Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Milestone watch 2010

While Canada's national soccer team won't be playing any important matches this calendar year, two of the most important individual milestones are likely to be surpassed.

MILESTONE #1: ALL TIME CANADA CAPS

While I no longer have much use for Paul Stalteri as a player for the national team, and I think the coaching staff should be exploring younger options for the right back position, I also think it would be somewhat of a slap in the face of they didn't allow him to reach the all-time matches played record. He currently needs three to tie Randy Samuel and I'd put his chances at even money to reach this number in 2010.

MILESTONE #2: ALL TIME CANADA GOALS

Canada's all time goal scoring record is currently held me nightmare coach Dale Mitchell, with a relatively paltry 19. Dwayne De Rosario and Ali Gerba both aren't far behind at 15. If either one were to open their account this Sunday with a goal or two against Jamaica, it would put them on track with a shot to reach 20 before the end of 2010.

Gerba has a voracious appetite for goals.

De Ro's 15 have come in 52 matches, while Ali Gerba has done the deed in just 28 games.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Monday cup of coffee: Winter's back

After some unseasonably gross weather featuring freezing rain, slush, and wet snow (in other words, Ontario weather), we are soon back to our regular scheduled deep freeze here in the centre of Canada. Which is just the way I like it.


And there's no better time than the dead of winter for you to enjoy some Canadian footie stories that will be several days old by the time you get around to reading them!

Harmse to Houston, Bernier to follow?


It's pretty typical behaviour of the type of person that follows Canadian soccer closely to get excited about the various and sundry transfer rumours that pop up at this time of year involving Canadian national teamers swapping European clubs.

However, the only stories with any legs involve Canadians moving to Houston of the MLS. The first move is confirmed. Card-machine and former TFC player Kevin Harmse (9 caps) signed with Houston after spending the second half of the 2009 season injured with Chivas USA.

The Dynamo have lost midfielders Ricardo Clark and Stuart Holden to European sides, so they're looking to shore up that department. Perhaps thinking along these lines, there are rumours that 30-year old Patrice Bernier (43 caps, 2 goals for Canada), currently with FC Nordsjaelland of Denmark, could be set to join Harmse, as well as Andre Hainault and Pat Onstad with the Dynamo.

Our man PB could be moving to Texas.

I have only been able to trace the Bernier rumour as far as a goal.com piece published Friday by Kyle McCarthy:
Replacing its creative presence in central midfield may be the next move after Houston COO Chris Canetti told the Houston Chronicle that he expects Stuart Holden will join Bolton. Dynamo coach Dominic Kinnear can shift the versatile Geoff Cameron into midfield to help address the void, but Cameron can't play both spots. A pair of Canadians – the recently-linked Patrice Bernier and the recently-acquired Kevin Harmse – might help to provide some depth, but Houston will likely have to make a more significant move to add some attacking thrust in midfield.
No news of a Bernier transfer yet from the other side of the pond: he featured Saturday in two exhibition matches for the club against Swedish side Halmstad: starting and scoring for a Nordsjaelland 'B' team against a Halmstad reserve group, and then coming on as a sub in the 'A' match.

While we're on the topic of Bernier, his latest column for SRC Sports is worth a read. He touches on Haiti (still has relatives on the island, and has been in contact with the Haitian football federation about supplying some equipment), the tragedy involving the Togo squad in Angola (South Africa's not Angola), and the opportunity that South Africa has to show itself well as host of the World Cup.

Old man Onstad and three youngsters bolster Canada roster

When I listed Canada's roster last week for next Sunday's friendly with Jamaica, I mentioned that Canada would likely be calling an extra goalkeeper to join David Monsalve at the training camp.

The CSA did one better by calling two 'keepers. Michal Misiewicz, along forward with Randy Edwini-Bonsu and midfielder Derek Gaudet, were asked to stick around after their U23 training camp wrapped up, while Pat Onstad, who had been serving as goaltending coach for the U23s, has been invited to join the team for the Jamaica match.

