Saturday, May 31, 2008

Brazil Participation: It's a live blog!

* Image shamelessly stolen from a CP preview / Stalteri feature

The time for anticipation has come and gone. It's time for participation. Not ParticipACTION, mind, although the excitement of this match surely has Hal Johnson and Joanne McLeod keeping fit and having fun by going at it like bunnies.

I'll be enjoying the match the only way I know how: by drinking and providing biased, racially insensitive, trivial and occasionally insightful analysis and play-by-play for my legion of anonymous internet fans. Or anybody else who finds my blog (one visitor yesterday came here looking for 'haitians fucking').

The match isn't for hours, but I need to do the legwork now, as I have a wedding to attend to this afternoon. Not my own, or that of anyone I know, but purely a professional engagement. The good: I get paid. The bad: I can't get a headstart on the pre-game drunk that will be needed to take the edge off when Brazil grabs a few early goals.

Here are the deets:


CANADA VS BRAZIL

Qwest Field, Seattle, USA
7:30 pm local / 9:30 pm CT / 10:30 pm ET

No live TV coverage
Streaming options (will update closer to kick-off)


I'll be drinking the surprisingly alright MGD, a brew I had always scorned until I was forced (by lack of choice) into downing a few at a small town bar in Altona. If nothing else, it goes down easy, like Cristiano Ronaldo.

I should mention that Sportsnet will be carrying the match here in Canada, but not until 10 a.m. Sunday morning. As much as I love the Jays (and I do, it's a weakness), it's unconscionable that the network couldn't find a way to get this game onto one of its 6 or 7 thousand digital channels. Not to mention the risk of eternal damnation you'd be taking by skipping church.

We'll catch up later. . .

T minus 1 hour or so: The stream that I have the most faith in is this one. MyP2P has a plethora of options, although most involve installing P2P applications. The trusty CSA fixture page is available, as well as the PDF match tracker, although neither has updated yet.

The local rag found a way of sneaking a mention of this match into a wire service blurb about Adrian Serioux punking out David Beckham, but most of my friends and family, save for the ones I have told, are blissfully unaware of Canada taking on the world's best in soccer.

A reminder to readers new and old that you are welcome to leave your thoughts, whatever they might be, in the comments.

T minus 40 minutes: Lineup for Canada:

Onstad, Hastings, Klukowski, Serioux, Stalteri, Nakajima-Farran, Hutchinson, de Guzman, De Rosario, Friend, Radzinski

I guess the back four (right to left) would be Stalteri, Serioux, Hastings and Klukowski. Hastings and Kluka could flip.

The order the players are listed makes it look like a 4-4-2 with Friend and Radzinski as forwards:

Onstad
Stalteri - Serioux - Hastings - Klukowski
Nakajima-Farran - Hutchinson - de Guzman - De Rosario
Friend - Radzinski

Realistically, we won't be seeing Radz play as an out and out striker. Nsaliwa had better see some playing time, or I'll bust a nut.

Brazil lineup: Julio Cesar, Gilberto, Maicon, Juan, Lucio, Josue, Diego, Julio Baptista, Mineiro, Luis Fabiano, Robinho. Gulp!

The feed is showing Sportscenter in Spanish right now, meaning we're watching ESPN Deportes. A good sign.

T minus 10: They just showed a tale of the tape of sorts, noting Canada's single trip to the World Cup, compared with 18 for Brazil. The feed looks like it should be of decent quality. The picture's a bit grainy, but it doesn't cut in and out, which is key.

Anthems now. A good shot of some Canadian support.

1st minute: We're underway. Canada in all red, Brazil in their yellow shirts and blue shorts.

4th: Nothing too dangerous in the early-going. It's not one-way traffic, but Brazil definitely has the edge so far. It's Hastings in the middle, with Kluka on the left at the back.

I spoke too soon. Robinho abuses Stalteri, then sets up Diego who slots it in. This could be a long night. One beer down already. 1-0 Brazil.

9th: It looks like a 5 man midfield, with Issey and Radz wide, and De Ro, De Guz and Atiba in the middle. The guys just finished a "Maicon Douglas" / "Michael Douglas" conversation.

11th: FUCK YEAH! GOAL FRIEND! Long ball from Klukowski, who has been perfect so far, and Friend outjumped the keeper for the ball. BONERS!

14th: Friend, De Guz and Kluka are nailing it so far. De Rosario is getting less time than he is used to and losing possession too often.

19th: A nice spell of possession for Canada there. De Guzman is playing deep in his own end a lot, but he is needed there. He is so calm on the ball; Spain has been good for him.

It appears that some no good Brazilian punk has kicked Klukowski in the chest. I hope he stays on, he's been great. He has a nice set of wheels to go with his left foot.

22nd: Robinho tries the same trick that worked on Klukowski on the other side, but Mike isn't buying his shit. At the other end, Issey misses on a fucking breakaway!

Minutes later, Radzinski and Friend combine well, resulting with a shot into the side netting by Rob.

28th: There was a brief shot of some Canadians warming up, including Nsaliwa. Then a Brazil corner that Onstad easily claims.

33rd: De Guzman forces a good save after some nice combination play with Friend providing the final ball after some razzle dazzle from De Rosario down the right. Onstad matches with a great save of his own, off Maicon (I think).

36th: I've been pimping Klukowski so far, but he just got skinned. Canada was saved by some swarming defense, and a bad bounce or two. Radzinski has done some nice work in this match, especially defending.

