Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Guacamole is Served




=



Well the keys haven't been given to me yet, but well I decided to add my warm body back into this humble home again. So here we go, let's follow Team Canada, in their attempt to bring respect back to Canadian soccer as they travel into the Gold Cup 2010.

So 3 days before the tournament begins... Canada got themselves an actual friendly to play before the tournament (Cyprus a month ago doesn't count). *Shocking I didn't think they would do this, since they spent the last year avoiding playing soccer*
So last night, or tonight depending on when you are reading this... Canada played Guatemala in a friendly in Oxford, California. Canada defeated the Guatemalans 3-0 in the friendly and will use this victory to build momentum as it goes into the tournament.

Goal scoring for the Canadians was done by Ali Gerba with a pair and Patrice Bernier added another for the squad. Gerba opened the scoring the 4th minute of the match as he used his nogging to put a cross from De Jong into the twine. Both sides had chances in the first half, but neither could convert anymore leaving the score 1-0 at halftime. In the second half Bernier in the 55th minute scored his first international goal with Canada as he slotted one home from the top of box past the keeper low. Gerba scored his second 10 minutes later on a penalty shot after Simeon Jackson was brought down in the box. Canada kept the clean sheet and the score remained 3-0 till the end of the game.




Comment after the game from team Canada man of the match Kevin McKenna
" When we score goals, we score goals as a team. When keep a clean sheet, we keep a clean sheet as a team. We were just a hard unit to beat."





Canada played the game without veterans Dwayne De Rosario, Jim Brennan and Lars Hirschfeld. Even without the big names Canada played a well rugged game with the young bloods showing little fear of being on the pitch.

Starters for Team Canada were, Wagenaar, Stalteri, Jakovic, McKenna, Klukowski, Johnson, de Guzman, Hutchinson, de Jong, Peters and Gerba

Canada's next competition will come in gold cup play when they will face off against Jamaica in their opening match. A preview will be put in place for that before hand, and if I have the time and the tv I will try to lifeblog it as well.
Sources: Sportsnet.ca, Canadasoccer.com, CBC.ca

Cheers, and J... happy camping.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Gold Cup Goals Pool

ENTRIES TO DATE: 5
POT
($ paid or promised): $15
As of 8 am ct, 3 July 2009.


As promised, readers of this blog will have the opportunity to participate in yet another contest.

This one will be the simplest to date: a total goals pool for players in July's Gold Cup tournament.

The Gold Cup . . . or maybe it's this one:



Here's how it will work
:
  • Download the complete list of players for the upcoming tournament
  • Select two players from each team
  • The entry with the most goals scored among its selected players will be the winner. Tiebreaking criteria will be announced at a later date (likely first tiebreaker is that Canada goals would count double).
Prize and how to enter
I can't really afford to keep dipping into my own pocket for these contests, until someone hooks me up with a sweet sponsorship deal. So for this contest, in the true spirit of pools, a cash prize will be offered only if the contest entrants pony up the cash.

So, to enter:
  • Send me an email with your picks (12 teams x 2 players per team = 24 total)
  • Use the button below to kick your $3 into the pot via PayPal.









If you don't want to pay to play, you can play for free, but you'll only be eligible for a third of the prize money. If this occurs, one third of the pot would go to the highest placed paid entry, and one third to me for administrative costs.

For those worried I won't pay:
  • Get over yourself, it's only $3.
  • Check with my previous contest winners, commenters P and squizz, and they will tell you that I'm good for it.
DEADLINE: Entries must be submitted by kickoff of the first match on 3 July 2009.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Voyageurs Cup wrap-up: Canadian content

Most patriotic kimono

With our national holiday on the horizon, it seems as good a time as any to get a little more jingoistic with my soccer blogging.

We are currently in a little hiatus between the exciting second edition of the Voyageurs Cup (Nutrilite Canadian Championship) and the biennial Tournament of False Hopes called the Gold Cup.

I'm going to take this time to look back on our little national cup tourney, and specifically the Canadian content contained therein.


Canadian content on the pitch

First, let's take a look back at last year's Canadian content numbers for the tournament:

2008 Voyageurs Cup Canadian Content
Team CDN Mins Total Mins % CDN
Vancouver 1962 3960 49.5%
Montreal 1878 3923 47.9%
Toronto 725 3960 18.3%
Totals 4565 11843 38.5%

Toronto's measly contribution dragged the overall percentage down significantly. This year, with the additions of Dwayne De Rosario and Adrian Serioux, and the emergence of Nana Attakora, they upped their contribution in a big way.

