Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Canada - Poland: November 18th

Poland: A celebration of tubed meats.

According to Canada's FIFA profile, the CSA has lined up a friendly with Poland on November 18th. The match is scheduled for Bydgoszcz, which coincidentally was the bottom line of the eye chart at my last optometrist visit.

With two matches now scheduled during a November international window with no important competitive matches on the horizon, strange things are clearly afoot at the CSA.

[H/T to PompeyCanuck via twitter]

Monday, October 26, 2009

Monday cup of coffee: Glass half-empty edition

Stop me if you've seen this movie before. Team that wears red and white is underperforming. Has some talent but fails to consistently deliver on that promise. Has recently made improvements or shown signs of turning the corner. But then craps the bed.

This description could apply to three of the teams I follow (two of which I support): Canada, who have mastered the pattern, TFC, who seem to have fallen into it in the last few seasons, and AZ, who failed to capitalize on the momentum of their midweek Champions League result.

With not much else to talk about, let's get pessimistic.



But first, a retraction!

Last week, I themed my Monday post around the letters of the acronym FYROM (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia), in anticipation of Canada's November friendly against Macedonia. It turns out that, as often happens when I tread on issues of Eastern European geopolitics, I got it all wrong. And I was straightened out by a Macedonian reader:
There's no FYROM. It is an invented "acronym" nowhere in use. If you refer to the UN provisional reference it is "the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" and shouldn't be shortened and it is for within UN.
Canada uses our constitutional name - Republic of Macedonia, or Macedonia. MK, MKD, .mk and so on...

And I forgot to mention that it is considered highly insulting and derogatory...
Something about a UN ruling and a dispute with Greece. Anyway, I apologize. Not enough to go back to reframe that week's entire post, but enough to let you know about it.

Note my good form in printing the retraction first, instead of buried in some obscure location. Take that newspaper industry!


5 reasons for TFC fans to be frustrated

I've recently outed myself as a non-fan of TFC. That didn't stop me from being disappointed Saturday night upon learning of the debacle in NYC, a 5-0 loss to the worst team in the league to miss out on the MLS playoffs by a single point.

I was disappointed for different reasons than some others, of course. I'd always hoped it would come down to the last minute, a poetic finish to a season of late collapses. When it comes to schadenfreude, agony beats bludgeoning every time.

But for the real TFC fans who number among the bloggers I read and, sometimes, respect, I can empathize with succinct expressions of pain. Less so with overwrought after-the-fact rationalizations.

The litany of excuses for TFC's poor performances is dwindling. No longer is the 'expansion team' card available to be played (Thanks, Seattle). Complaints from Mo in Year 1 about the dearth of Canadian talent no longer hold water when you have the best Canadian player ever on your team (no, not you De Ro).

Speaking of De Ro, his critiques following Saturday's match suggest he is not one to spend much time in front of a mirror:
“I want to see more heart on this team,” De Rosario said, then asked: “How do you teach that? You tell me. I could have came in here and kicked everything down but what’s that going to prove. I’ve done it many times and there’s been no response. Been there and done that.”

There's always next year. (Say it with me Leafs fans!)


Eredivisie report

I don't intend on having this space used solely as a place to vent about the misfortunes of my team, AZ. I already wrote this week about the troubled financial situation in Alkmaar, and I also ranted about Ronald Koeman in the comments of that post.

But it was a little disconcerting seeing the momentum of a Champions League draw against Arsenal and a promising 1-0 halftime lead at home to Ajax turned into a 4-2 deficit by game's end. The only bright spot was that 3 of the game's 6 goals were added to my tally in the Eredivisie contest.

Speaking of which, here's how it looks right now:

TEAM PTS PLAYER GOALS
J
AZ 15 Mounir el Hamdouai (AZ) 7
Ajax 26 Luis Suarez (Ajax) 15


TOTAL (PTS + GOALS x 2) 85
Headhunting Canuck
AZ 15 Luis Suarez (Ajax) 15
PSV 27 Balazs Dzsudzsak (PSV) 5


TOTAL (PTS + GOALS x 2) 82
Pompey Canuck
PSV 27 Luis Suarez (Ajax) 15
Ajax 26 Jon Dahl Tomasson (Feyenoord) 5


TOTAL (PTS + GOALS x 2) 93
Lord Bob
Ajax 26 Keisuke Honda (VVV) 5
FC Utrecht 22 Mounir el Hamdouai (AZ) 7


TOTAL (PTS + GOALS x 2) 72

Pompey Canuck avoided picking AZ, but did grab goal scoring monster Luis Suarez and thus leads overall.


Canadian soccer blog post I enjoyed this week: Fellow westerner (much further west, in fact) Lord Bob rebuts me and my TFC-dislike with a dispassionate expression of ambivalence mixed with appreciation for the Toronto side.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Whitecaps are 'most Canadian' team in '09

With Toronto disgracefully bowing out of playoff contention last night, I've been able to finalize the data on Canadian participation with Canada's three pro soccer franchises this season.