Adrian Serioux, who was originally part of the plans, didn't make the trip because of a serious elbow injury.


U20 women qualify for semi-final

No surprise here, but Canada's U20 women's team earned the maximum 9 points in a group with Cuba, Costa Rica, and Guatemala, to earn a spot in the semi-finals of the CONCACAF qualifiers for the U20 WWC. Likely opponent in Thursday's semi is Mexico.

You can watch the matches at the CONCACAF website.


Pro soccer in Winnipeg?

Sort of. I'm not sure if the players are being paid, and it's a pretty serious concession on my part to allow that indoor soccer is actually soccer, but the Winnipeg entry in the Canadian Major Indoor Soccer League. has started play. The Winnipeg Alliance have a 1-3 record currently, with matches remaining in February and March. Home base is a far-flung indoor soccer centre, and I have no interest in going there, but there is a doubleheader scheduled for MTS Centre downtown that I may check out if my schedule allows.


Canada - Jamaica pump up video


Footage of the last time these teams played (hint: it ended well!)


And, just because . . .

Is there anybody under the age of 40 who thinks that Jay Leno has ever been funny?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Twitter tracker


Of the guys in camp in Fort Lauderdale, I know of three that are on twitter: @dwaynederosario, @davidamonsalve, and @JBDEGUZZI. Anyone know of any others, either among the 17 or 18 getting ready for Jamaica, or the wider player pool?

Leave me a comment or send a tweet my way (@o_o_t) if you know of any.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Monday cup of coffee: It's been a while, hasn't it?

Sometimes the real world intrudes with a proper blogging schedule. Other times motivation is lacking. There yet other instances when there is little to write about.

This week, these forces have taken a break from conspiring against me. So back to your regularly scheduled weekly rehash of news you've read elsewhere.


Canada loses 3-1 to Honduras

No, I'm not having flashbacks from October 2008. There was a matchup of Canadian and Honduran sides this weekend at the Holiday Inn in Florida. To be specific, the teams involved was a Canadian U23 squad preparing for Olympic qualification, and the senior Honduras squad (albeit one missing a few of their bigger names) preparing for this summer's World Cup.


Given the mismatch, the 3-1 result is rather impressive. Especially when you consider that it was 1-1 at half, before coach Tony Fonseca swapped out almost the entire squad. All 21 players in camp saw the pitch at some point.

The Canadian goal was scored by 19-year old Whitecaps striker Randy Edwini-Bonsu, from whom I expect a big things in 2010.


Canada to play Argies in May?

There are rumours of a friendly in the works between Canada and Argentina, to be played in Buenos Aires on May 25th. The rumours are drawn from two paragraphs of a Spanish article about a Germany-Argentina match in Munich in March:
El plan inicial de disputar los amistosos previos al Mundial en Europa cambió. A pedido de los jugadores, la selección jugará frente a Canadá el 25 de mayo en el estadio de River y cuatro días después el rival sería Israel (en Buenos Aires, estadio a confirmar), antes de emprender el viaje hacia la concentración de Pretoria para esperar el estreno el 12 de junio con Nigeria en el estadio Ellis Park de Johannesburgo.

Los jugadores solicitaron que la antesala del Mundial se desarrolle en el predio de Ezeiza para lograr una unión de grupo y el equipo que organiza los amistosos de la selección respondió con la organización del partido el 25 de mayo en el estadio Monumental de Núñez ante Canadá en el marco de los festejos del Bicentenario de la Revolución de Mayo.

[source]
But before we get our collective panties in a knot, let us first pay heed to the words (or tweets) of some of the better connected Canadian soccer observers:
Just talked to a CSA source. Said Argentina game isn't official - CSA is actively negotiating with several national teams, though. -- @JohnMolinaro
And from the Voyageurs' own VPjr:
I don't want to put a damper on all this happy news but it has been suggested to me by someone in the know that no one should be booking a trip to Buenos Aires just yet.