This year's numbers:

2009 Voyageurs Cup Canadian Content
Team CDN Mins Total Mins % CDN
Montreal 1780 3941 45.2%
Vancouver 1595 3960 40.3%
Toronto 1570 3960 39.6%
Totals 4945 11861 41.7%

Montreal and, especially, Vancouver slipped a bit in this department, but due to Toronto stepping it up in a big way, the total Canadian content on the pitch nudged up from 38.5% to 41.7% over the first two years of the competition. Here's hoping that trend continues.

Two Canadians played every minute of every game in the tournament: Captain Jim Brennan of Toronto, and fighter-not-lover Charles Gbeke of Vancouver.


Canadians bulging the ol' onion bag

It's important that Canadians feature in the scoring department as well.

Back in 2008, there were 12 goals scored in the competition. Of those 12, either 1 or 3 were scored by Canadian players, depending on whether you count Eddy Sebrango as Canadian or not. He had 2 goals, while Martin Nash was the only bona fide Canadian to score. So call it 9% or 25%, based on your own preference.

This year's goal scoring list featured a number of red and white goal scorers. All the goals from the 2009 competition:

TOP SCORERS
Player Team Goals
Dwayne de Rosario Toronto 3
Ansu Toure Vancouver 2
Amado Guevara Toronto 2
Chad Barrett Toronto 2
Kevin Harmse Toronto 1
Marcus Haber Vancouver 1
Charles Gbeke Vancouver 1
Ethan Gage Vancouver 1
Tony Donatelli Montreal 1

Of the 14 total goals, half were scored by Canadian talent (De Rosario x 3, Harmse, Haber, Gbeke, Gage).

A bump from 25% to 50% is nothing to sneeze at.


If you're the kind of person that likes following this Canadian content stuff, pay attention to the sidebar, where I've been tracking the Canadian content for our pro teams in every game this season. The Whitecaps, just like they were last year, are the 'most Canadian' side so far in '09.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Help wanted

I'll be out of blogging range from July 3 - July 12 or so, which rather inconveniently coincides with the entire group stage of the CONCACAF Gold Cup. By the time I emerge from the wilderness, Canada could be out.

I'm looking for someone to keep my readers apprised of events, by blogging the matches and any important news and notes pre- and post-match. Headhunting canuck, since you've filled in before, I'm looking in your direction, but others are welcome. Drop me a line if you're interested.

Also, stay tuned for a new contest. It will be Gold Cup related.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Canada roster for Gold Cup

The Gold Cup website published 30-man preliminary rosters for the tournament last week, including one for Canada. I didn't make much of that, as these lineups in the past haven't always had a lot to do with the squads that are actually sent to the tournament.

Today, the CSA announced the 23-man roster that will get together leading up to the Gold Cup.

The players:

# Player Pos. Team League
1 Greg Sutton GK unattached n/a
2 Adrian Cann D Esbjerg fB Denmark
3 Mike Klukowski D/M Club Brugge Belgium
4 Andre Hainault D Houston Dynamo MLS
5 Kevin McKenna D/F 1. FC Köln Germany
6 Julian De Guzman M Deportivo La Coruna Spain
7 Paul Stalteri D/M Borussia Mönchengladbach Germany
8 Marcel de Jong M Roda JC Netherlands
9 Ali Gerba F unattached n/a
10 Will Johnson M/F Real Salt Lake MLS
11 Richard Hastings D Inverness CT Scotland
12 Issey Nakajima-Farran M FC Nordsjælland Denmark
13 Atiba Hutchinson D/M FC København Denmark
14 Dejan Jakovic D DC United MLS
15 Josh Simpson M/F FC Kaiserslautern Germany
16 Simeon Jackson F Gillingham FC England
17 Jaime Peters D/M Ipswich Town FC England
18 Josh Wagenaar GK Yeovil Town
England
19 Kevin Harmse D/M Toronto FC MLS
20 Patrice Bernier M FC Nordsjælland Denmark
21 Chris Pozniak M Dundee FC Scotland
22 Kenny Stamatopoulos GK FC Lyn Oslo Norway
23 Charles Gbeke F Vancouver Whitecaps USL

By country/league: Denmark-4; MLS-4'; Germany-3; England-3; Scotland-2; unattached-2; Spain, Belgium, Netherlands-1 each.

The 2 unattached players shouldn't be the cause for too much alarm. Ali Gerba looks to be signing with Toronto soon and has the best strike rate of anyone for Canada. And Greg Sutton, while no great shakes, is a reasonable performer and should catch on somewhere in North America soon.