Nakajima-Farran has had two excellent chances to cross from a dangerous position, and hasn't hit the ball more than 2 feet off the ground either time.

42nd: Friend was bossing the top of the 18 as he does in Germany, and sent in Dwayne who had his shot stopped. Canada has some trouble clearing a little later, and Baptista blasts way wide from a dangerous spot.

44th: Luis Fabiano scores on a cross. Onstad got most of it, but it trickled over. FUCK!

On the bright side, Canada has still had more good scoring chances than Brazil. Brazil have been the better team, surely, but Canada could easily have 1 or 2 more in this match.

Robinho just misses from well out in injury time.

2-1 Brazil. At the half. Time to breathe.

My friends could not have chosen a worse time to show up. Who knows, they may not be my friends by tomorrow. I'll try to keep the liveblogging going in the second half, even if it means going hermit on them in my room. (I should point out they have no interest in watching soccer, and are trying to commandeer my computer to watch months-old episodes of The Office.

52nd: I've performed my social duty and I'm back. It's still 2-1. I'm looking into any half time subs. The one half time remark that I wanted to make was that Hutchinson's name wasn't called often in the first half. Not sure if it's the system or he was a little bit off.

Radzinski may be getting on in years, but he still has great wheels. He's been using them to great effect closing down attacks on the wing.

55th: BONER X 2. Goal de Guzman! Friend and a Brazilian defender scrambled the ball, and then Julian absolutely blasts it with his right foot from 25 yards.

Another thing I wanted to mention in my half time thoughts: I know this isn't the best team that Brazil can field, and Canada is surely more up for the match than Brazil, but holy shit. Is this Canada I'm watching?


Company left, and my roommate joined me to watch the game. He was into it enough for me not to bother him by flipping windows constantly. I took note of things at certain moments, and will try to share:

63rd minute: A horrendous backpass from de Guzman is picked up by Robinho who runs around Onstad and slots it in. This is exactly the kind of mistake we made too often in the last qualifying cycle, so lets hope Julian has got it out of his system. I seem to recall Julian misplaying a ball against Estonia in the snow that resulted in a goal, but I won't hold that against him.

Nakajima-Farran made a similalrly dangerous pass about 10 minutes later, but Stalteri got to it.

Brazil made a bunch of subs, as did Canada.

The Canadian subs were:

74: Marcel de Jong for Tomasz Radzinski. I was geeked because as soon as #2 hit the pitch he made a run that ended with a half chance for Canada. The announcers persistently mixed up Nsaliwa and De Jong, even though they shared that the clearly white #2 was from Malawi.

78: Nsaliwa for de Guzman. The terrible giveaway aside, Julian was great. It's nice to see that scoring for Canada wasn't a one time thing (Costa Rica in GC '07). Nsaliwa had a mazy run soon after as he got into the box and shot just wide.

80: Jaime Peters for De Rosario. Peters didn't show much once he came on, though really wasn't given the chance to.

82: Bernier for Hutchinson. Bernier took all set pieces from this point (there were 2 or 3). It is interesting that the whole midfield setup was subbed off except for Nakajima-Farran, who played well, but doesn't have the pedigree of the others.

It ends 3-2. 90 minutes ago I would have been thrilled with the result. But losing by a goal scored like the one Robinho scored is disheartening, even if the opponent is Brazil.


The revelation was Klukowski. While Stalteri, Serioux and Hastings were solid, though with occasional lapses, Klukowski seemed to blunt nearly every attack down his wing, while using his speed to get involved in the office. He hit the delicious long ball that tempted the goalie enough to come off his line and allow Friend to head over him. Maybe it's not fair, but I don't see Brennan winning the job at the left back spot for WCQ.

I'll collect my thoughts and come back later.

Scratch that. I just remembered that I have to be up to perform an airport drop off in less than six hours, so that will be all from me tonight. The evening ends with me comfortably buzzed, and cautiously optimistic about Canada's near future prospects. Even though the match this Wednesday with Panama is a better and more important gauge of Canada's chances in qualifying, this match was exciting and encouraging (and briefly infuriating and demoralizing at the same time).

Allez les rouges!


Much, much later . . .

CBC report: Game Canadian side drops friendly with Brazil.
By normal standards, the comments from readers on this story are surprisingly well informed, although the one reader who called it a 'depleted' Brazil side should take note that the Canadian team, missing guys like Hume, Hirschfeld, McKenna and Brennan (2 surefire starters and 2 key bench players), was equally shorthanded.

I'll try to post a link to a torrent of the match as soon as one becomes available.

torrent: Canada vs Brasil


I'm not sure yet which broadcast (and which language) is recorded here because I haven't finished downloading yet. I assume it's not the English Sportsnet feed but I could be wrong.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Brazil Anticipation #4

Canada is playing Brazil in two days. In any other country in the world, you'd have been bombarded by media stories and your friends would be wetting themselves with excitement. Here? We're pretty sure the game won't even be on TV, though I'll be sure to provide a streaming link closer to game time, likely in Spanish or Portuguese.

Let's start today's anticipatory set with a look at how our neighbours (that's right, Yanks, suck on that 'u') to the south did in their high profile friendly:

England beats U.S., 2-0, in friendly match


Extraneous commas aside, that headline sums it up. If you read closely, you'll see the injured Landon Donovan taking a shit on the performance of his teammates. By all accounts, England was average while the Americans looked far from dangerous.
Beckham working hard? Now I've seen everything!