Like last year, it is Vancouver that has come out on top. You can view all the details for yourself, but here are the team summaries:

VANCOUVER WHITECAPS
Competition CDN Total Percent
USL Regular Season 13034 29695 43.9%
Voyageurs Cup 1595 3960 40.3%
USL Playoffs 1990 5840 34.08%
Totals 16619 39495 42.08%

MONTREAL IMPACT
Competition CDN Total Percent
CONCACAF Champions League 762 1980 38.5%
USL Regular Season 11643 28637 40.7%
Voyageurs Cup 1780 3941 45.2%
USL Playoffs 1686 5940 28.38%
Totals 15871 40498 39.2%

TORONTO FC
Competition CDN Total Percent
MLS Regular Season 11523 30630 37.6%
Voyageurs Cup 1570 3960 39.6%
CONCACAF Champions League 646 1980 32.6%
Totals 13739 36570 37.6%

The numbers, for the most part, speak for themselves. Still, allow me the liberty of some interpretation:
  • The playoff numbers for Montreal and Vancouver represented a significant decline from the other competitive matches. In Vancouver's case, injuries (Gordon Chin) and discipline issues (Martin Nash) were responsible for most of the decline.
  • The year-to-year changes are fairly interesting. Vancouver, despite being the most Canadian outfit, saw its number drop from 56.4% overall the previous year to 42.1% (-14.3%), while Toronto jumped from 22.1% to 37.6% (+15.5%). Montreal slipped a little bit from 44.1% to 39.2% (-4.9%)
  • None of the 3 Canadian sides fielded a Canadian keeper for the majority of matches.
  • In 2008 the Voyageurs Cup was least Canadian, in terms of minutes played, of all the competition formats. This year it was the most. The breakdown by competition:

Competition CDN Total Percent
Voyageurs Cup 4945 11861 41.7%
Reg season 36200 88962 40.7%
CONCACAF Champions League 1408 3960 35.6%
USL Playoffs 3676 11780 31.2%
Totals 46229 116563 39.7%


If we only count "real Canadians" . . .

For consistency's sake, I listed Montreal's Eduardo Sebrango as Canadian, and did the same for O'Brian White, who claims Jamaican and Canadian allegiances, depending on convenience. It is worth noting that when both players are removed from the calculations, Montreal drops to third in the overall standings. Toronto's final score would drop to 36.4%, while Montreal would sit at 33.6%.


Final word

While the total minutes played by Canadians, real and marginal, dropped slightly (by just over 3000 minutes) from 2008 to 2009, there were positive developments on the Canadian talent front.

First and foremost was the huge jump in Canadian presence in the lineups at Toronto FC, even while abandoning the goalkeeping position as a Canuck stronghold. I don't really have anything positive to say about Montreal's aging Canadian core, but they are champions so I highly doubt they are crying into their poutine about it. And Vancouver, a year after jettisoning a largely Canadian veteran core, managed to hold onto their title from last year in this department, while fielding a team of emerging young stars like Marcus Haber, Randy Edwini-Bonsu and Ethan Gage.


Coming soon?: Goals breakdown: Canadian vs foreign

Friday, October 23, 2009

Trouble brewing in Alkmaar

It's not easy following European soccer from this side of the pond. Especially when your club doesn't play in England, or one of the other Big Four leagues.

I'd been hearing rumours about ownership problems at AZ (my boys), related to bankruptcy problems with DSB, the company belonging to team owner Dirk Scheringa. However, I didn't know how bad things had become until this past Tuesday when I spent some time watching the team's Champions League clash against Arsenal.

While the AZ fans went home happy after snatching an injury-time draw, I couldn't help but notice that the team had been playing without DSB's sponsor logo on their shirt.

A blank red canvas.

The situation is unclear, but things are looking bleak. The various companies under Dirk Scheringa's control are bankrupt and under some form of receivership. While the fans are trying to put on a brave face (a banner at one end of the pitch in Alkmaar read "Ook zonder geld is Dirk onze hield" -- "Even without money, Dirk is our hero"), but it seems things will get worse before they get better.

The assets are being snapped up. Among other holdings, Scheringa's impressive art collection has been picked up by ABN AMRO, ironically the shirt sponsor of Eredivise rivals Ajax. AZ itself is up for sale for $35 million. If the team can't be sold quickly, it will be sold in pieces as other teams have begun making inquiries about AZ players, assuming they will be dealing with a motivated seller. Moussa Dembele, Stijn Schaars and Mounir el Hamdaoui (who Scheringa opted to keep instead of selling for 16 million euros over the summer) are some of the names being knocked about.

