him than we did before.

Two Montreal Impact players (Gbeke, Ribeiro) got the call for the St. Lucia friendly. The rest of the team is off to Italy for pre-season training, and that group now includes Adam Braz, back with the team after a year of getting jerked around by Mo Johston with Toronto FC.


Sam over at the Canada World Cup blog recently had the poor taste to offer this reminder of last summer. Needing a perk-up, we found this video that puts a better spin on the Gold Cup tournament.


Perhaps we had expected there to be more going on in the world of Canadian soccer that was deserving of attention. Sadly not. News out of the Canada training camp is sure to be minimal, and television coverage non-existent. Until then, we'll be enjoying other pursuits...

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Roster roundup

News is flying fast and furious out of the CSA offices these days. Player of the year announcements, friendly news, women's stuff, and now finally they've put out the roster for the men's team camp which is to start next week. And on a Saturday, no less!

Here's a look at the 19 players called up:
Pos Name Age Club League
GK Pat Onstad 40 Houston Dynamo MLS
M Martin Nash 32 Vancouver Whitecaps USL
GK Greg Sutton 30 Toronto FC MLS
D Marco Reda 30 unattached
F Charles Gbeke 29 Impact de Montreal USL
M/F Dwayne De Rosario 29 Houston Dynamo MLS
D/M Adrian Serioux 28 FC Dallas MLS
D Adrian Cann 27 Vancouver Whitecaps USL
F Rob Friend 27 Borussia Monchengladbach Germany
M Antonio Ribeiro 27 Impact de Montreal USL
D/M Chris Pozniak 27 San Jose Earthquakes MLS
D/M Chris Williams 26 unattached
F Dave Simpson 25 Sparta Praha Czech Rep.
M Issey Nakajima-Farran 23 FC Nordsjaelland Denmark
D/M Kevin Harmse 23 Los Angeles Galaxy MLS
D/M Dejan Jakovic 22 U of Alabama-Birmingham NCAA
GK Josh Wagenaar 22 unattached*
M Tyler Rosenlund 21 unattached
D Paris Nakajima-Farran 18 Naestved BK Denmark

* - Wagenaar's status is officially 'unattached' but he is likely to be with Toronto FC shortly.

Obviously, we had bad info the other day that Stephen Ademolu would be called, but we were right about Paris Nakajima-Farran.

Dejan Jakovic, who we're sure you've never heard of.

A few general thoughts about the roster:
  • This is a real mixed bag, with invitees ranging from Canada's top players (De Rosario, Friend) to relative unknowns (Paris, Jakovic)
  • 3 keepers on the roster is more than usual, although that is likely more for the purposes of the camp than the friendly with St. Lucia
  • If part of the idea was to take a look at potential U-23 players, Dale Mitchell would have been wise to call more than 4 eligible players (Paris, Wagenaar, Jakovic and Rosenlund).
  • Hopefully for the unattached guys (Rosenlund, Williams, Reda, potentially Jakovic) this is a chance to get noticed and sign with a decent side.
  • We're glad to see Serioux again, excited that Onstad is still interested in being part of the picture, a bit confused that Nash is back, and rather shocked that Friend was called when the rest of the German contingent (Bernier, Simpson, Imhof, and others) stayed in Europe.
This is a fringe group, so the experience factor is pretty minimal. Some more details:

Name Caps
Pat Onstad 51
Dwayne De Rosario 45
Martin Nash 37
Chris Pozniak 20
Rob Friend 13
Adrian Serioux 10
Greg Sutton 10
Issey Nakajima-Farran 8
Marco Reda 6
Kevin Harmse 5
Antonio Ribeiro 1
Chris Williams 1
Josh Wagenaar 1
Adrian Cann 0
Charles Gbeke 0
Dave Simpson 0
Dejan Jakovic 0
Paris Nakajima-Farran 0
Tyler Rosenlund 0
Total 208

The only players in the mix to score for Canada are De Rosario (12), Nash (2), Friend (1), and Reda (1), but surely this total of 16 will swell a bit with the St. Lucia friendly.

As mentioned above, it's a strange mix, and we are interested to see how it plays out. A lot of players who could provide depth for WCQ (Harmse, Pozniak, Sutton, Serioux, Issey), some (very) fringe guys and the youngsters for the U-23 group, will have a chance to show something, but we won't learn a lot about the players that will be lining up against St. Vincent and the Grenadines in June, and for the other important matches later in the year. The Estonia friendly will likely provide us with a clearer picture of what our A lineup under Mitchell will look like.


Issey and Paris Nakajima-Farran could be the first brother act to suit up for Canada since the Lenarduzzis, but it's not the one that we'd really get excited about. Some promising-ish news on the Jonathan De Guzman front:
The father of Jonathan de Guzman, one of Canada's most talented soccer players, says the chaos in the Canadian Soccer Association continues to discourage his son from playing for Canada's national team.