The most notable omission from the squad, for me, is keeper Lars Hirschfeld. He's looking for work right now. If he is looking to catch on in a place like Germany, as has been rumoured, it is probably wise to skip out on the tournament. Other Germany-based players, including Daniel Imhof and Nik Ledgerwood, as well as the injured Rob Friend and David Hoilett (if he feels Canadian) may have chosen preseason training ahead of this tournament.

The last 5 names on the list do nothing to excite me, so lets hope they remain depth players and not key starters in a Gold Cup run.

Caps and goals

# Player Caps
7 Paul Stalteri 73
11 Richard Hastings 54
13 Atiba Hutchinson 40
5 Kevin McKenna 39
6 Julian De Guzman 36
20 Patrice Bernier 36
21 Chris Pozniak 24
9 Ali Gerba 23
3 Mike Klukowski 20
15 Josh Simpson 19
12 Issey Nakajima-Farran 17
17 Jaime Peters 16
4 Andre Hainault 14
1 Greg Sutton 11
19 Kevin Harmse 9
8 Marcel de Jong 7
2 Adrian Cann 5
22 Kenny Stamatopoulos 5
10 Will Johnson 5
23 Charles Gbeke 3
14 Dejan Jakovic 1
16 Simeon Jackson 1
18 Josh Wagenaar 1

Total 459

Average 19.96

# Player Goals
9 Ali Gerba 11
5 Kevin McKenna 9
7 Paul Stalteri 7
6 Julian De Guzman 4
13 Atiba Hutchinson 2
16 Simeon Jackson 1
11 Richard Hastings 1
12 Issey Nakajima-Farran 1
17 Jaime Peters 1
4 Andre Hainault 1
18 Josh Wagenaar 0
22 Kenny Stamatopoulos 0
23 Charles Gbeke 0
19 Kevin Harmse 0
20 Patrice Bernier 0
21 Chris Pozniak 0
15 Josh Simpson 0
3 Mike Klukowski 0
2 Adrian Cann 0
1 Greg Sutton 0
14 Dejan Jakovic 0
10 Will Johnson 0
8 Marcel de Jong 0

Total 38

Average 1.65


A welcome announcement would be some sort of friendly before the tournament kicks off in less than two weeks, but I suppose that is unlikely.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Nutrilite Canadian Championship Pool winner is . . .


Just like the real NCC / Voyageurs Cup final, the pool had to be decided my a tie-breaker. It feels wrong somehow.

These were the tie-breaking criteria that I listed a while back:
Pool winner will be determined by:
1. Smallest total goal difference between predicted and actual results.
If there is a tie based on #1, the following criteria will be applied in order.
2. Total number of correctly predicted results.
3. Entry correctly predicts champion based on predicted match results.
4. Earliest entry.
We had a tie after #1 between M@, squizz, and Lucky Strike.

That's when the remaining metrics had to be applied.

Unfortunately, I was a bit ambiguous about tie-breaker #2. "Correctly predicted results" could just as easily mean "correctly predicted exact score" as "correctly predicted winning team of each match". Fortunately, this error turned out not to be fatal.

Here's how it all worked out:

Entry Number of exact scorelines Number of correct results Winner as determined by predicted scores
M@ 2 3 VAN
squizz 2 3 TOR
Lucky Strike 2 3 TOR

In other words, under either interpretation of tie-breaker #2, we still had a 3-way tie. After #3 was applied, M@ was eliminated, and we were left with two entries.

Tie-breaker #4, our version of the coin flip, means that our winner is squizz, of some canadian guys . . .

The prize as initially announced was a Canada scarf from the CSA shop, or any other item from that store of equal or lesser value. So, squizz, drop me an email, or heck, make a post on your blog with your choice of prize.