With all of this going on, it's no surprise that the team is struggling in the Eredivisie. Still, performances like the late comeback against Arsenal at midweek suggest this team has some quality, should they be able to hold on to most of their players.

As for the shirt, it will remain blank for a while. Rumour has it that Kooyenga, which as far as I can tell is a Frisian temp agency, is the likely replacement.

I only lived in the country for a year, so I can't honestly claim that my affections run deep, but it is a bit sad to see this team, a mid-sized club that has been swinging with the big boys for the last 5 or 6 years, take such a negative turn.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

MLS vs USL-1: Ending the debate (for '09)

On two previous occasions now, I've taken the opportunity to examine the head-to-head records of MLS and USL-1 sides. The debate is becoming less and less relevant as the most consistent and well-funded USL-1 sides are gradually being admitted to MLS (Seattle, Portland, Vancouver, Montreal[?]). The second tier league is also experiencing organizational and ownership troubles (big surprise!) so the next few years may see a severe weakening of the circuit.

But for now, all we have to go on are the numbers. Like last time, I'm focussing on the Toronto FC era (2007-present) because it is a relatively stable period in the life of two leagues that have experienced significant historical ups and downs in terms of quality, and it is convenient from a Canadian perspective.

Unlike last time, I've chosen to count overtime results in the US Open Cup as draws. Penalty results are of course counted as draws as well, as previously.

Here's a short summary of the results:

MLS results vs USL-1 sides
Year W D L
US Open Cup
2007 2 5 3
2008 3 3 2
2009 3 2 1




Nutrilite Canadian Championship
2008 1 2 1
2009 3 0 1




Concacaf Champions League
2009 1 2 1




Total 13 14 9

You can see the list of all matches here.

The record for MLS sides in 36 matches of 13 wins, 14 draws and 9 losses would account for 53 of a possible 102 points, or 1.47 points per game (PPG).

Whether the comparison is a useful one to make or not, here are the teams closest to 1.47 PPG in the league tables of the last completed seasons (2008-09 for European leagues):
The only bit I'd like to add to the numbers is Toronto FCs record against USL-1 sides. This country's only MLS team, in the last two years, has played Puerto Rico twice and Montreal and Vancouver 4 times each, with a record of 4 wins, 3 draws and 3 losses.

At this point, I don't want to draw any conclusions from these numbers. Just treat them as numbers for numbers' sake. The arguments on either side are well-worn (MLS sides don't take the US Open Cup seriously, etc.) and have either been debunked or remain contentious. The only thing worth mentioning is that most of these results have been collected in knock-out competitions, which skews participation in the matches towards the better teams in both leagues.

Draw your own conclusions if you must, but don't drag me into it.


P.S. I like this.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Monday cup of coffee: FYROMantic comedy edition

This was a bad sporting weekend for me. In any match that was important to me, the wrong teams won. So I am focussing on this past week's lone positive development: Canada booking a friendly with Macedonia.

So along the way this morning, we'll be learning a little bit about this landlocked country, home to Alexander the Great.

Let's begin with the name: the country is Macedonia, but in this internet age of acronyms, many prefer FYROM.


F is for friendly

It is a habit, one that is hard to break, for Canadians to rag on the CSA at every opportunity. That is why it is so important to point out when they get something right.

And booking a November friendly, even when Canada has no important matches on the calendar, is the right thing to do. Pompey Canuck will argue otherwise, but beginning to evaluate the players that will form the core of the Canada squad over the next four years is an important task, and squandering two international dates this month would have been disappointing.

Rumour has it that Canada had been negotiating with the Czechs, which shows a level of ambition from the Association that we're not accustomed to. Even though that match seems not to have panned out, Macedonia is a good get, and should make for a fairly competitive match.

I expect to see a Euro-based squad, though I would not be disappointed to see a few out of season North American based players like Julian de Guzman or Nana Attakora included. Particularly interesting will be whether players like David Hoilett or Jacob Lensky would answer a call.

The fixture goes November 14th in the capital, Skopje. In the only previous head-to-head match between the countries, a friendly in Toronto, Canada came out victorious on a goal from the prolific Niall Thompson.


Y is for Your two favourite Canadian pro teams

This was the source of much of my weekend's disappointment. I was hopeful, maybe even cautiously optimistic, that Vancouver would pull off the upset in the return leg of the USL-1 final. I was also hopeful that the officiating would be better than we saw from a lady-ref Ms. Chenard at Swangard. On both counts, my hopes were dashed.

I aborted my live blog in frustration after the Montreal penalty goal. On my grainy stream it looked like a bad call, but upon further investigation, it was probably the right one. The sending off of Shaun Pejic however, a player finally starting to show why he spent his career in the English Conference, did get my hackles up as I had never before seen a straight red for dissent like that. The sending off ruined any chance of what had been an entertaining start turning into a terrific match.