In fact, if you look at the lineup the U.S. fielded, and compare against Canada's best XI (unfair, maybe, but I won't let that stop me) you could make the case that any gap in quality between the sides is minimal.

In goal... Score one for the Americans. Canada's MLS keepers, Sutton and Onstad, could be described as steady, while Lars Hirschfeld has had a roller-coaster of a European career, but none match the pedigree of Tim Howard, who played against England. The U.S. has other options at this position as well.

Back line... The starters for the U.S. were Pearce, Onyewu, Bocanegra and Cherundolo. If you compare that with Stalteri, Hainault, McKenna and Brennan, it's little more than toss up. None of these players are world-beaters by any stretch.

Midfield... This is where it's really interesting. In a 4-4-2 against England, the Americans trotted out Clint Dempsey, Ricardo Clark, Michael Bradley, and DaMarcus Beasley. Canada doesn't favour the 4-4-2 these days, but imagine a midfield of (from L-R) Dwayne De Rosario, Atiba Hutchinson, Julian de Guzman and Tam Nsaliwa (I'm not sure Tam is a right-sided guy but I had to fit him in there). There is nobody on the American side with the talent of de Guzman, and I rate De Rosario pretty highly as well. One point to Canada.

Forwards... Re-tread is the word I'd use to describe both U.S. forwards from yesterday's match. Josh Wolff and Eddie Johnson have little to offer. This position could look quite different, not only in a few years, but even a few weeks. Donovan, while a pansy, is good, and Altidore is the future. Rob Friend is a beast and I'd rate him ahead of Johnson and Wolff, but the U.S. has more talent here.


It matters not, though, until we qualify for the Hex.


Oh yeah, Brazil! We'll be live blogging the thing, drinking, and otherwise enjoying ourselves. The fact that the CBC is presenting Soccer Day in Canada, but not showing Canada's highest profile friendly in years is a kick in the teeth, but with hockey running into and potentially past the start time, it would be a dangerous proposition anyway.

I'm not much for predictions, but I'll give one now: 3-1 Brazil. Leave your own in the comments. And don't forget Panama coming up on June 3rd. A bonus prediction: 2-0 Canada.

I'll be back Saturday, or sooner if any important news comes up (players dying, earthquake in Seattle, possible TV coverage).


And as a special treat, the first edition of "How you found me": a collection of some of the more interesting search strings that brought you here to this place.

Most people who are pointed this way by the search engines know what they are looking for. Many wanted info about the U23 qualifiers, or more obscure players like the Nakajima-Farran brothers and Dejan Jakovic.

Others ask some pretty honest, fundamental and existential questions:
  • 'what is an oot football' [I'd like to know myself]
  • 'haitians do good in canada?' [I'm not qualified to offer immigration advice]
  • 'how to live in mexico if canadian' [See above]
  • 'canada-guatemala life' [A typo, or an interesting social experiment?]
Some searchers are clearly in need of reference material, and have come to the wrong place:
  • 'edmonton montreal distance' [I can help you out here: to drive it's an even 4000 km]
  • 'distance between us virgin islands and st. lucia' [A bit out of my geography expertise and Google can't help you either]
  • 'bermuda u17 national squad trip to puerto rico' [We love our Concacaf footie, but that's a bit too obscure for my tastes]
  • 'name the mvp ihn 2007-2008 nfl super bowl. what was that super bowl.' [So many things are wrong about this one, but most of all it's the wrong sport]
  • 'updates of igor vrablic' [To be honest, I have no idea where you'll find an answer to this query. A good national teamer once, but not for a while]
A little bit from the North American scene:
  • 'schelotto, dive' [Not so strange, really. I'm just glad to see I'm not the only one that feels this way. Not sure whether this is meant as an imperative, or what]
  • 'kevin harmse fouls trade' [Does Kevin foul trade? Has he traded his fouls?]
  • 'Vancouver Whitecaps beat the Los Angeles Galaxy David Beckham notwithstanding' [A reader looking for a very specific type of match report]
Some requests are incomprehensible or bizarre:
  • 'bitch haiti' [This guy should talk to the 'haitians do good in canada?' guy]
  • 'trinidad chicken foot soup' [It's a real thing]
  • 'soccer boner' [To be fair, I did use that phrase once]
  • 'out of touch video clip (united nations' [Um, what? And close your brackets, please]
  • 'the show that I heard about everytime we touch at had soccer' [Never google drunk]
And the question we all want the answer to:

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Brazil Anticipation #3

MONTREAL IMPACT vs TORONTO FC live blog*

* Not so live, in fact. It's playing at midnight local, and the match has been over for hours already. But as part of my Brazil-ticipation, I'll comment on the action until I wear myself out and have to go to bed.

Of the players in this match, only Greg Sutton has any real chance of playing against Brazil on Saturday, as Jim Brennan has asked to stay with TFC for the weekend.

TFC has had a busy schedule lately, and with international callups on the horizon, it will be interesting to see what kind of lineup they field for this match.

TFC: Greg Sutton, Jim Brennan, Olivier Tebily, Marco Velez, Marvell Wynne, Laurent Robert, Kevin Harmse, Carl Robinson, Rohan Ricketts, Danny Dichio, Jeff Cunningham

(Canadian content: 3 of 11)

Impact: Matt Jordan, Adam Braz, Simon Gatti, Stefano Pesoli, Pato Aguilera, David Testo, Joey Gjertsen, Leonardo Di Lorenzo, Rocco Placentino, Dwight Barnett

(Canadian content: 3 of 11)

3 minutes: The pitch is boner-rific, as always. The stands could be fuller, although Nigel Reed insists there are fans waiting outside.