Voyageurs Cup Matchday 6 Report

Just the facts:
Scoring Summary:
TFC 0 Montreal 1, Donatelli 24'
TFC 1 Montreal 1 De Rosario 29'
TFC 2 Montreal 1 De Rosario 39'
TFC 3 Montreal 1 De Rosario 49'
TFC 4 Montreal 1 Guevara 69'
TFC 5 Montreal 1 Barrett 83'
TFC 6 Montreal 1 Guevara 90'


Montreal Impact
Srdjan Djekanovic, Stephen deRoux, Simon Gatti, Elkana Mayard, Kevin Sakuda, Leonardo Di Lorenzo, Tony Donatelli (Felix Brilliant 65), Joey Gjertsen, David Testo (Stefano Pesoli 50), Peter Byers, Pierre-Rudolph Mayard (Rocco Placentino 71)


Toronto FC
Stefan Frei, Nana Attakora (Fuad Ibrahim 80), Adrian Serioux (Marco Velez 64), Nick Garcia, Jim Brennan, Sam Cronin, Carl Robinson, Amado Guveara, Pablo Vitti (Chad Barrett 45), Danny Dichio, Dwayne De Rosario

Stupid headline: TFC steals title with six-pack of goals
Because anything that comes in sixes can only be delivered in a six-pack . . .


Obligatory goal trophy celebration photo(s)
:
I'll have to have one photo stand in for 7 as I can't be bothered to collect them all.



Two paragraph analysis
Shameful.

That is the only word I can use to describe Montreal's lineup choices and level of effort after the first half. A team like Toronto FC should expect to beat an Impact B- squad 6-1. And while the Impact side was depleted, there were plenty of better options on the bench than plenty of the names that started. If all bodies were available, don't you think a line up of Jordan, Braz, Pizzolitto, Pesoli, Jocqueviel, Placentino, Grande, Leduc, Brillant, Sebrango and Brown would have beaten the XI that started tonight? Heck, that group might have won 6-1 as well.

Credit to Toronto FC for giving an honest effort. The exact opposite applies to Montreal, who brought shame to the competition. Dishonourable mention to the tiebreaking criteria that rewards total goal difference before head-to-head goal difference.

One (or two) sentence thoughts
  • Dwayne de Rosario was named tournament MVP. That seems a bit too much reward for really only showing up for one of the matches, but I can't think of anybody else that deserved it.
  • Not only did the Impact drop the ball for this game, but so did the Montreal crowd. I know it was a (theoretically) meaningless match and it was raining, but still.
  • Kevin Sakuda is the worst player getting significant minutes on a Canadian pro team. He was in large part responsible for at least 3 of the Toronto goals.
  • While there is no excusing Montreal's defense, they could easily have had 3 goals, which would have made it a different story.
  • I'm not happy about the result, but I can't imagine how the Whitecaps feel. There were some team officials at Saputo last night (the Whitecaps play the Impact on Saturday) and I wouldn't want to feel what they would have been going through. I hope Vancouver lays a beating on Montreal on Saturday.

Canadian content report
Not a lot of Canadian content in this match. The total minutes were second lowest of the matches in the tournament.

MONTREAL IMPACT
Srdjan Djekanovic 90
Simon Gatti 90
Elkana Mayard 90
Felix Brillant 25
Pierre-Rudolph Mayard 71
Rocco Placentino 19
Total Mins 385


TORONTO FC
Nana Attakora 80
Adrian Serioux 64
Jim Brennan 90
Dwayne De Rosario 90
Total Mins 324


The pool report
Just like last week, it seems like few people saw this result coming, or at least didn't see it 2 months ago. A few people predicted a 2-1 TFC victory, which is the closest anyone got to the correct result.

So not only did Montreal's bending over for Toronto bring shame to the competition, it also turned the standings of the Nutrilite Canadian Championship Pool into a real clusterfuck.

There is a three way tie for first, and now I will have to return to my stupid and arbitrary tiebreaking criteria, just like the big boys did.

I'll have a post later in the day to congratulate the winner, whoever that might turn out to be.

MATCHDAY 6
Difference Entries
10 M@, squizz, Lucky Strike
11 Nuvinho
12 Kevin Elder, zeelew, Kevin Rollins, Joe Soccer Fan, 3Lion Roar
13 J, Rob, Elvis, Serie_AHH
14 P, dyslexic nam, Joe Ross, maxg, Phil D, Simon B, Scott Hegedus
15 Duane Rollins, coxon
16 Dan
17 Lord Bob, nobuzz
18 Sam, Headhunting Canuck, vweyonlah
19 Matt John Gregg


Tables

STANDINGS
Team W D L Pts
Toronto FC***
3
0 1
9
Vancouver Whitecaps
3
0 1
4
Montreal Impact 0 0 4
0

*** Toronto wins on total goal difference, +5 to +4.

TOP SCORERS
Player Team Goals
Dwayne de Rosario
Toronto
3
Ansu Toure
Vancouver
2
Amado Guevara
Toronto
2
Chad Barrett
Toronto
2
Kevin Harmse
Toronto
1
Marcus Haber
Vancouver
1
Charles Gbeke
Vancouver
1
Ethan Gage
Vancouver
1
Tony Donatelli
Montreal
1



Final word
: Congratulations to Toronto for winning the tournament. As long as this is a competition between an MLS side and two teams from the inferior USL-1 loop, TFC should be winning at least once every 2 years. They did what they needed to do.