Now that I have the emotional stuff out of the way, allow me to congratulate the Impact and coach Marc dos Santos. The man turned around a team that was falling apart at the seams after collapsing at Santos, Nutrilite embarassment, Sandro Grande drama, and a disappointing first half of the USL season. The veteran squad responded late to MDS, but the Impact won all 6 playoff matches and are deserving champions.

Nous sommes champions, n'est ce pas?

An RDS article explains how Montreal overcame adversity in '09, while a french CP hit runs down the match itself.

The Whitecaps also deserve to be congratulated. After winning the title last year, they blew up the veteran core of their squad and began a youth movement with a bevy of under 23 talent featuring at various points of the season. USL-1 rookie of the year Marcus Haber was the most impressive but Ethan Gage, Wes Knight, Luca Bellisomo, Randy Edwini-Bonsu, Mason Trafford and others all made important contributions at various points in the season.

They also should be congratulated for finishing on top of this year's Canadian content standings. Despite a final that featured minimal Canadian content on both sides, the Whitecaps top this year's list, barring a long Toronto FC playoff run that is very Canadian-heavy.

(Parenthetically, here are the final 2009 Canadian content numbers for both teams. I'll run the numbers with sort-of-Canadian Eddy Sebrango excluded after TFC wraps their season -- O'Brian White will receive the same treatment

VANCOUVER WHITECAPS
Competition CDN Total Percent
USL Regular Season 13034 29695 43.9%
Voyageurs Cup 1595 3960 40.3%
USL Playoffs 1990 5840 34.08%
Totals 16619 39495 42.08%

MONTREAL IMPACT
Competition CDN Total Percent
CONCACAF Champions League 762 1980 38.5%
USL Regular Season 11643 28637 40.7%
Voyageurs Cup 1780 3941 45.2%
USL Playoffs 1686 5940 28.38%
Totals 15871 40498 39.2%


Ending parenthetical.)

On the 'Caps press side, a CP article explains that I wasn't the only one upset about the red card shown to the otherwise abysmal Pejic.



R is for Rankings, FIFA-style

The newest edition of the FIFA rankings are out, and Canada made a nice jump. 13 spots, to be precise, which can be attributed to the uglier results of 2008 (umm, I don't want to talk about it . . .) being devalued as they age.

Canada sits 53rd overall, and more importantly, 5th in CONCACAF. It is important to maintain a high position in the CONCACAF table, in order to avoid another Group of Death in qualifying for 2014.

Our Thracian friends (I mean Macedonia, see how I dropped some knowledge there) are 66th.



O is for Overseas obsession (the Eredivisie)

In case you've forgotten, the team that I follow most closely is the alphabet-spanning AZ. They are a part of the Dutch Big Four, along with Feyenoord, PSV, and Ajax. Perhaps it is time to include Twente (they could probably take the Rotterdam side's place) as they have moved into first place after a 3-2 win over my AZ over the weekend.

PSV and Ajax were also winners this weekend by 1-0 and 4-0 scorelines respectively, while Feyenoord dropped a derby match against Sparta 2-1.

Data relevant to our Eredivisie pool includes goals from Luis Suarez and Mounir El Hamdouai.

See for yourselves the table and top scorers in the most pleasing teletekst format.



M is for Music of Macedonia



Yes, this is 2009, not 1989.



Lots to talk about today, but running out of space and time. Here are some quick hitters.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

USL-1 final live blog

To live blog, or not to live blog. That is rarely the question, but today it was.

Final four, reduced to two

To be honest, my preferred option was to laze on the coach and take in back-to-back matches (Whitecap-Impacts followed by the acronymically potent TFC-RSL match up). But since SRC (French CBC) in Manitoba basically is one hour time shift of the Quebec channel, I've decided to watch the match online. Woudln't want to be living an hour in the past, you know.

So since I'll be at the computer, I'll share any thoughts, cogent or otherwise, that enter my mind.

First, some details:

USL-1 FINAL SECOND LEG
VANCOUVER WHITECAPS @ MONTREAL IMPACT

Stade Saputo, Montreal, QC

Saturday, 17 October 2009
2:30 pm et / 1:30 pm ct / 11:30 am pt

TV: Radio-Canada, Fox Sports World Canada
Online: Radio-Canada (french), atdhe.net

Montreal leads 3:2 on aggregate (no away goals rule)


The Impact match tracker has the lineups. The Impact are starting 2 Canadians and the Whitecaps 3 (in bold)

IMPACT: Jordan; Braz, Joqueviel, Pizzolitto, De Roux; Di Lorenzo, Donatelli, Gjertsen, Testo; Brown, Byers

WHITECAPS: Nolly; Knight, Bellisomo, Pejic, Hirano; Moose, Pozniak, Versailles, Toure; Haber, James

Interesting changes include Marlon James starting ahead of Charles Gbeke for Vancouver, as well as Chris Pozniak in for an injured Lyle Martin with Wes Knight playing his right back spot.