4: I have to say the Impact's black uniforms and shorts look quite sharp.

5: Since I know now who won, I'm not terribly interested in watching the rest of the match. That was short-lived!

CBC: Toronto edges Montreal in Champions League opener

Reminder: Canada - Brazil on Saturday. Tell your friends!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Brazil Anticipation #2

Pump up music

A match against Brazil is definitely worth a full week of warm up posts. Today's ain't much, and tomorrow's will probably be some grotesque Siamese conjunction of anticipation and blogging of the first match of the Voyageurs Cup tournament (live or otherwise), but I'd be remiss if I didn't take every chance I get to remind people that Canada is playing motherf*&(#Rign Brazil on Saturday.

Part of anticipation is getting jacked up. Maybe it's imprudent to begin with that stage on a Monday when the match isn't until late Saturday, but as long as you hold off on the drinking part you should stay out of trouble at work. When I played youth soccer, I was convinced of the effectiveness of a solid pump-up track. My adrenaline, so I thought, would give me a boost and I'd kick the shins of my opponents harder than ever. The 90s were strange times, and a get that was too smart for Nirvana and Soundgarden looked across the pond to the electronic sounds of The Prodigy. One track in particular, when played on my shitty RCA discman really brought on the rage as I sat in the backseat riding out to some dried out, windswept pitch.

Front 242 - Religion
(Trance U Down mix by the Prodigy) [4:50, m4a]

I can no longer vouch for the awesomeness of this track. But I still prefer dance music to standard jock jams for jacking oneself up (I said up!) for athletic competition. A recent downloading binge led me to a new MSTRKRFT track that accomplishes the same function (and will continue to do so until I overdose by listening to it 15 times before the Brazil game).

And I must say it does sound better, even listened to on a device that cost a third as much and is about one thirtieth the weight of the RCA clunker.

MSTRKRFT - Vuvuvu [3:52, mp3]



Today's preview: Canuck all for taking best shot at Brazil



I doubt any of you in my army of readers share my tastes, so share your own pump up picks in the comments.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Brazil Anticipation #1

As May becomes June, Canada's summer of soccer begins in earnest. The friendly against Brazil in Seattle kicks off a busy month of June, and barring a royal bed-shitting against St. Vincent, the rest of the summer and fall should be chock-full of important international matches.

Here's how the schedule might look:
2008.05.31: Canada vs Brazil in Seattle
2008.06.04: Canada vs Panama in Fort Lauderdale
2008.06.15: Canada vs St. Vincent / Grenadines in Kingstown, St. V&G
2008.06.20: Canada vs St. Vincent / Grenadines in Montreal
I can't find dates for the later, yet to be official, matches, but they include 6 qualifying matches, including 3 home dates, spread between July and October. (If you can point me to the exact dates, I'll be much obliged).

As my anticipation of these matches reaches a fever pitch (not some stupid Jimmy Fallon movie), I like to be reminded of what good soccer looks like. And we have relatively recent evidence of Canada playing well.

This video from last year's Gold Cup, the group stage match against Costa Rica, and Julian de Guzman's coming out party (coming out Canadian and awesome, not gay or Dutch). The game action is compressed into an hour-long clip and is well worth watching again.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Canada roster for Brazil and Panama

With less than 10 days before Canada kicks a ball in anger against Brazil, the roster for that match and the following friendly against Panama (in Miami) has been released.

If you can't be bothered to click through, I've given a helpful summary below:

Pos Name Team League Caps Goals
GK Lars Hirschfeld CFR Cluj Romania 22 0
GK Pat Onstad Houston Dynamo MLS 52 0
GK Greg Sutton Toronto FC MLS 10 0
GK Joshua Wagenaar Lyngby BK** Denmark 1 0
M Patrice Bernier FC Kaiserslautern Germany 28 0
D Jim Brennan Toronto FC MLS 44 6
D Adrian Cann Vancouver Whitecaps USL 1 0
M Julian de Guzman Deportivo la Coruna Spain 27 2
D/M Marcel de Jong Roda JC Netherlands 1 0
M/F Dwayne de Rosario Houston Dynamo MLS 46 13
F Rob Friend Borussia Monchengladbach Germany 15 1
F Ali Gerba FC Ingolstadt Germany 15 5
D Andre Hainault Sparta Praha Czech Rep. 10 0
D Richard Hastings Inverness CT Scotland 45 1
M Atiba Hutchinson FC Copenhagen Denmark 32 2
D Ante Jazic Los Angeles Galaxy MLS 22 0
D Mike Klukowski Club Brugge Belgium 11 0
M Issey Nakajima-Farran FC Nordsjaelland Denmark 10 0
D/M Tam Nsaliwa AEK Athens Greece 11 0
M/F Jaime Peters Ipswich Town England 13 0
M/F Tomasz Radzinski Skoda Xanthi Greece 37 9
D/M Adrian Serioux FC Dallas MLS 11 0
D/M Paul Stalteri Fulham England 63 7

I could engage in some thoughtful discussion about the roster, discuss the notable omissions (Iain Hume, Kevin McKenna) and surprising or disappointing selections (Adrian Cann and Jaime Peters respectively).

I could break down the professional geography of this team, and point out the large Northern European contingent (8 players between Denmark, Germany, and the Benelux countries, and 2 more if you call Josh Simpson (injured) and McKenna (?)). Or the relatively high number of North American based players (6 MLS players and a fill-in from the second-tier USL).

