Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A dire situation?

Sometimes a blog is a blog. Other times, it's a place to re-hash message board posts, only by providing a little more detail, it's almost like you're writing something new. This is one of those times.

There's a thread right now at the Voyageurs forums about Lars Hirschfeld's club situation at CFR Cluj in Romania. It looks like he might be on the way out. For the time being, he's getting paid rather handsomely to warm the bench. His lack of play (over a year without breaking a sweat, and counting) is well documented.

While people were taking turns lamenting his stagnating career and touting his folk-hero status (he bought a tray of shooters for some Voyageurs after Canada-Mexico in Edmonton, so the story goes), I waded in and pissed in everybody's cornflakes by pointing to the inactivity of Canada's goalkeepers generally. (Does that mean that I was wading in a bowl of cornflakes mixed with piss?)

In case you hadn't noticed, the keepers that are on Canada's depth charts aren't doing a whole lot professionally these days. Here's a rundown:
  • Lars Hirschfeld. Getting paid to ride the pine in Romania
  • Greg Sutton. Supplanted by younger and better looking Stefan Frei at TFC.
  • Pat Onstad. Still getting it done in MLS, but he's as old as the hills.
  • Josh Wagenaar. He's been called up to back for Canada few times, so he's in the mix. Unfortunately, he's not in the mix for his club, Yeovil Town FC, right now, as he's been supplanted by a new signing.
  • Asmir Begovic. He's the backup right now for Portsmouth, but I think we all know he's not EPL quality quite yet. So he doesn't play (except with the reserves).
  • Kenny Stamatopoulos. He's playing in Norway somewhere. Or not playing. I can't fake understanding Norwegian well enough to navigate the Tromso site.
If Canada was playing important matches right now, or at any time in the near future, I'd be worried. Thank goodness 2012 is still some ways away.

Ultimately, I think Hirschfeld is still the guy. I'm not going to rag on the guy for clocking his dollars in Transylvania. Plus I like his attitude:



The situation with Wagenaar and Begovic is more worrisome. They are the best of the 'next generation' of keepers right now, and it is disappointing to see their careers on hold.

Not helping matters is the fact that none of Canada's professional teams fields a Canadian starting goalkeeper.

We'll see if all of this has anything to do with performance when the Gold Cup rolls around this summer. It's not as if most other CONCACAF sides besides USA and Mexico have good goalkeeping, at least on paper.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Champions League semi-final live blog: Barcelona v Chelsea

The second best thing about being sparingly employed is actually being home to watch Champions League matches in the afternoon. (The first best thing is watching back-to-back-to-back downloaded episodes of Deadliest Catch).

As the kick-off for Barcelona-Chelsea approaches, keep checking back for updates.

- While I have time, but on an unrelated note, does anybody think it's a coincidence that Toronto FC's play has improved since John Carver showed himself the door?

- Also, there's some good stuff, along with a touch of less good stuff, in this week's some canadian guys podcast.

- From the Department of Self Congratulation, I'm still in first (tied) in my hockey pool. Sedin twins, I will follow you to the ends of the earth.


I have a €3.83 on Barcelona winning the match today (pays €6.13) so I expect my anxiety level to be elevated: roughly equivalent to a CCL group stage match (but far below the Canada MNT liveblog stress zone)


If you're in a workplace with a very liberal internet filter / use policy, check myp2p for some online viewing options.

Note that I am eschewing the enormously popular CoverItLive liveblogging format, mostly because my laptop is a piece of shit and my CPU fan goes nuts whenever the computer is doing something processor-intensive. So if you feel need to get all interactive, keep refreshing the page and dump your opinions in the comment section.


In case you're wondering, I'm rooting for Barcelona in this match. Even though Real Madrid has become marginally less despicable since they have become the de facto Dutch national team (Robben, Sneijder, Huntelaar, et al.) Barcelona has always been my favourite side in the Big 4 leagues.

Kickoff in 5.