If you have a few minutes before kickoff, read this solid Vancouver Sun preview. You can also follow the match on twitter, thanks to Marc Weber of the Vancouver Province. He tells us that kickoff is to come at :42 after the hour (:12 after in Newfoundland).

Also liveblogging today's match is one of the guys from the 24th minute, in the far more easily interactive CoverItLive format. Not for me, though: I'm a whore for pageviews, and I want readers hitting refresh.

The Radio-Canada stream was patchy for last week's match, but is working nicely so far. My choice for the match, as long as the transmission holds.

The match in Montreal, live the first leg at cozy Swangard Stadium, is sold out. Which will look good for the cameras. Hopefully the Ultras and other hardcore support are in full voice.

I'll be rooting for the Whitecaps, by the way. I don't know if they can do it, though, without Martin Nash. Missing Lyle Martin isn't big, though.

Prediction: 2-2 final, 5-4 Montreal on aggregate.
What's yours? (Weighing in in the comments, or even just saying you're reading, gives me an indication that someone is actually reading this)

According to Impact coach Marc dos Santos, who has done a nice job of rehabilitating his coaching image after the Voyageurs Cup shitfest, mentions that the Impact players were shown a motivational video before the match. So, Whitecaps, look the fuck out! Because we all know how much professional athletes respond to motivational videos! Teitur Thordarson, the Whitecaps Icelandic manager, has a passable French. Good for him.

Anthems now, kickoff next. Adam Braz mouthing the words, in English.

1st minute: We're off. The crowd seems to be in fine voice. A Winnipeg connection - one of the assistant referees (read: linespeople) is Hector Vergara, who as done the same job at World Cups in the past.

De Roux gets away with a questionable body check that would have given Vancouver a dangerous free kick.

5th
: It looks like Vancouver is going to try to take advantage of every attacking throw-in by having Wes Knight launch it into the box.

First corner of the match now, to Montreal. In the rowdy end. Taken short, crossed, and cleared. More Montreal pressure that doesn't amount to anything.

12th: Roberto Brown is rocking the turtleneck today. Nice.

Marcus Haber just burned about 3 Impact players to eventually win a corner. Talent. Justin Moose's corner is cleared.

17th: Another corner coming for Vancouver. Moose again. Matt Jordan had to climb the ladder to take it away from Pejic.

Yellow to Bellisomo after mixing it up with Jordan on a high-ball into the box (free kick). Luca fouled him (slow whistle) then kicked at the loose ball.

Long throw-in from Knight is headed and rolls to Matt Jordan.

25th: Montreal is controlling the midfield, but Vancouver's technical players on the left side (Hirano, Toure, and Haber) have skinned Montreal's right (Braz, Donatelli) on several occasions.


28th: SHAMEFUL penalty call awarded to Montreal. Nolly had all ball.

Red card to Pejic for arguing. Referee, you are now the story. Congratulations.

Donatelli scores, and I'm done with this liveblog. This match turned into a farce with an undeserved red card and a dubious penalty. Fuck it.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The treason scale: Where does Begovic weigh in?

I couldn't help noticing that a rather pointedly-worded post by squizz of some canadian guys about Asmir Begovic's traitordom received more than the usual number of comments. I can only assume that a link was posted on some Bosnian message board, which resulted in greater pageviews and poorer grammar, spelling, and logic in the resulting comments.

One of these things is not like the others

Since I'll take quantity over quality any day when it comes to readers, I've chosen to weigh in.



Let me begin by stating that I deplore players raising flags of convenience when it comes to international football. If the rules were to become any looser, the World Cup becomes nothing more than a glorified Champions League.

I'm also fully aware that Canada is not the only country to suffer losses under the current system, and we've benefited in a few cases as well. Though on this point, I'd hardly put Will Johnson or Marc Bircham in the same class as Owen Hargreaves and Jonathan de Guzman.

Not all inglourious basterds are created equally, so I've created a rating scale to measure the various acts of treason. Measurements from 1 to 10 are taken in the following categories, and an averaging function is applied:

Ethnicity duplicity (ED): How fair is the player's claim to be of another country? What claim can Canada have to this player?
Effin' FA (EF): What slights, perceived or real, did this player experience at the hand of national or provincial associations? (A high score indicates the player was treated fairly)
Liar liar (LL): Did the player commit to Canada before changing his mind?

Since we have a fairly extensive case history to work with, let me use a few examples before I deal with Asmir.


OWEN HARGREAVES

Score:
8.3 (ED: 10; EF: 3; LL: 7)

If ever there was a perfect time for a rogue wave in London . . .