I personally believe that this match is going to happen, based on the info I've gathered from a couple of sources, but apparently it is not signed, sealed and delivered yet and we all know how these kinds of negotiations can fall apart. So, for now, I have fingers firmly crossed.

What I do know is that the CSA is pushing to book two matches during this May window and are negotiating with a number of countries to make that happen.
In another post, he suggested that an announcement of a May 2nd away friendly could be expected shortly.


Roster for Canada-Jamaica

Let's talk for a moment about a friendly that is official. Canada opened camp today in Sunrise, Florida, a two week exercise that will culminate with a friendly in Kingston, Jamaica on January 31st. Here are the players involved, with another goalkeeper expected to be named later:

Player Pos. Team League Caps Goals
David Monsalve GK FC Inter Turku Finland 0 0
Nana Attakora D Toronto FC MLS 0 0
Adrian Cann D Esbjerg fB Denmark 7 0
Andre Hainault D Houston Dynamo MLS 15 1
Tyler Hemming D Montreal Imapct USSF D2 1 0
Eddy Sidra D FC Energie Cottbus Germany 1 0
Dejan Jakovic D/M DC United MLS 6 0
Ante Jazic D/M Chivas USA MLS 23 1
Adrian Serioux D/M Toronto FC MLS 19 1
Antonio Ribeiro M San Jose Earthquakes MLS 2 0
Carlo Rivas M Universidad de Concepcion Chile 0 0
Massih Wassey M FC Schalke 04 Germany 0 0
Julian de Guzman M Toronto FC MLS 42 4
Dwayne De Rosario M Toronto FC MLS 52 15
Will Johnson F Real Salt Lake MLS 10 0
Ali Gerba F Toronto FC MLS 28 15
Stephen Ademolu F FK Ekranas Lithuania 2 0

The rosters for the winter gatherings that the CSA has organized over the last several years have tended towards the experimental, and this is no exception. It features 4 young-ish uncapped players (Massih Wassey, Carlo Rivas, Nana Attakora, and David Monsalve), and 4 players on 1 or 2 caps (Stephen Ademolu, Antonio Ribeiro, newly signed Impact man Tyler Hemming, and Eddy Sidra).

But it is also a group that includes every Canadian in MLS except Jim Brennan and Pat Onstad (correct me if I'm wrong), and a good deal of experience and goal scoring with the inclusion of Julian de Guzman, Dwayne De Rosario, and Ali Gerba; as well as established Canada players like Will Johnson, Dejan Jakovic and Andre Hainault.

Jamaica's roster is missing of a few of its best players, so it's not unreasonable to expect a good result from this match.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

If a tree falls . . .

I could have appended this to yesterday's Eredivisie post, but I think it merits space to itself.

In the news this morning, we learn that former Ajax frontman and now Liverpool benchman Ryan Babel has officially released the single "Misgunners", along with a veritable Eredivisie all-star team of Vurnon Anita (Ajax), Leroy Fer (Feyenoord), and Mitchell Burgzorg (NEC Nijmegen).

Download/listen to 'Misgunners'

To be honest, I don't mind the track at all. It has the feel of one of the Drake/Lil Wayne joints, though I couldn't say which one.

This isn't the first foray into the rap world for Babel: he previously made an appearance on a Rotterdam radio show with host U-Niq and Real Madrid's Royston Drenthe with, ahem, interesting results:

Monday, January 04, 2010

Winterstop

Most people would find being a supporter of Canadian soccer in the country's dusty prairies to be a lonely pursuit. Not lonely enough for me. My solitary obsession is following Holland's Eredivisie as closely as is possible, under the circumstances.

Such devotion is draining, which is why I'm always grateful for a break. The current pause is the league's winter holiday, which is given the German-style conjoined name of winterstop. I'll leave the translation to the Einsteins who read this blog.