AUGH! Fuck you TSN! Damn you, World Hockey Championships. I guess I'll be streaming this shit.

LINEUPS:

BARCELONA: Valdez, Pique, Marquez, Abidal, Alves, Toure, Iniesta, Xavi, Henry, Eto'o, Messi

CHELSEA: Cech, Terry, Alex, Bosingwa, Ivanovic, Obi, Ballack, Drogba, Lampard, Malouda, Essien

1st min: Barcelona presses early, nearly scores, but it's buitenspel (I'm watching a Dutch sopcast feed).

4th: This Dutch announcer says there have been rumours all year about Drogba moving to Barcelona. Is this true?

When I said earlier that watching soccer in the afternoon was the second best thing about my current employment situation, I clearly had forgotton about drinking in the afternoon on a Tuesday.


Lekker.

11th: As for the voetbal (soccer) being player, Chelsea are playing not to lose. Messi is really good. But I'm sure you knew this already.

Cech, as always, looks cute in his bonnet.

21st: I was really hoping this match would be more awesome. Barcelona is dominating possession, but nothing is happening. A corner now.

25th: Yellow to Alex, free kick for Barcelona in a dangerous spot.

29th: Ballack has a yellow now, to go along with his outstanding head of hair.

Is it just me, or does Chelsea look vaguely Ukrainian in this strip?

39th: Marquez just made a shocking back pass, and forced Valdez into two ridiculous saves against Drogba. That was really Chelsea's only chance so far (unless I missed one when I went to answer the door).

HALF: And still 0-0. Despite the scoreline, it's nice to be watching some high quality football. After watching Toronto FC on the tube, and some USL-1 games on USLlive, it's not hard to spot a difference in skill, tactics, and the like.

Best ad of the break: two men in suits having a soccer duel in the middle of an Armani shop.

48th: An elbow (or maybe his forehead, then his shoulder) from Alex knocks Thierry Henry out cold. As Pierre McGuire would say, "BAM!"

And seconds later, Marquez looks like he might have blown out his knee making a 10-yard uncontested pass.

The only footballer in the world uglier than Carlos Tevez, Carlos Puyol, enters the match. What is it with that name?

54th: After all the injuries, the second half is beginning to look much like the first. Barcelona with all the possession, but nothing on the scoresheet.

I'd love to have the same tailor as Pep Guardiola.

62nd: Now Drogba is groggy and lying on the pitch after another clash of heads.

69th: This game is looking more and more like a 0-0 draw, which means advantage Chelsea.

And just as I write it, Eto'o nearly scores on a partial break away chance.

78th: Our Dutch announcer just called this an ugly match (lelijke wedstrijd). I was about to say the same. I should have just watched my fishing show instead.

90th: Bojan just missed THE chance of the match. This match is destined to be 0-0.

FINAL: 0-0. The ball is now in Chelsea's court.


These live blogs aren't nearly as fun (or frightening) when I don't really care about either team.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Remember when you cared about this tournament?

Some of you may remember the Montreal Impact playing in the CONCACAF Champions League. Parts of it were great. Other parts I've tried to forget.

Like most of you, I stopped paying attention after Montreal was eliminated. I don't think there's anything unnatural about that.

As it turns out, the first leg of the final is tonight. Although the tournament featured its fair share of surprises (Montreal and Puerto Rico of USL-1 advancing significantly further than any MLS side count for two of the unexpected outcomes), the final is predictably an all-Mexican affair.

Cruz Azul will take on Atlante, the latter of which got a draw and a win against Montreal in the group stage.

The game is available on CBC bold, and is also being streamed live at CBCsports.ca beginning at 11pm et.

Even though I gave up on this tournament long ago, kudos to the CBC for continuing to broadcast the games even though any hope of a big Canadian audience disappeared when Montreal flamed out. Although you could argue that if they ever hoped for a large Canadian audience, they wouldn't have aired the matches on bold, but rather on the main network.