Probably the most high-profile example. Owen was born and raised in Calgary, and hadn't lived a day of his life in England before suiting up for the three lions. Germany could make a greater claim to him than England at that point, fake Mancunian accent notwithstanding. He was cut from a Canadian U17 team, which is not a good reason to turn your back on your country, but I'll admit it was a factor. At various times he claimed somewhat non-commitally that Canada was in his plans.


JONATHAN DE GUZMAN

Score:
3.7 (ED: 6; EF: 3; LL: 2)

As much as I hate to admit it, I don't entirely begrudge JDG2's decision to choose the Oranje. Maybe it's my Dutch sympathies, but I think if there is a right way to betray your country, Jonathan did it. He never declared that he would play for Canada, and it seems as though the De Guzman clan have been wronged in some way by the OSA/CSA brain trust. As far as being Dutch, I doubt he's pedalling a 3-speed internal hub bike in clogs quite yet, but he did come by it honestly. He's been with Feyenoord for 6 years, has a Dutch child and girlfriend, and speaks the language as you would expect a Rotterdammer to do (that is to say, impolitely).



On to the most recent case:

ASMIR BEGOVIC

Score
7.7 (ED: 5; EF: 10; LL: 9)



The wound is still fresh, so perhaps my analysis will be off somewhat. I'll give Asmir some leeway on the ethnicity front. He was born there, and only left because of war. But at some point he decided he was Canadian enough to wear the jersey for the U20 team. He was given every opportunity to be part of the Canadian set up. You could argue cynically that he should have been subbed into a match in the 91st minute in World Cup Qualifying, except at that point there was no reason for us to suspect a FIFA rule change that would render this particular act of turncoatery possible. And, of course, he lied about wanting to represent Canada. When he went on radio mere weeks before defecting and, of course, when he actually represented Canada.



So for my regular and largely rational readership, try out a few examples on your own (Dani Fernandes, Steven Vitoria, Sydney Leroux, even nationals of other countries like De Rossi or Marco Senna) and run them through the Treason Tron.

And for any potential new Bosnian readers, unleash the full power of your youtube-commenter-level IQ and devastate me in the comments. I can take it.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Monday cup of coffee: Thanksgiving edition


Yes, I know those are chickens. But with a little bit of critical thinking, you too might be able to deduce why a search for 'turkey soccer' might not turn up the desired results.

On to the good stuff.



All-Canadian final: 1st leg

The USL-1 final 1st leg did not fail to deliver in the drama department. The result, a 3-2 victory for the Impact in Vancouver, included:
  • a Martin Nash red card
  • a dubious goal (well offside)
  • a 70-yard solo run goal (Marcus Haber)
  • an own goal
  • a yellow card for mild celebration (no shirts were harmed)
  • a female ref
Quite frankly, most of the excitement came after Nash was ejected in the 2nd half for a studs up tackle on Panamaniac Roberto Brown, so I can't come down too hard on the officiating. Except for Montreal's 2nd goal which, as mentioned, was well offside.

Montreal was the better team, and dominated the midfield, so they deserved to win. Vancouver finished their chances to give themselves a chance in the return leg.

It may have delivered its share of drama, but the match didn't deliver much in the way of Canadian player content.

Don't believe me? Lookie here:

VANCOUVER WHITECAPS
10/10/09
vs Montreal
Luca Bellisomo 1
90
Martin Nash 1
51
Chris Pozniak
1 30
Charles Gbeke 1
45
Marcus Haber 1
86
Randy Edwini-Bonsu
1 4
Total Mins 951 Cdn 306

MONTREAL IMPACT
10/10/09
at Vancouver
Adam Braz 1
90
Nevio Pizzolitto 1
90
Eduardo Sebrango
1 20
Rocco Placentino
1 12
Mauro Biello
1 8
Total Mins 990 Cdn 220

The combined total of 526 minutes is less than Toronto FC fielded*** in their Saturday match against San Jose (more on that below). Heck, throw in Antonio Ribeiro for the Earthquakes and the total for that game blows this one out of the water.

Still, it was a pretty decent match, and you should see the highlights if you haven't already. You can also download the whole match, thanks to an enterprising Voyageur.

I hope next Saturday's clash at Saputo is as much fun as this one was.


** If you count Canadian of convenience O'Brian White



Toronto FC's goal: Open late

I didn't catch all of this Saturday's match between TFC and the San Jose Earthquakes. What I do know is that Nana Attakora, in addition to his usual solid defensive play, noticed a deficiency in finishing gilt-edged goal scoring opportunities for his team, so he went forward and did the deed himself.

That lone goal looked likely to stand up as the winner for Toronto, until a San Jose player, a Trini no less, kicked Toronto's dwindling playoff hopes square in the nuts with a 93rd minute equalizer.

I decided somewhere along the way that I preferred schadenfreude to supporterdom, so I'm not too broken up about the result.