But instead I'll go negative and worry for a bit what a best-case back four of Stalteri - Hainault - Klukowski - Brennan will do against Brazil. (Mitchell is probably shitting his pants about this as we speak). Or worse, imagine a player like Adriano (he's coming, right?) terrorizing Cann or Hastings.

In the article, Mitchell deflects attention away from getting a result against Brazil (and rightly so) and instead on preparing the team for the 2 game series with St. Vincent and Grenadines. But I'm more interested in the Panama friendly, which apparently will take place behind closed doors. Not literally of course, as I assume they'll play out doors. How we do against Panama will give a good indication of this team's chances against similar (although better) teams like Honduras and Jamaica.

The inclusion of Nsaliwa is more or less awesome as his citizenship swapping in order to bag a wife or achieve a more favourable status in European leagues or some such underhanded dealing could have shut him out of the team for good.


** The club status of Wagenaar is listed as 'unattached' in the CSA presser but we know better.


And here's a link to the CBC story -- there's not really anything new there other than mention of a few players in the Brazil camp. This is purely a cynical ploy to get a few clicks from the feature on CBC articles that links to blog posts. Kind of like an electronic circle jerk.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Toronto FC v Columbus Crew live blog


It's Victoria Day long weekend. I should be out, enjoying the beautiful weather, camping and drinking. This weekend, though, I'll be doing my drinking in the city, not elsewhere.

This all means I'll be around to watch another TFC broadcast on CBC. This post will serve as a placeholder until the match gets under way this afternoon.

Some details


TORONTO FC (3-1-2) vs COLUMBUS CREW (6-0-1)
@ BMO Field, Toronto, ON

4 pm ET / 3 pm CT / 2 pm MT / 1 pm PT
CBC / cbcsports.ca
Match previews: CBC | MLS


We're also looking forward to the debut of Stade Saputo on Monday. With SRC broadcasting the match, a second Victoria Day long weekend live blog is likely.

Word to the wise: today's hockey game between Dallas and Detroit will likely run past the start time this match even if it doesn't go to overtime, so be prepared to tune into CBC bold (formerly CBC Country Canada) to catch the first minutes of the match. Or if you're like me and don't subscribe to that flakier set of cable channels, the web stream will have to do.

Why, sir, what beer are you enjoying as you watch this footy match?

Thanks for asking. It's Brahma, a Brazilian brew. I've got Brazil on the mind lately, and I'm sure many of our national teamers do as well. And thanks to the awesomeness of Queen Victoria and her long weekend, it's perfectly acceptable for me to be drinking in the afternoon, alone.

Speaking of Brazil, they announced their squad for the May 31st friendly. It's not a 100% full-sided Brazil team, but it is still pants-shitting-ly good.

Kickoff approaches. With over 7 minutes to go in a close Dallas-Detroit game, you'll need to find something other than the primary CBC channel to catch the first few minutes of TFC-Columbus. And let's not even think about overtime.

MLSnet has the lineups. For Toronto FC, no changes from the last few matches. Jason De Vos will be in the booth with Nigel Reed, instead of Bob Lenarduzzi. De Vos announced his retirement from football a few weeks ago, intending to move into a media career full time. Here it begins.

Dallas-Detroit is over (Dallas won), so barring an extended post game show, CBC TV should turn to BMO Field by the kickoff or shortly after.

Two Canadians (Brennan, Sutton) on the pitch for TFC and one on the bench (Harmse). Canadian content factor: 17-18%, depending on how you look at it.

2nd minute: CBC television joins the game in progress. It looks rather windy, which seems to be a theme at BMO Field. Too bad as, even more than the pitch, it has a huge effect on the quality of play. As always, if you're reading, give a shout in the comments so I don't feel that I'm talking to myself.

4th: Dichio had half a chance, and now the first corner of the match to Toronto.

5th: Dichio does his thing again, bodying defenders off the ball, and Guevara gets a good chance. A 2nd corner to Toronto, blown way over by Guevara.

7th: Two brutal giveaways, straight to Columbus, by Tyrone Marshall (fast becoming the worst TFC starter now that Velez has improved a bit) lead to some pressure by the Crew. No harm done. Now another corner to TFC.

13th: After an early bit of pressure, Toronto has continued to own the ball, but has done little with it. I like was Jason De Vos has to offer as a commentator so far.

16th: Brennan does some good work, then Robert makes a great run and provides a chance to Guevara, who blasts wide.

My thoughts turn to dinner: pototaoes, and pork steak on the barbecue.

Schelotto, for Columbus, makes a rather silly looking dive. I don't know the man personally, but the Argentine does seem like one of the bigger assholes I've seen in MLS so far. (Not quite in Landon Donovan territory though).

24th: Nigel promos the 2nd annual Soccer Day in Canada event on May 31st. No mention if coverage will include the Brazil friendly (depends likely on Stanley Cup Playoffs happenings) but I'm hopeful.

In the meantime, Marshall clears off the line on a shot from "Rocket" Robbie Rogers, the first chance of any consequence for Columbus. Edu is down after, as De Vos explains, kicking an opponent as he attempted to shoot.

30th: Brennan is fouled and a free kick is given in a dangerous position at the side edge of the area for TFC. Robert takes, and the rebound is put way over by Edu.

37th: Ezra Hendrickson, Columbus defender, looks ridiculous as always with a black skull-cap/do-rag and his first name on the back of his jersey.