Edit: So the match was yesterday, not tonight. Sorry to all those of you who use this blog as your primary source on Mexican soccer. Atlante won the away leg 2-0, and are in the driver's seat heading home.

It goes to show how closely I've been paying attention.


* * * * *

Toronto FC got its second win of the season last night, against Chivas. Word is that Adrian Serioux, who was a question mark before the match due to injury, was a beast in the back. Dwayne de Rosario, however, didn't heal quite so quickly. With Kevin Harmse left on the bench, Serioux and Jim Brennan were the only Canadians to see action for Toronto.

The Canadian content count, to date, looks like this:

2009 Canadian Content Summary
Team Matches Cdn Mins Total Mins Percent
Vancouver 3 1808 2970 60.9%
Toronto 6 2098 5940 35.3%
Montreal 3 1026 2970 34.5%

The way the teams have been put together, I'd expect the Whitecaps to continue to dominate these rankings for the remainder of the season. That said, I also expect them to fare the worst in the upcoming Voyageurs Cup (first match is less than two weeks away).


At the TFC match yesterday, some yahoos burned a woman with a flare, and were subsequently arrested. That won't do TFC's growing (but largely unwarranted) reputation for hooligan support any good.

Flare-throwing TFC supporters: Hard as fuck?

Interesting bits:
"One flare landed on a woman's thigh, burning through her pants and causing a burn to her thigh," said a news release issued Thursday. "The second torch landed on the artificial turf, causing a section to ignite, causing approximately $2,000 damage."
If this is some kind of dastardly scheme to get grass installed at BMO, I'm all for it. As long as no one gets hurt, of course.
While play continued, fans identified the two young men and appeared to even help restrain them, leading to a quick arrest.
Props to the good fans that turned in these louts.


* * * * *

If you're super disappointed that I misled you into trying to watch CONCACAF Champions League action online, and still have the online streaming soccer bug, CONCACAF has archived matches from the U17 championships on its site, including Canada's 1-1 draw with Honduras on Tuesday.

Canada - USA goes today.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Kampioenen!


Champions!


My boys, AZ, are champions of the Eredivisie for the second time, and the first team outside of the big three (Ajax, Feyenoord (rotzakken!), and PSV) to win it since 1981, when AZ won for the first time. It was a dominant season this time from AZ, clinching with an 11 point lead and 3 games remaining.

Looks like a nice celebration in the Waagplein.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

On free TV

I spent a few solitary moments last Saturday watching the Whitecaps game, for free, on USL live.

The game itself, a 0-0 draw, was nothing to get too excited about. Sure, Marcus Haber and some of the other young Canadian talent looked pretty good for Vancouver. There were a few good displays from the support in the South Side.

But for the most part, it was fairly typical of a second division soccer match, no matter what part of the world you're in.

This isn't an ode to the USL, or even the Whitecaps, my adopted (North American) pro team for 2009. Rather, I want to sing the praises of the excellent, and free, USL live internet streaming video.

OK, so it's not that excellent. I rather enjoyed the broadcasters of the Whitecaps match as they kept a more even keel with less verbal tomfoolery than Nigel Reed usually employs in a typical TFC broadcast. But the quality of play-by-play and commentary varies significantly, as the feeds for these streams are local.

The quality of the video, however, was quite good. On my machine, at least, it looked a lot better than the CBCSports.ca streams of CONCACAF Champions League soccer and other live events. Because replay facilities and fancy graphics were largely lacking, we didn't miss important match events due to player close-ups or bios.

Remember when CFL broadcasts went lo-fi a few years back because of the CBC strike? Sometimes I wish all sports on television was like that.


All this is a roundabout way of saying that if you are so inclined, and don't have plans on a Saturday evening, you can catch both Canadian teams live tonight:
To supplement the experience, they'll be some kind of live chat going on at the Canadian Stretford End.

I may opt instead to watch NHL hockey with friends (Go Hawks!), but watching soccer is a good plan B.

Friday, April 17, 2009

A half-Harted post

Shoot me for that title. Seriously.