You have to admit: they were asking for it with those pink shirts

Still, Toronto's habit of conceding late goals is causing some fallout. Coach Chris Cummins mentioned in his post game interview that the lads were screaming at each other in the dressing room. Even the normally docile TFC media are getting angry.

Watch Gareth Wheeler get seasonal with his critique:

Turkeys at top of TFC

There are more than enough turkeys to go around at BMO Field again this Thanksgiving.

Toronto FC is no bird and it sure is flightless.

Conceding in injury-time to draw the non-playoff San Jose Earthquakes after two weeks off is as poor of a result as possible.

Mathematically, the Reds may be still alive, but it flatters the third-year franchise.

Perhaps not making the playoffs again this year is best for the club.


See what he did there? Brilliant. If only the same school of journalism also taught that sentences can sometimes be joined together into what are sometimes called 'paragraphs'.

He goes on to skewer Chris Cummins for lineup choices (Nick Garcia, Lesly Fellinga, Chad Barrett), and poor in-game management (failing to make late substitutions). Wheeler also reports Cummins' complaint that his players wouldn't listen to him for the last 20 minutes. Which, you know, is bad for a coach.

On the bright side, Nana scored, Julian de Guzman was solid (but totally wasted playing so far back), Dwayne de Rosario had another assist, and most of the east stand wasn't around to watch the shenanigans.


Eredivisie report

No games this week. No qualifiers for the Oranje either. They are through, unbeaten. They will crash out of the World Cup in the quarterfinals in some most painful fashion.

That said, Luis Suarez scored on the weekend (for Uruguay). No, it doesn't count for his tally. But I wouldn't seeing it continue on Wednesday when his country plays Argentina.


Canadian soccer blog post I enjoyed this week: The Asmir Begovic story in 5 words:
Good riddance to bad rubbish


Special amateur soccer shoutout
No favourite non-soccer blog post this week (to be honest, I don't read a lot of non-soccer blogs so these are hard to find unless someone points them out to me), but let me give a plug to Hellas SC of Winnipeg, who are in the finals of the Canadian senior men's championships. They have a guy who went to my high school on their team, so I suppose that counts in their favour.

The U16 tournament is in Winnipeg right now too. The weather here is crap, which would explain why I saw more than a few soccer teams all decked out in tracksuits wandering the mall food courts the other day.

I had to look at the CSA site to see if we were hosting an U16 or U18 tourney. I was really hoping it was U18, if only to make my biological reaction to a girl on one of the girls' teams I spotted somewhat less pervy and potentially incarcerating.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A strange thing happened on the way to another late-game collapse . . .

. . . I discovered that I don't like Toronto FC.

Let's just say that I didn't find this particularly disappointing.

Listen. I know that Toronto FC is both the symptom and the cause of an emergence of soccer in the Canadian sports landscape. And I understand the theory that what's good for TFC is good for the game in this country. Throughout the team's existence, I've always thought that I was a fan.

But watching yesterday's game, I just didn't care.

It's not that I didn't want to. I'd love to ride high whenever Toronto does well, but my heart doesn't feel the same way.

I returned to the telecast just after half-time, after the goal had been scored, and when I saw the score was 1-0, I'll admit to feeling a little disappointed. That disappointment was largely muted when I learned that it was Attakora, one of my favourites, who had scored. But I did not feel aggrieved at all by San Jose's late (and inevitable) equalizer. You might even say that I felt a tinge of gladness.


I've always known that I'll prefer the other two pro teams, Montreal and especially Vancouver, to Toronto. This is a function of my preference for underdogs, and of better experiences with those two cities than with the T-dot. And I'm a westerner, relatively speaking, so of the 3 the Whitecaps will always be favourites. But I'm not a 'hater' (one of my least favourite words for its total lack of useful meaning).

I try to like Toronto. I love some of their players: De Guzman who always seems under control; Attakora with his immense potential; Serioux living the thug life; even the occasionally brilliant yet often frustrating De Rosario.

And I want to want them do well.

But I'd rather see Toronto out of this year's playoffs than in. I just can't help it. And it looks as though I might get my wish.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

USL-1 Final 1st leg: How to watch


The all-Canadian USL-1 final kicks off tonight in Vancouver. CBC Sports is making a big soccer push this morning and afternoon, but definitely would never bump hockey coverage for minor league soccer.

French CBC
, on the other hand, will have balls to the wall coverage of both legs. Almost. Maybe one ball to the wall, as they will only have the second half live on the network, but will stream the whole thing. Something about Grey's Anatomy and the news.