Hejduk looks perhaps even more ridiculous, with his flowing greasy hair. Amado Guevara's faux-hawk/flat-top is equally deserving of ridicule. Three straight corners for Toronto.

40th: Tyrone Marshall is down and looks hurt, for real. A chance to see first-round draft choice Julius James, perhaps? Nope, he's back on.

Half time: Observations:
  • Schelotto is exactly the kind of player that gives soccer a bad name.
  • Laurent Robert is really lazy.
  • Jason De Vos does a good job staying out of the way, and only chiming in when needed. Nigel Reed could do with a little more verbal restraint.
  • According to my stats, I've had exactly zero pageviews since the beginning of the match. This may seriously affect my motivation for second-half blogging.
63rd: Still no readers so far. Dichio is off for Cunningham. The lack of updates indicates low blogger morale and a match that has lacked for quality because of the wind. Robert did have a chance off the post, but other than that it has been rather choppy.

82nd: This game looks likely to end 0-0. Toronto has been better, but not good enough to produce a goal in these conditions. Kevin Harmse is on for Maurice Edu. Can a red card be far off?

89th: Schelotto gets a yellow for being a diving piece of shit. This ref has been rather excellent.

0-0 FINAL. This has been the least successful, and least interesting, live blog yet. Let's hope Monday is better. I, for one, am excited to see what Stade Saputo looks like in action, with a bevvy of French Canadians in full voice.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Vancouver Whitecaps - Los Angeles Galaxy live blog

I've been a bit distracted with some of the other sporting offerings this evening, but I'm ready to settle in and watch a North American soccer exhibition match in a Canadian Football League stadium.

Here are the details

LOS ANGELES GALAXY VS VANCOUVER WHITECAPS

Commonwealth Stadium, Edmonton, Alberta
7 pm local / 8 pm CT / 9 pm ET

GolTV / Shaw / cbcsports.ca

I was half watching, and Vancouver nabbed a goal in the first 10 minutes, following what should likely have been a foul against the Whitecaps. But the last time these two played, there were no goals, so already an improvement.

13:00: It appears all the different outlets carrying this match are using the same feed. No surprise really, as having 2 or 3 camera crews for what really is a second rate matchup, his royal smugness notwithstanding, would be overkill.

14:00: Commentator Paul Dolan made some remarks about the surface not being to the Galaxy's liking, as if the Whitecaps don't also play on an excellent pitch. But he's right, Commonwealth has some large dead patches.

15:00: Former TFC keeper Srdjan Djekanovic is in net for Vancouver and just made an excellent save. The subsequent corner for Mr. Posh was headed and handled by Srdjan.

16:00: Another outstanding save by Djekanovic followed by cascading girlish screams for Becks as he delivers a corner. Ante Jazic had a chance after the scramble. It's good to see that Jazic, a sometime MNTer, is back in action after a long term injury. I'll try to get full lineups soon.

The Whitecaps goal earlier was scored by Nicholas Addlery, a DC United castoff from Jamaica. He just had another chance at 20 minutes, with a shot off the post.

22:00: Djekanovic makes a good punch off of a Beckham free kick. I should make not of the crowd which, while not much of a soccer crowd (the feminine shrieks every time Becks touches the ball are an indication of that), is a pretty decent size.

Also of note, Landycakes isn't on to start the match.

25:00: Everyone's got their boners in a knot (ouch!) because Beckham has a freekick in a dangerous area. It goes wide.

Earlier, Hirano for Vancouver had a good run and shot that went over the bar. Dolan mentioned his nickname, and I thought I heard the word "oyster" but didn't catch the rest. If anyone can fill me in, I'd be much obliged.

34:00: The game has settled in a fair bit, and the Whitecaps are the better team. You might say this is to be expected, with one side treating this as a training match and the other using the opportunity to prove a point. But for my money, Martin Nash has been a more useful player than Beckham in this match.

38:00: As far as white-haired guys are concerned, Abel Xavier seems about as useful as a jewish Santa Claus. Oy!

43:00: Some know named Gordon scores for the Galaxy, on a Beckham long ball. But don't give Beckham too much credit (the announcers are doing that for you) as Djekanovic completely misplayed the whole scenario.

HALF TIME: It's 1-1. It's a shame LA scored, because I was going to quote a certain philosopher and say that this team from Los Angeles "kinda fucking sucks". Jazic interviewed and moans about the pitch a bit, but I'm as pumped as he is that he's back from injury. As far as I'm concerned he's in the mix at left-back for WCQ.

I'll be slowing down the updates a bit in the second half as it appears nobody is reading this.

The guy interviewing Lenarduzzi notes that there are over 37,000 bums in the seats. I don't want to get too worked up over a meaningless match featuring an overhyped superstar, but I have to say I'm impressed.

With the second half about to get underway, the rain appears to be gathering strength. When Beckham gets subbed out, I'd bet on a mass exodus just like there was in the same situation last November at BC Place.

47:00: The Whitecaps made a handful of changes at half, including Jay Nolly in for Djekanovic. Not sure about the Galaxy. I just heard a good Dolan-ism: "Kindel is never afraid to back down". Good on him!

The one Whitecaps player I'm excited to see is Randy Edwini-Bonsu, who was been hot for the residential side that recently toured Germany.

54:00: Galaxy put one in, but it's offside. I'm not so sure actually, but not worth getting worked up in a game of so little importance, result-wise.