Eredivisie teams have until the end of the month to step back and refocus for the second half of the season. No better time, then, to take stock of the action from the first half of the year.


AZ's title defense as an illustration of Murphy's Law

In summer of this past year, AZ supporters were on cloud nine. The team had broken PSV's recent streak of dominating the league, had qualified directly for the Champions' League group stage, and looked likely to continue to compete for top prizes in Holland.

Then things started to happen:
  • Louis van Gaal, the man to lead the team to its 2008-09 successes, jumped ship to Bayern Munich.
  • Projected Eredivisie scoring champ, Mounir el Hamdaoui, missed months due to injury and has not since recovered the goal-a-game form with which he began the season.
  • Dirk Scheringa, DSB bank and team owner, went bust.
  • AZ crashed out of Champions League and failed even to qualify for Europa League due mainly to a pair of inglorious results against Belgian side Standard Liege.
  • Coach Ronald Koeman, the man responsible in 2004-05 for my then-inability to find room in my heart for Ajax, despite game tickets and team merchandise being foisted my way by eager Amsterdammers, worked his unmagic with this AZ team, and as a result was fired in December. The team is now being managed by Dick Advocaat, who is keeping up his side gig running the Belgian national team setup.
Since AZ is the side that I nominally support, the first half of the Eredivisie season has been one to forget.

Still, I'm hopeful. With no Europa or domestic cup (another shameful exit) to worry about, the team can afford to be singleminded in its efforts to climb the Eredivisie table. Midsummer transfer rumours involving el Hamdaoui moving to Spain are now laughable due to his precipitous drop in form; if he regains it, AZ will have a formidable striking weapon.


Eredivisie table as you've never seen it before

Here it is:


FC Twente are topping the table. The Enschede side hasn't won the league in the professional era, but for the time being they are well positioned in a two-way race with PSV Eindhoven.

Of interest to CONCACAF observers is that FC Twente rise up the table has been powered largely by Costa Rican forward Brian Ruiz. In fact, the top two goal scorers in the league are from this side of the Atlantic, though the leader hails from considerably further south.


Luis Suarez' goal scoring numbers are even more impressive when you consider his exploits in the Europa and Dutch Cups (8 in 8 matches). While rumours of a Suarez move out of Holland are inevitable, the biggest goal scoring name to depart has been VVV's Keisuke Honda.


Used Honda bought in Russia bad news for Lord Bob


If you're a regular reader of this blog, you'll recall that I occasionally update the standings of a contest for the closer observers of this league among you. And here's how it stands:

TEAM PTS PLAYER GOALS
J
AZ 28 Mounir el Hamdaoui (AZ) 7
Ajax 38 Luis Suarez (Ajax) 18


TOTAL (PTS + GOALS x 2) 116
Headhunting Canuck
AZ 28 Luis Suarez (Ajax) 18
PSV 45 Balazs Dzsudzsak (PSV) 8


TOTAL (PTS + GOALS x 2) 125
Pompey Canuck
PSV 45 Luis Suarez (Ajax) 18
Ajax 38 Jon Dahl Tomasson (Feyenoord) 5


TOTAL (PTS + GOALS x 2) 129
Lord Bob
Ajax 38 Keisuke Honda (VVV) 6
FC Utrecht 30 Mounir el Hamdaoui (AZ) 7


TOTAL (PTS + GOALS x 2) 94

With Honda gone, LB will be counting on a big second half from el Hamdaoui. I'm in the same boat. This boat is likely headed for an iceberg.


My predictions of things that matter:
  • Luis Suarez won't be transferred and will finish the year with 29 Eredivisie goals.
  • AZ will gradually get untracked and finish in 5th.
  • Twente will backslide a little, and the boeren from Eindhoven, PSV, will be champs.


Oh yeah, Happy New Year to the readers of this blog.