Stephen Hart . . . in pictures

Stephen Hart, the action figure. Apparently, there's another Stephen Hart.


Stephen Hart, certified badass.


Stephen Hart . . . the press release


Association appoints Stephen Hart as interim head coach

The Canadian Soccer Association announced today that technical director Stephen Hart will assume, on an interim basis, the head coaching responsibilities for the men's senior national team for the duration of the 2009 season. Mr. Hart will lead Canada at the 2009 CONCACAF Gold Cup this summer, starting with the international friendly match in Larnaca against Cyprus on 30 May.

"We are very happy to have Mr. Hart in this role for the upcoming CONCACAF Gold Cup," said Canadian Soccer Association President Dr. Dominic Maestracci.

Canada's 2009 CONCACAF Gold Cup schedule opens 3 July against Jamaica in Los Angeles, CA. Canada then faces El Salvador on 7 July in Columbus, OH and Costa Rica on 10 July in Miami, FL. There are three groups of four teams, so eight of the 12 teams will advance to the quarter-final stage in Philadelphia, PA (18 July) and Dallas, TX (19 July). The tournament then moves to Chicago, IL for the semi-final on 23 July and New York, NY for the championship final on 26 July.

"The task in hand will be to lead Canada at the 2009 CONCACAF Gold Cup," said Canadian Soccer Association Technical Director Stephen Hart.

Mr. Hart was named the Canadian Soccer Association's Technical Director in March 2008. He heads the Association's long-term player development plan, specifically the Wellness to World Cup campaign. He is also in charge of directing and monitoring the national development teams, the coaching education program, the National Training Centres, and the sports medicine program. With the national teams, he has most recently served as an assistant coach with the men's national team. Two years ago as the team's interim head coach, he led Canada to a semi-final finish at the 2007 CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Stephen Hart . . . by the numbers

Stephen in his previous MNT head coaching stint:

THE STEPHEN HART ERA
Date Opponent Location Type CAN Opp Result
09/04/06 Jamaica Montreal Friendly 1 0 Win
10/08/06 Jamaica Kingston Friendly 1 2 Loss
11/15/06 Hungary Szekesfehervar Friendly 0 1 Loss
03/25/07 Bermuda Hamilton, Ber. Friendly 3 0 Win
06/01/07 Venezuela Maracaibo Friendly 2 2 Draw
06/06/07 Costa Rica Miami Gold Cup 2 1 Win
06/09/07 Guadeloupe Miami Gold Cup 1 2 Loss
06/11/07 Haiti Miami Gold Cup 2 0 Win
06/16/07 Guatemala Foxboro, MA Gold Cup 3 0 Win
06/21/07 USA Chicago Gold Cup 1 2 Loss
Totals


16 10


Wins 5




Draws 1




Losses 4




Stephen Hart . . . his temporary appointment analyzed in that annoying way where people answer their own questions

Is Hart a better coach than Mitchell?
Probably. Almost certainly, in fact.

Is Hart the best man for the job?
Probably not, though the price is right since he's already under contract.

Is all hope lost for the upcoming Gold Cup?
No. He did well last time in this situation (see above).

Do you want him in charge when the next WCQ rolls around?
No.

Is it a good thing that he is considered a favourite of the players?
Yes and no. Mostly no. A subset of players that were entirely too comfortable with their position was a big reason for the WCQ failure.

When should we expect a new man in charge?
Just a hunch, but June 2010.



This is news, not in the "OMG lolz need to tweet this shit so amazng!!?!" sense, where something totally unexpected happens, but rather in the Canadian soccer sense, where the totally expected happens, and it was only a question of when.

Canada will be in tough at the Gold Cup, no matter who was in charge. Hart can do the job if the players are committed, but I might even had said the same of the team under Mitchell.

Whatever. It was a happening, and was enough for me to pop my posting cherry that had been growing back over the last week.