63:00: Ante Jazic is off, as Los Angeles likely don't want to push it with his recent injury. The game is looking a bit disjointed now, as you might expect. Don't be surprised if Becks leaves the pitch in the next few minutes.

The Whitecaps, much like the Phoenix Suns, look a little lost when Nash isn't running the show.

66:00: After the Galaxy give it away in the Vancouver half, substitute Nick Webb puts in a nice low cross that is clinically finished by Cuban-Canadian Eddy Sebrango. 2-1 Whitecaps.

67:00: Another Dolan-ism: "All the flashlights clicking..."

71:00: Some real sloppy play in the back, and a near goal for Vancouver.

I forgot to mention my drink of choice for the evening. It's Rickard's Red, and I'm going easy tonight.

It's all Vancouver right now, and Beckham looks like he just wants to go hit the showers. Godfrey and Dolan are speculating about Edmonton as a host of a potential World Cup qualifying match and though I was initially skeptical about that (I thought Edmonton's rep as a great pro-Canada host has been a bit exaggerated), I'm more enthusiastic about it now. All the Whitecaps starters have now been replaces except Cann and Jeroen (centre backs) and right back Lyle Martin.

81:00: The Galaxy look a lot more dangerous now. Is it the B lineup Vancouver has out there, or the fact that David Beckham isn't out there half-assing it?

75:00: Beckham is off. Watch the masses depart.

79:00: The Whitecaps have been subbing furiously over the last few minutes. I didn't catch all of them, but Diaz Kambere, who had an up and down tournament in the Olympic Qualifiers, is in for Takashi Hirano. Also, nice to hear a hometown cheer for Edwini-Bonsu who replaces Sebrango.

86:00: Some good action late. First, some emergency defending by the Whitecaps, then Edwini-Bonsu gets onto the end of a corner, and the ball bounces around before Webb (one of them, there are two, apparently) hammers a shot that was cleared off the line by a Galaxy defender.

90:00: A handball by Vancouver in the box is missed, and the fans are booing. I'm confused. Do they like Beckham, or the Galaxy as well? Are penalties really that exciting? (Answer: No.)

Extra time: Edwini-Bonsu made some nice moves and forced a save by Wicks for a corner. This kid looks like he has some talent.

After 4 minutes of extra time, it's over. Vancouver wins 2-1, and were fully deserving of the result. The announcers agree, and they piled on Abel Xavier's shitty display as well. I'm out for now, will post some links to match reports later.

A big shout-out to the readers who popped by for the second half. Stick around and check out
the other posts, if you're interested in soccer with a Canadian flavour.



MATCH REPORTS

David Beckham gets assist but LA Galaxy lose to Whitecaps 2-1 in Edmonton
- Canadian Press
Beckham's appearance has Edmonton soccer fans abuzz - Canwest News Service
Beckham's Galaxy edged by Whitecaps in Edmonton - CBC Sports
Whitecaps defeat Galaxy in Edmonton - WhitecapsFC.com

Some photos from the match . . .

This is how confused Abel Xavier appeared to be the entire evening.

Becks and my favourite Whitecap.

From what I heard every time Becks touched the ball, there were 20,000 fans just like this one.


After some initial discouragement, I was pretty pleased with how this liveblog went. I'm now looking forward to the Canada matches at the end of May and beginning of June (Brazil in Seattle on May 31, and Panama, now on June 4th in Miami). Even before that, though, I might spend an hour or two on Victoria Day watching French television and gushing about Stade Saputo as the Impact take on the Whitecaps.

What to watch

Far be it for me to let this space devolve into a mere guide for soccer on television. But I do enjoy any chance I get to watch any of Canada's professional teams, and tonight provides one such opportunity:

The Vancouver Whitecaps had to wait awhile, but they finally have their rematch with David Beckham and the L.A. Galaxy.

The Whitecaps and Galaxy square off in an exhibition game Tuesday at Edmonton's Commonwealth Stadium (CBCSports.ca, 9 pm ET), six months after the two teams battled to a 0-0 draw before 48,172 fans at Vancouver's BC Place.

Interesting that CBCSports.ca will be broadcasting the match online, while it will be carried live to air on the soccer cable channel Gol TV.

It's a chance to see David Beckham, geography whiz:

"I don't know much about Edmonton," Beckham admitted.

"I've talked to a few people up there that said it may be cold. But that's nothing I'm not used to because I'm English and we're used to that kind of weather."
Wow, trade in stereotypes much? As a point of reference, the expected game-time temperate in Edmonton is about the same as the conditions expected at the same time in Los Angeles.

I'm not sure yet, but if I get the urge I'll be dusting off the old live blog format for this clash.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Canucks - Argies U20s recap

OK, so I didn't see the match. Chances are you didn't either. The friendly at BMO Field was sparsely attended (most suggest the announced attendance of 5100 was somewhat inflated), and there was no TV coverage to speak of.

I didn't even get a chance to make a futile attempt at following the action online in some form, because I spent Mother's Day afternoon enjoying a much-needed 3 hour nap.

As for the result, I expected the worst. There hasn't been a lot of hype about this crop of U20s (the group that will try to qualify for Egypt in 2009) and some of the bigger names, such as they are, were missing. I know even less about the Argentina side that came to mark the 1 year anniversary of international action at BMO Field, but any Argentina team is likely to be a strong one.

The 1-1 draw, then, should be taken as a sign that this group of U20s has some promise. Reports are largely positive, especially about the play of TFC reserves Nana Attakora-Gyan and Gabe Gala.