Montreal's approach to this final match needs to be looked at, and hopefully we see a rule change (ie: tiebreaking rules) in the future so such a situation can be avoided.

The next step for Toronto is a home-and-away qualifying series against the Puerto Rico Islanders, which won't be easy. I'm not a big TFC guy, but I'll definitely be hoping for Toronto to advance at least as far as Montreal did, and would love to see a crowd of 50,000 cheering on the Reds at Rogers Centre in the dead of winter.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Voyageurs Cup: Toronto - Montreal live blog

NUTRILITE CANADIAN CHAMPIONSHIP MATCHDAY 6
TORONTO FC @ MONTREAL IMPACT

18 June 2009

Stade Saputo, Montreal, QC
8 pm et / 7 pm ct / 5 pm pt

Live on Rogers Sportsnet
French online stream at Radio Canada Sports



The Impact site's match tracker has the lineups, though they list 12 players for Montreal. They might need to resort to such a strategy, considering the depletion of their lineup due to injury, especially at the back.

I'll list all 12 players until a more correct lineup appears, here or elsewhere, closer to game time.

TORONTO: Stefan Frei, Jim Brennan, Nick Garcia, Adrian Serioux, Nana Attakora-Gyan, Sam Cronin, Dwayne De Rosario, Amado Guevara, Carl Robinson, Danny Dichio, Pablo Vitti

MONTREAL: Srdjan Djekanovic, Stephen de Roux, Simon Gatti, Elkana Mayard, Kevin Sakuda, Leonardi di Lorenzo, Tony Donatelli, Joey Gjertsen, David Testo, Peter Byers, Alen Marcina, Pierre-Rudolph Mayard


Key players for Montreal dressed, but not starting: Stefano Pesoli (returning from injury), Sandro Grande, Rocco Placentino, Roberto Brown. The three players listed as forwards (attaquants) haven't played a lot this year.

The French announcers, quite rightly, are describing this match as a battle between a Toronto A team and a Montreal B team.

Toronto are starting in a 3-5-2 alignment. Montreal have Kevin Sakuda partnering Elkana Mayard in the centre of defense. Expect me to be hard on Sakuda throughout the match.

5th minute: In the first bit of the match, it's been fairly even. Di Lorenzo shot over the bar on the only half-chance so far.

11th: Still not too much happening. De Rosario got a yellow card, and Dichio missed a header. For a team that needs 4 goals, Toronto isn't showing a lot going forward quite yet.

17th: Toronto had a good chance after a De Roux giveaway, but couldn't score. De Roux is the other Montreal player I don't like but I'm starting to come around on him.

PENALTY . . . to MONTREAL. And Donatelli scores. 1-0 IMPACT in the 24th minute.

If Toronto's strategy was to score once in each quarter of the match, they failed to do so in the first 22:30 as well.

28th: Just as Montreal scored in the aftermath of a corner, Toronto gets one back the same way. Dwayne De Rosario finished with a nice bicycle kick after Kevin Sakuda (of course) looked the wrong way.

Toronto still don't look like a team that are going to score 5 goals tonight.

36th: Sakuda is having a howler out there. He can't play with Dichio. If Pesoli is at all healthy, he needs to replace him at half time. Elkana Mayard, on the other hand, looks excellent.

40th: 2-1 Toronto. Dwayne De Rosario again. A deflected shot, and Stephen de Roux didn't do nearly well enough on the play. Nervous time begins already.

44th: These announcers have lost it. They are claiming that De Rosario is the best Canadian player, ahead of even De Guzman. Hint: he's not. Not even that close.

HALF TIME: 2-1 Toronto.

Some thoughts:
  • 2-1 is a fair scoreline. Toronto has had the better of possession and territorial play, and obviously they have the two goals. They have wasted more chance, while there has been a roughly equal number of missed close opportunities, including a nice FK whipped in by Pierre-Rudolph Mayard.
  • It looks like the title of douche-iest TFC player will be passed from Jim Brennan to newcomer Nick Garcia. I haven't seen as many Montreal games, but of the guys on the field tonight, I'd go with David Testo.
  • I don't want to be making excuses for Montreal, but if Toronto's best 3 or 4 defenders were out, what would their back line look like?
  • Nice to finally see Dwayne De Rosario show something.
  • Pablo Vitti has contributed his usual useless dribbling to the first half.
  • TFC diehards may want to beat me to death with a tire iron for saying it, but Dichio's finishing this half has been Chad Barrett-esque.
Now a break to stretch my legs, as I've been crouched in front of my computer, which is sitting on an air conditioning grate to keep from overheating. Still, almost 6 years from a notebook, which is a good long life.