The details


VANCOUVER WHITECAPS vs MONTREAL IMPACT

Saturday, 10 October 2009
Swangard Stadium, Burnaby, BC
21:30 et / 20:30 ct / 18:30 pt

TV: Radio-Canada (2nd half only)
Internet video: SRC (French), channelsurfing.net. atdhe.net (English viewing options)

Monday, October 05, 2009

Monday cup of coffee: All-Canadian Final Edition

Some Canadian "culture", in honour of the forthcoming all-Canadian USL-1 final

I was in a Tim Horton's on Saturday morning when a manager appeared from the recesses of the store in order to deliver a full-voiced monologue reminding staff that it was a Saturday morning, so they should have "big smiles", and make sure to use their "Thank you, have a nice days!". The advice is largely unnecessary, as owning a T-Ho's franchise is already a license to print money, whether the staff is surly or chipper.

What it did signal to me, though, was perhaps the beginning of a postmodern form of management. Just like TV shows (think SNL, news broadcasts, etc.) have recently become enamoured with panning back to reveal boom mikes, other cameras, and the like, perhaps the next wave in management is to deliver employee harangues right in the presence of customers so they can have the full experience.

Or something. On to the good stuff.


We put the 'us' in USL-1

If you're like me, you spent a good chunk of your Sunday evening watching internet streams of North American second tier soccer. And if you did, you had the pleasure of watching the league's two Canadian sides, the Montreal Impact and Vancouver Whitecaps, advance to the league's final with aggregate wins over Puerto Rico and Portland respectively.

You also saw a professional performance by Montreal nearly ruined by typically dodgy CONCACAF officiating (a dubious late penalty), though this was thankfully cancelled out by an Eduardo Sebrango strike to make it a 2-1 final, and a 4-2 aggregate victory by Montreal.

Montreal celebrates the only way they know how -- by squirting!

Not only that, but you witnessed one of the more exciting matches I've seen in the last while, North American or otherwise. Vancouver, leading 2-1 on aggregate heading to Portland, got an early goal from Marcus Haber to go up 1-0, but dropped 2 goals by halftime to fall level overall. But second half goals from veteran Martin Nash (hey, did you know he's Steve Nash's brother?!) and Vincy Heat striker Marlon James put Vancouver ahead 3-2 before a late goal by Portland's "Finding" Nimo evened the match, but left them one goal short on aggregate.

That paragraph hardly does the thing any justice, though. Do yourself a favour and watch the highlights:



That Vancouver and Montreal have both advanced to the league final isn't entirely shocking. After all, these are two of the league's better run outfits, and both teams have experienced playoff success in the past, particularly the Whitecaps.

However, the manner in which these teams have rescued their seasons is impressive. For Montreal, it was all going tits-up in early 2009, with an inglorious exit from the CCL at the hands of Santos Laguna, a miserable Nutrilite Canadian Championship campaign, a mid-season firing of coach John Limniatis, and the banishing of Sandro Grande. But the veteran squad pulled it together and earned their finals trip with 4 straight playoff victories.

Vancouver showed promise with their near-miss in the Nutrilite tournament (more on this below) but struggled with injuries and a young squad to a 7th place regular season finish. But the latter half of the season was promising, and including the playoffs, the team has only 1 loss in their last 14 matches.

This gives a Vancouver-Montreal final full of intrigue. In post-game interviews, Martin Nash and goalkeeper Jay Nolly both suggested that Vancouver hoped to extract a measure of payback from Montreal. Nash mentioned the Nutrilite tournament specifically (referring to the Impact's bendover act for Toronto on the last day of the tourney) while Nolly kept it general.

The Whitecaps have 2 wins and the Impact have 3 in the 5 matches the teams have played this season in all competitions. Expect more to come on this subject in the remainder of the week.

First leg goes October 10th in Vancouver, second leg October 17th in Montreal. I might even get enthusiastic enough to go liveblog on y'all for the latter match.



This headline puts the 'AZ' in 'lazy'


In contrast to previous weekends, the team that I'm hoping to ride to Eredivisie glory, Alkmaar Zanstreek, or to their friends, AZ, finally managed a decent performance, and got some standings help from other teams. The Alkmaar boys beat NAC 1-0, while Ajax dropped points to our man Marcel de Jong (90 minutes) and his Roda side in a 2-2 draw. PSV also were only able to manage a draw, 0-0 against Utrecht (90 minutes for tentative Canadian Jacob Lensky in that one). Scumbags Feyenoord kept rolling, though, with a 3-0 win over RKC.

On the pool front, only Luis Suarez was able to add to his tally, with 2 more goals for Ajax. Not pool-related but definitely goal-related, the aforementioned Lensky scored a goal in Utrecht's midweek match against NEC.


Toronto FC puts the into the <word> into <phrase describing how they benefited from the results of other MLS matches while they enjoyed a week off, making an unlikely playoff run somewhat less unlikely>


Canadian soccer blog post I enjoyed this week: Not a blog post so much as a quite drunk special edition podcast from Some Canadian Guys celebrating grass at BMO, with a special guest appearance by a drunken Duane.