I've been too focussed on the hockey playoffs anyway (2nd place -- look for 'JW' -- in the pool)

Saturday, April 11, 2009

USL-1 season preview

I don't know the first thing about USL-1, beyond the two Canadian teams, and that the Puerto Rico Islanders are pretty good.

But I'll post my predicted order of finish for the league's teams, just for fun. Do yours in the comments, then we can compare in 5 month's time, just for shits and giggles.
Puerto Rico
Montreal
Charleston
Vancouver
Austin
Portland
Rochester
Minnesota
Carolina
Cleveland
Miami
Great, that was fun. Of course, my real reason for making this post was to declare my undying (for this year) devotion to the Vancouver Whitecaps. Just like I adopted Mike Klukowski as my MNT player of choice, I'm on board with Vancouver for my preferred Canadian pro team.

Welcome to the family. And meet your brother:

We'll still have time for the mullet.

So be prepared for slobbering devotion to a club I've never seen live, and rarely on TV. Speaking of TV, though, USLlive.com is streaming USL-1 games for free all year.

Included in these matches is Vancouver's season opener at home to Charleston at 10 pm et.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Fix it!




Jason de Vos has a neat thing going on at his CBC.ca blog. Essentially, he's asking his readers to help him out in providing ideas for fixing Canadian soccer. Personally, I'd rather hear what Jason has to say than the half-baked musings of the illiterati that comment on CBC articles, but whatever. That's probably what we'll get anyway. The semi-literati that read this blog may want to participate.


On another front, the April edition of the FIFA rankings are out. Canada moved up 5 spots to 89, between Peru and Zambia, despite not having played since November. Even more perplexing is Brazil moving up a spot, despite being in the midst of a real bed-shitting in CONMEBOL qualifying.

The ranking geeks among you will probably enjoy this alternate edition, from Voros McCracken (one of the better names you'll find these days).


There's not a lot to report on in the Canadian soccer scene this week, but I do want to give a shout out to the some canadian guys podcast this week. The dude that was getting a lot of stick for having the gall to suggest that Chelsea might not be blown out of the water against Liverpool is probably feeling pretty good right now.

Only suggestion: create a feed so your listening public can subscribe in iTunes. I enjoy most of my podcasts on my lengthy jaunt by foot or on two wheels to and from from work, and it's a lot easier to navigate the ipod with subscribed podcasts instead of having to load it as an mp3. Maybe you've done this already.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Housekeeping

Asian spam

I've been getting a lot of comment spam lately in some sort of Asian character set, so I've turned on the word verification feature. I hope this minor inconvenience is not enough to turn any readers off the blog completely.

And since I've already devoted a few minutes of a lame Saturday night to blog upkeep, here are a few more unrelated items:
  • I keep playing around with the way I am displaying the Canadian content data in the right sidebar. I think I like the way it is now, although I may get rid of the PDF summary and do it all with Google Spreadsheets (the best invention ever).
  • Toronto FC's Canadian content has increased with each match. Their results have worsened with each match. Coincidence?
  • The wind was so ridiculous today at BMO Field that the game they showed on TV barely resembled soccer. If they do end up expanding the stadium, they should design the stands in a way so that the prevailing wind off the lake gets blocked a little.
  • Toronto laid an egg in their home opener, and I can't think of a single TFC player that acquitted themselves well. Maybe Dichio in limited minutes as a substitute.
  • Tomasz Radzinski scored two more goals today for his side, and now has 16 on the season, scoring just over once every two games. He is on my Gold Cup roster and any Canada lineup card unless he says no.
  • I try to keep NHL stuff off these pages, but any good sleeper picks for a playoff pool draft? (I don't think any of my pool buddies read this blog so you don't need to write them in code).
Happy weekend.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Gold Cup groups announced

The Gold Cup groups were announced today. Unlike the other confederations which all, I assume, organize teams based on a seeded random draw, groups for the Gold Cup are 'created'. Normally, I would get all in a huff because by all appearances, it often seems that Canada gets the short end of the stick.