51st: Rejoined in progress . . . and it's 3-1 for Toronto. Not sure who scored. Thank fuck, from Montreal's perspective, that Pesoli is on for Testo, and will be taking Sakuda's spot in the centre of defense.

The third Toronto goal was also from De Rosario. Nice game for him.

54th: Not for the first time in the game, the striker Mayard shoots instead of making the pass. Had he gotten the ball through to Byers it would have been an easy goal that only Chad Barrett could have missed.

Speaking of Chad Barrett, he is in the game. For Dichio, perhaps? Seems a strange move if the objective is to score goals.

Barrett came on for Vitti I think. Not much of a difference there.

63rd: Another great scoring scramble chance for Toronto after yet another mistake by Kevin Sakuda.

Adrian Serioux is off for Marco Velez, which can only mean that Adrian is injured, as Velez is utter shit.

Great chance at the other end as De Roux, Mayard and Byers get together. Frei made a good save, as he did earlier on a Mayard breakaway. Match could easily be 3-3 or 4-3 or some other ungodly score by now.

Felix Brillant has come on now, for Gjertsen I think.

67th: Toronto had a 1-on-1 break against Djekanovic, but Impact fans are thanking their lucky stars that is was Barrett that took the shot. Srdjan made a nice kick save.

But shit, Amado Guevara scores on a nice FK, and it is 4-1 Toronto.

83rd: Toronto scores. What a joke of a match. I'm out.

Thank you Marc Dos Santos for disgracing the competition with this ridiculous lineup.

I'm back

No, I wasn't dead. Instead, the reason for my week-long hiatus is that I was rocking the Canadian shield as only I know how, and paying the price by sleeping it off for a few days.

Le bouclier canadien

For my triumphal return to soccer blogging, I may conduct a live blog of tonight's final Voyageurs Cup / Nutrilite Canadian Championship match at Stade Saputo between the Impact and Toronto FC. This will happen, unless my shit computer overheats trying to handle blogging and a live stream.

In case you've been out of the loop lately, the only result that keeps Vancouver from winning the title is a Toronto victory by 4 or more goals.

Preview: Impact short-handed for tilt with TFC

Prévue: Match batard ce soir au stade Saputo

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Voulez vous bloguer avec moi?

Footballer, blogger, lover.

Patrice Bernier, occasional national team midfielder, has apparently joined the ranks of the bloggers. Or something like it.

A guide for Patrice

If you haven't been frequenting the Radio Canada soccer page over the last month or so, you may have missed the fact that Bernier now writes a (roughly) weekly blog-ish column on a variety of soccer-related topics.

Click on the links if you are fluent in the language of love (French):
  • 28 mai 2009: On est encore le Canada -- Bernier's take on the reasons that Canada isn't involved in the final bit of qualifying for South Africa. Lack of resources for preparation and friendlies is the main one given. He also mentions that the team was hopeful after the relatively successful 2007 Gold Cup tournament.
  • 23 mai 2009: Repartir à zéro -- Preview of the Champions League final.
  • 14 mai 2009: Le mystère et l'attrait de la MLS -- Bernier's take on MLS. Despite the (mis)adventures of David Beckham on this side of the pond, the league continues to enjoy a fairly low profile. It is hard to judge the playing level relative to European leagues because full-strength sides rarely play each other. Patrice suggests that entry into MLS is a logical next step for the Impact, for reasons of prestige and rivalries, and because the USL-1 kitchen will have been seriously raided after 2011 once Vancouver and, presumably, Portland are out of the picture.
  • 30 avril 2009: D'un océan à l'autre -- Bernier talks about his experience in Denmark (young players with lots of technical skill are the norm) and pimps Barcelona for the Champions League title.
I'll be keeping an eye on that space, as Bernier offers a unique perspective.

Ask, and ye shall receive . . .

The latest edition of the some canadian guys podcast contains, for the second week in a row, a reference to yours truly. The trio of squizz, Grant and Jamie spend some time discussing Jonathan de Guzman (and also a sitcom in which that Jono and this one switch places -- he blogs, I suit up for the Dutch national team).