"If the CSA wasn't in such a horrible state, he would've played for Canada by now. I don't know that for a fact, but it's just a strong feeling I have," Bobby de Guzman told Tom Harrington of CBC News.
Now, that doesn't sound all that great. But keep in mind two things: 1) Bobby de Guzman is a bit of a blowhard, and 2) This indicates that Jonathan hasn't ruled out Canada, which previously seemed to be the case.

The CSA situation isn't likely to resolve itself quickly, but we're hopeful.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

POTY, again


This Player of the Year stuff just doesn't end. The CSA award was announced today, and Dwayne de Rosario was the winner.

We've named Julian de Guzman in this space as our pick, so there is no need to break the choice down again. De Rosario deserves to be recognized, not only for leading his team, together with Pat Onstad, to another MLS Cup title, but also for his fine year playing for Canada. He scored 5 times in 9 matches and is no Canada's leading active goal scorer.

But those 5 goals were only 1 less than he managed in over 20 regular season MLS matches, a decidedly underwhelming tally. When we have players in La Liga (De Guzman) and Champions League (Lars Hirschfeld), it should take an extraordinary MLS season to outshine them. De Rosario was excellent in the playoffs, but his regular season campaign was very ordinary.

See the stats for yourself, and compare 2007 with previous seasons.

It's a busy time, with no time for a comprehensive analysis. But a couple of others seem to have the right idea.


Other award winners include:

Christine Sinclair (women)
Asmir Begovic (U-20)
Sophie Schmidt (women's U-20)
Olivier Lacoste-Lebuis (U-17)
Monica Lam-Feist (women's U-17)


Also, confirmation today of the St. Lucia and Estonia friendlies and the January camp from the CSA. Still no roster for the camp, though it sounds like a rag-tag bunch will be brought together, with certain players being eyed for the U-23 Olympic qualifying team:
'The January training camp is largely about working with players who are in their off season,' says head coach Dale Mitchell. 'Ultimately, we are looking to see who amongst the group could play a part in the qualifying process of our senior men or Olympic team during 2008.'

The Canadian training camp in Florida will feature mostly players from North American-based clubs. There will also be a few players from European clubs in off-season breaks. The group will feature a mix of veterans and young stars, perhaps even a couple of players who will be eligible for Canada’s entry in the CONCACAF U-23 Championship this March.
Also no word on a possible friendly on Febuary 6th, but we have our fingers crossed. Players called, according to other sources, include Stephen Ademolu (Tromso IL, Norway) and Paris Nakajima-Farran (Naestved BK, Denmark).

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

New rankings, same as the old rankings

Well, not quite.

The first of FIFA rankings in the New Year are out, and not a lot has changed since the end of 2007. That's no big surprise, given that not a lot of matches were played in December.

Canada drops one spot to number 56, and maintains its fourth place standing among CONCACAF countries. Here's the rest:

151Mexico Mexico9820Equal0
202USA USA876-1Down0
543Honduras Honduras578-1Down0
564Canada Canada576-1Down0
645Panama Panama4943Up7
696Costa Rica Costa Rica4671Up1
717Cuba Cuba4450Equal-8
738Haiti Haiti438-4Down-29
789Trinidad and Tobago Trinidad and Tobago4113Up5
9810Jamaica Jamaica345-1Down-3
10511Guatemala Guatemala3231Up-1
12912Guyana Guyana210-1Down-11
13013St. Vincent and the Grenadines St. Vincent and the Grenadines209-29Down-132
13514El Salvador El Salvador188-1Down0
14215Barbados Barbados159-14Down-62
14716Bermuda Bermuda1340Equal-6
15117St. Kitts and Nevis St. Kitts and Nevis1249Up27
15218Suriname Suriname1181Up2
15619Antigua and Barbuda Antigua and Barbuda110-5Down-10
15820Nicaragua Nicaragua963Up0
16421Dominican Republic Dominican Republic832Up0
17422Bahamas Bahamas580Equal0
17623Grenada Grenada450Equal0
17924Turks and Caicos Islands Turks and Caicos Islands322Up0
17925Netherlands Antilles Netherlands Antilles324Up2
18126St. Lucia St. Lucia31-1Down-3
18827Dominica Dominica211Up0
19128Cayman Islands Cayman Islands131Up0
19329British Virgin Islands British Virgin Islands12-1Down-1
19630Puerto Rico Puerto Rico70Equal0
19831Anguilla Anguilla40Equal0
20132Belize Belize00Equal0
20133Aruba Aruba00Equal0
20134US Virgin Islands US Virgin Islands00Equal0
20135Montserrat Montserrat00Equal0

Teams of note: Canada's next friendly opponent, St. Lucia, is going strong at 181. First WCQ foe St. Vincent and Grenadines drops a whole bunch of spots (29!) to 130. Likely semi-final round opponents Mexico, Honduras, and Jamaica remain 1st, 3rd and 10th zonally (15, 54, and 98 overall), which really makes Canada's group look like the group of death.

Assuming we beat St. V&G, of course.