I don't want to do that any longer. Here are the groups, with FIFA ranking data.

Team Rank Region Points
Group A
Costa Rica 32 3 725
Jamaica 70 6 476
Canada 94 8 375
El Salvador 106 10 329
Average 75.5 6.75 476.25




Group B
USA 17 1 896
Honduras 40 4 674
Haiti 117 12 293
Grenada 122 14 280
Average 74 7.75 535.75




Group C
Mexico 23 2 784
Panama 51 5 577
Guadeloupe** 118 13 292
Nicaragua 140 19 195
Average 83 9.75 462

** Guadeloupe isn't ranked by FIFA, so I made the assumption that they are roughly equal in quality to Bermuda. Which, I feel, is being generous to Bermuda.

A few posters on the Voyageurs forums were complaining that, once again, Canada appears to have been drawn into the Group of Death. Such claims, though, really depend on Canada being considered a top 5 or 6 team in CONCACAF. With the recent World Cup disqualifying results, I no longer feel justified making that case.

A quick glance at the numbers above suggests that the American group is numerically tougher. However, in that group, as in the Mexico group, there is a significant drop-off between the top two and the bottom two teams.

Canada's group promises a full slate of interesting and competitive matches. If they qualify from that group, they will be worthy quarterfinalists. If they fail, they will be able to claim to be no better than the 7th or 8th best team in CONCACAF.

I'm OK with that.

Where Canada may be getting screwed is the travel arrangements. Quickly, here's how it plays out:
  • Group A: Los Angeles -> Columbus -> Miami: 5464 km
  • Group B: Seattle -> Washington -> Boston: 5158 km
  • Group C: San Francisco -> Houston -> Phoenix: 4993 km
The overall numbers aren't that far apart, but teams in the other groups at least have the benefit of one shorter trip.

If you're wondering, Canada's all time record against their Group A opponents:

Opponent Wins Draws Losses
Costa Rica 4 4 7
Jamaica 6 6 3
El Salvador 6 2 4
Total 16 12 14

Again, it looks pretty balanced. By the way, Canada and El Salvador haven't played since 1999.



Maybe I'm crazy, but I honestly expect Canada to qualify from Group A. I am very much looking forward to this tournament.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Two of my least favourite "Canadians"


From a more widely read blog. Wells does the smackdown on Harper. But shouldn't Hargreaves, as a guy who has "always felt more British" be doing photo-ops with Gordon Brown instead?

It gets worse. Way worse:
“Owen Hargreaves is one of Canada’s most famous and accomplished international athletes,” said the Prime Minister. “Given soccer’s massive worldwide appeal, it is certainly refreshing to note that one of the sport’s brightest stars is Canadian.”
Are you sure he's Canadian, Steve-O? Maybe you should check his jersey. (No, not the AIG shirt. The one with the lions.)
“I know that the Red Devils provoke a rather passionate reaction from football fans on both sides of the Atlantic,” joked the Prime Minister. “But that certainly won’t prevent me from rooting for Owen’s continued success. Thank you, Owen, for all you have done to shine the international spotlight on Canadian soccer.”
Yes, that spotlight sure is bright. Pass me the fucking shades. What a sycophant!

The ultimate in redunancy

Is there anything more redundant and ultimately pointless than an April Fool's joke post on a blog? Think about it. The whole point of an April Fools' joke is when a fabricated story is communicated from a source otherwise known for reliability and truthfulness. Sound much like blogs to you? I didn't think so.