A first look at the much-rumoured new jerseys.

When you also consider that this same U20 team beat a largely reserve sided TFC squad earlier in the week, it makes you scratch your head a bit that the TFC "brain trust" doesn't have room for a little bit of young Canadian talent.

* * * *

This isn't soccer related, but the next time some mouth-breathing, Don-Cherry-lovin', lout hockey fan gets on your case about diving in soccer, point out this ludicrous performance by Chris Osgood from the weekend. I enjoy hockey as much as the next guy, but there is plenty of 'simulation' in that game as well.

C'mon. I've seen better acting on Dawson's Creek. Or even Train 48.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

FIFA rankings: May

The May edition of the FIFA rankings were out today. This was a bit surprising to me because I thought they always came out on more of a mid-month schedule, but this shows how little I have been paying attention. The short story is that Canada is up one spot to 62nd. Argentina is still first.

The interesting stuff is happening in the CONCACAF table. Honduras shot up 23 spots to 36th overall, and Guatemala also had a pretty decent bump while Haiti plummeted (27 places).

Now seems as good a time as any to reprise our feature "How unbalanced are these motherf*(king groups?" (this ASCII version of pixelating swear words is still pretty cool, I am told).

But instead of getting hung up on ranking (ordinal placement) I'll use the precious FIFA points that the statistical geeks in Switzerland have worked so hard to come up with.
Country Pts
Group 1
USA 889
Trinidad and Tobago 365
Guatemala 355
Cuba 292
Total 1901
Average 475.25


Group 2
Mexico 988
Honduras 691
Canada 522
Jamaica 313
Total 2514
Average 628.5


Group 3
Panama 497
Costa Rica 419
Guyana 289
Haiti 280
Total 1485
Average 371.25

As you can see by the totals, once again group 2 is far and away the toughest. The averages don't reveal much more, but they allow for a pretty interesting statistical fun. If the average of group 3 was a country, it would slot in at 88th in the full table, just behind China and nosing out Trinidad and Tobago.

Group 1, with its 475.25 points, would be 69th, beating out South Africa by a quarter point, while trailing Zambia and Panama who share 67th.

Group 2, at 628.5, is just ahead of Senegal and Belgium and just behind Morocco. This group 2 averaged side would occupy 46th place.

So in a tournament between Trinidad and Tobago, Panama, and Belgium, who would you choose?

That's what I thought.


Of course, Canada has a chance to pile up all kinds of useless FIFA points when they beat Brazil in Seattle at the end of the month. Or not.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

How 'Canadian' is TFC

Toronto FC fans -- who are fully deserving of having a far more competitive team than the one they supported with such vigor last season -- are enjoying the start to the 2008 campaign.

A nearly entirely revamped midfield, including new signings Laurent Robert, Rohan Ricketts and Honduran Amado Guevara, have helped TFC to gain the upper hand in their recent encounters. It's a good thing, I think.

But there's a species fast becoming extinct at the lakeshore stadium, and that's the Canadian player. A look at TFC's matches from this season reveal the following homegrown contributions:
Match Players Mins
@ Columbus, 29 March 2008 Jim Brennan 90

Tyler Hemming 65

Kevin Harmse 25



@ DC United, 5 April 2008 Greg Sutton 90

Jim Brennan 90

Kevin Harmse 22

Tyler Rosenlund 7

Andrea Lombardo 26

Tyler Hemming 7



@ LA Galaxy, 13 April 2008 Greg Sutton 90

Jim Brennan 90

Tyler Rosenlund 1



vs Real Salt Lake, 19 April 2008 Greg Sutton 90

Jim Brennan 90



vs KC Wizards, 26 April 2008 Greg Sutton 90

Jim Brennan 90



vs NY Red Bulls, 1 May 2008 Greg Sutton 90

Jim Brennan 90

With Brennan and Sutton putting in workmanlike efforts, it doesn't look too bad. After all, how often do you see Chelsea or Arsenal field a lineup with only 2 English players.

Right?

Wrong. Chelsea and Arsenal didn't receive a whackload of funding from the feds in order to promote the growth of the Canadian game. They don't play in a league which is intended to grow the domestic game.

On that front, if you take 'domestic' to mean American, TFC aren't doing so bad. They are developing two future American stars: Edu and Wynne. At the same time, Canadians are languishing on the bench and with the reserves, with promising talents being shown the door or asked to play for peanuts (12K a year) while dead weight like Todd Dunivant remains on the roster.

And the trend seems to be towards less Canadian participation after the season's start, not more. The bench, where Canadians should be in the majority if they aren't starting, had only one Canuck among them on Thursday: Kevin Harmse. And Harmse already had a place with another MLS team last year, so it hardly seems like Toronto FC is taking a chance on him.

Minute for minute, Houston Dynamo are nearly "as Canadian" as Toronto.

*** Aside: If you're scoring at home, the of 5940 total minutes, 1143 have been played by Canadians. That works out to 19%. ***


On the bright side Nick Dasovic has joined the TFC cause, so that's a cause for some optimism.



And before all you TFC fans get up in arms, remember I'm not one of you. I like the team, sure, but not enough to forget the promises that were made to actually do something to improve Canadian soccer. Especially with the sweetheart deal that MLSE got with the stadium. Once Vancouver or Montreal joins MLS I'll have a new favourite team to complain about but for now I'll wear the Maple Leaf on my sleeve.

And I won't post about MLS for a while, I promise, because there are bigger things on the horizon.