But the crux of that moment of broadcasting perfection was a question. The question: What's up with Jonathan de Guzman these days? Why haven't I heard anything about him recently? Will he ever suit up for the Oranje?

The question was asked in the discussion about a new FIFA ruling that allows players to change countries after having played official matches with a youth team, after the age of 21.

The story with the younger De Guzman in 2008/09:

He had a pretty miserable season. He was on the fringes of the lineup in the early season due to some minor injuries, making only two appearances. He had knee surgery in January and recently returned to the training pitch for the first time.

He is expected to be ready for the opening of the 2009/10 season. His position with Feyenoord is less clear. Certainly, having missed a season with a major injury, De Guzman has lost a little lustre. I spent some time reading a thread on a PSV fan forum regarding a potential transfer.

Feyenoord fans are now enamoured with a wunderkind with the unlikely name of Georginio Boateng Wijnaldum, who plays a similar role to De Guzman. Wijnaldum is Dutch, and could easily receive a call to the senior Oranje side before Jonathan.


My completely uninformed speculation is that if De Guzman doesn't receive a call up to the Dutch set-up (already qualified for WC 2010 and thus probably more likely to try out new players) in the next calendar year, he may be willing to consider other options. He did spend most of his rehab period in Canada, if that is any sign of where his true allegiances lie.

* * * * *

Other news and notes:

Thursday, June 04, 2009

MLS vs USL-1 reprise: The TFC era

Back in February, when we were all in the throes of CONCACAF Champions League fever, I made an attempt to bring some statistical reasoning to the then heated (and now heating) debate regarding the difference in quality between MLS and the United Soccer Leagues first division (USL-1). Here is that report.

I have a few regrets about the way that I conducted that study (read it for my methodology). First was that I counted matches decided on penalties as wins or losses, rather than as draws, which is how they should be counted. Second, that comparison spanned too great a period, during which time the strength of the A-League/USL-1 has fluctuated dramatically.

From a Canadian perspective, a convenient point to begin analyzing the data is the beginning of the Toronto FC era, namely 2007. The data over that period represents a fairly small sample size, but large enough, I think to begin to draw some conclusions. Here it is:

MLS results vs USL-1 sides
Year W D L
US Open Cup
2007 5 1 4
2008 4 2 2
Nutrilite Canadian Championship
2008 1 2 1
2009 2 0 1
Total 12 5 8

That 7 of the total 25 matches over this period involve Canadian USL-1 sides, perenially among the league's strongest, might seem to skew the results a little. On the other hand, only the top 8 teams in MLS qualify for the US Open Cup, meaning the MLS minnows, if there are such, don't have a chance to get exposed by stronger USL-1 teams.

The record of 12-5-8, in a league table, would be worth 41 points from 25 games, or 1.64 points per game (PPG). In the EPL this season the team that most closely approximated this PPG performance is 6th-placed Aston Villa (17-10-11 for 62 points from 38 games, or 1.63 PPG). Similar comparisons from other leagues yield:
Does it stand to reason that an average MLS team playing in USL-1 would finish in 6th place (or 3rd or 4th, adjusting for the size of the league)? Of course not!

Does this mean that the gap between an average MLS team and an average USL-1 side is less than the gap between the top team and bottom team in any Euro league? Yes, and I think we knew that all along!

Presumably I will stop caring about this once Montreal and Vancouver are in MLS. Unless Winnipeg has a USL-1 team by that point (I can dream, can't I?) in which case I will be shouting the praises of the Little League that Sometimes Can from the rooftops.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Voyageurs Cup Matchday 5 Report

Just the facts:
Scoring Summary:
31' - VAN - Ansu Toure
81' - VAN - Ansu Toure (Charles Gbeke)


Vancouver Whitecaps FC
1.Jay Nolly; 6.Wesley Charles, 22.Takashi Hirano, 24.Lyle Martin, 27.Jeff Parke; 8.Wes Knight, 16.Ansu Toure, 20.Ethan Gage (18.Mason Trafford 59'), 28.Gordon Chin; 14.Marcus Haber (13.Kenold Versailles 82'), 98.Charles Gbeke


Toronto FC
1.Greg Sutton; 3.Nana Attakora, 5.Kevin Harmse (4.Marco Velez 83'), 11.Jim Brennan (13.Johann Smith 83'), 15.Adrian Serioux; 2.Sam Cronin, 8.Pablo Vitti, 14.Dwayne De Rosario, 33.Carl Robinson; 9.Danny Dichio, 19.Chad Barrett (10.Rohan Ricketts 67')