Here's a look around the Canadian blog scene to tell you what I mean:
  • Duane dropped a joke on us with his post "Johnston to return to pitch: sources". The 24th minute, I suppose, is somewhat of an exception as it has, on at least two occasions, broken original news, and also has the man-on-the-scene mojo with commentary on the recent Columbus PD - TFC supporters dust up. Still, a large percentage of the content on the blog is commentary on MSM news stories. The fact that the unnamed sources in the story are quoted instead of spoken of in generalities also tipped me off.
  • I thought some canadian guys would have avoided the temptation for an AF post, since they already do the same thing more or less weekly with their Reserve Squad content. It's hard to resist, I suppose.
  • Sam of the Canadian Stretford End at least makes it obvious, so we don't need to waste precious seconds and brain cells wondering whether there is any shred of possibility to the joke. (The chances that the CSA would even consider allowing a coaching vacancy fo be filled within a few weeks of the job opening up are so remote that no matter who Sam had named, I wouldn't have believed it).
I didn't mean to use this as an opportunity to shit on my fellow Canadian bloggers (and I don't use this expression lightly after doing the requisite, stomach-turning research on a certain banner. Yup, I nearly vomited). Rather, I meant it as an introduction to a mini-treatise (and who doesn't love a good treatise) on the role of bloggers generally, and specifically as we relate to Canadian soccer and soccer in Canada.

* * * *


I've already mentioned that a lot of blogging is derivative. I'm no exception. I did a quick scan of my last two dozen posts, and the majority are links to news with some mild commentary on top. If you look around the (admittedly small) canuck-soc-blog scene, you'll see the same thing. After the Mitchell firing, near identical posts appeared in the usual half-dozen places, including here, with little original to contribute.

What original content there is is usually excellent. Sam got an interview with Julian de Guzman in which he asked some of the more important questions. Jon, of the Wandering Canuck, did the same recently with Tomasz Radzinski (keep up the bloggin', Jon.)

But for all those who say that the mainstream media, especially print, is in its current situation because people are now getting their news from blogs, I point to every blog where 70% of content is lukewarm content on news stories. Let's face it: in Canadian soccer especially, we don't need more opinions, we need more news. On account of a recent video I watched (again, I'm scarred) I don't want to use the line about assholes, and how everyone's got one, but I think I just did.

What I've tried to do here, with varying degrees of success, is to carve out somewhat of a niche that isn't being served elsewhere. The nice thing about the reams of data available online is that it is easily compiled. I provided some statistical context to the MLS vs USL debate. I've been tracking Canadian content for a while. I compared coaching eras, nearly all of them dismal. I think these are important stories to tell, and since I'm more of a numbers guy than a writer, I fire up the spreadsheet and go to town.

I'm not saying I've been entirely successful. If I was really nailing what was important, I feel like I'd get more traffic. My most popular posts, by far, are the live blogs I've provided of events like the CONCACAF Champions League or men's national team matches. And live blogs are just about the most derivative content genre of all.

The last element that I think has value is the appreciation of writing for good writing's sake. On blogs, this usually takes the form of humour. I think this exists in degrees at all of the Canadian blogs I frequent. (An excellent example from another sport is the Drunk Jays Fans, particularly because they are good and narrating themselves into stories about the Jays).

Whatever we're doing in blogging about Canadian soccer, I think we can do better.

* * * *

Speaking of original content and humour, here is the last dispatch from my 2" Radzinski contest winner:

subject: Redzinski Redux [ed - I'll leave "Redzinski as is, in case it was intended]

Hi Jon,

So the intramural season ended, then school, life, colds, travel interfered in a big way. But I can present to you now the final results and efficacy of the Radz doll. Our last game was another scrappy, hard-fought, injury-inducing match that ended a disappointing 1-2, leaving us to narrowly miss the playoffs. But not all was gloomy. Just to recap, that gave us a record of 2-2, which is an impressive improvement over last seasons 0-4. Again, the results were:

5-0
4-0
1-2
1-2

giving us a total goals for/against of 11/4 and a difference of +7. I am glad that I do not remember last seasons difference.

So what is a 2" Radzinski doll good for? Two wins and a +/- improvement of about... 20... anyways, a lot.

No new pictures this time, but thanks a lot for the opportunity to experience the magical powers of this little Polish-Canadian effigy.
Thanks to our winner for keeping us up to date, and congratulations on the most Canadian form of success: understated and underwhelming.

All hail Radzinski!