Stupid headline: I couldn't find any stupid headlines this time, maybe because the Impact weren't playing and headline writers couldn't resort to the obvious puns. Here's a good writeup on the game from the Province:
Win puts Whitecaps one step from representing Canada in CONCACAF Champions League



Obligatory goal celebration photo(s)
:

Toure

Toure (x2)


Two paragraph analysis
I've only watched the first half and bits and pieces of the second from the downloaded match video (see below). In those parts of the game that I saw, Vancouver was in control. Toronto had moments, but didn't look like the more threatening side, but for a brief run at the end of the first half and beginning of the second. I understand Toronto began to carry the play more as the game went on, but wasn't able to convert this into a goal. Probably the best way to spin it is that the game was fairly even, but Vancouver (read: Toure) had the better finishing on the night.

TFC fans might throw the shots at goal statistics around as proof of their dominance, but supporters of the Whitecaps could easily make a retort with the corner kick stats, a telling sign of territorial supremacy. In the end, though, the team that 'deserves to win' (a pretty pointless phrase) is the one that scores more goals, and tonight it was Vancouver. And until Toronto finds a way to make better use of their chances (and it's not just Barrett, people) they will continue to struggle in all competitions.

One (or two) sentence thoughts
  • Is it just me, or should Greg Sutton have done better on his save/punch that resulted in the first Vancouver goal?
  • Gerry Dobson sure makes his share of mistakes: Steve Nash? Vancouver Canucks? Both of those in a 30-second span.
  • Question to TFC and Whitecaps fans: Who would you rather have for the next 2 years: Danny Dichio or Marcus Haber?
  • Lots of talk about the gap between USL and MLS. The following Vancouver players, I think, could easily be starters in MLS: Wesley Charles, Jay Nolly, Lyle Martin. Give Ethan Gage and Marcus Haber a year or two (ie: in time for 2011) and they'll make the list too.


Match video download
[1st half] :: [2nd half]

Canadian content report

I'm not in the mood to delve too deep into the records, but Toronto's Canadian content on Tuesday night may have been the most in their club's history. Their 526 Canadian minutes played is second only to Montreal on matchday 3 (546), though some fans will dispute my inclusion of Eddy Sebrango as Canadian.

VANCOUVER WHITECAPS
Ethan Gage 59
Mason Trafford 31
Gordon Chin 90
Marcus Haber 82
Charles Gbeke 90
Total Mins 352


TORONTO FC
Greg Sutton 90
Nana Attakora 90
Kevin Harmse 83
Jim Brennan 83
Adrian Serioux 90
Dwayne De Rosario 90
Total Mins 526


The pool report
It seems nobody saw this result coming. Well, somebody did. maxg nailed the pick, though he's far enough back that it hardly seems to matter for him at this point. We also had our single worst pick of the tournament. Matt John Gregg, the man with 3 first names, missed the pick by a goal differential of 6, as he had Toronto winning 4-0. That pick dropped him from the middle of the pack to last.

A showdown between M@ and squizz looks likely, so hopefully the more arbitrary of my tie-breakers can be avoided. However, with M@ picking Montreal at 2-1, and squizz banking on a 1-1 draw, there are some results that would provide from a draw in the final standings.

For now, M@ is alone in the lead of the Nutrilite Canadian Championship Pool:

MATCHDAY 5
Difference Entries
4 M@
5 squizz
6 Nuvinho, Lucky Strike, 3LionRoar
7 Joe Ross, Elvis, Kevin Rollins, Joe Soccer Fan, Scott Hegedus
8 J, Kevin Elder, zeelew, Serie_AHH
9 P, Duane Rollins, Rob, dyslexic nam, maxg, Simon B, coxon
10 Dan, PhilD
11 Lord Bob, nobuzz
12 Sam, Headhunting Canuck
13 Matt John Gregg, vweyonlah



Tables

STANDINGS
Team W D L Pts
Vancouver Whitecaps
3
0 1
9
Toronto FC
2 0 1
6
Montreal Impact 0 0 3
0


TOP SCORERS
Player Team Goals
Ansu Toure
Vancouver
2
Kevin Harmse Toronto
1
Chad Barrett
Toronto
1
Marcus Haber
Vancouver
1
Charles Gbeke
Vancouver
1
Ethan Gage
Vancouver
1


Next match: 18 June 2009: Toronto FC @ Montreal Impact