Wednesday, September 26, 2012

2012 Canadian content: FC Edmonton final report

The NASL regular season is a wrap, and so to the competitive year for FC Edmonton. The Eddies finished out of the playoffs in a league where 6 of 8 teams advance (as a Blue Bomber fan I'm no stranger to this particular brand of achievement) and bottom of the table.

A comprehensive review of their season has been compiled by the never-at-a-loss-for words Ben Massey. Having only watched part of 2 or 3 matches this season, I have neither the interest nor the ability required to compete with his analysis.

Instead, allow me to highlight the only table FC Edmonton will be topping this season: the ranking of Canada's pro teams by Canadian content based on minutes played.

The complete dataset for all 4 teams is available as a Google Docs Drive spreadsheet. Below is the Eddies-relevant summary:

FC EDMONTON
Competition CDN Total Percent
NASL Regular Season 15786 26539 59.48%
Canadian Championship 1235 1980 62.37%
Totals 17021 28519 59.68%

A brief explanation of the numbers:
  • One would normally expect the total minutes to be some multiple of 990 (11 positions * 90 minutes per game).  This is not the case because minutes forfeited due to red cards are not counted (in a game where player was sent off in the 49th minute, the team's total would be 949)
  • Real minutes for substitutes are generally under-reported.  In most cases a sub who enters in the 85th minute will play 8 or 9 minutes depending on how much time is added on. Since data on time added is generally incomplete, the data for the sub and substituted player must add up to 90.
Edmonton's final percentage of 59.7% is far and away the highest among Canada's pro teams. Though the MLS season has a few games remaining, none of the three teams in that league are close (Toronto is nearest; their rating is currently 26.4% and has been in decline most of the year).  But Edmonton's 2012 number represents a sharp drop-off from last year's 77.3%.

2011 was surprising both for the high proportion of minutes awarded to Canadian players, and Edmonton's relative success as an expansion team (they qualified for the playoffs and promptly crashed out with a 5-0 loss to Fort Lauderdale). Some of the changes that affected the nationality balance of the team may also have been responsible for their on-field woes in 2012. Disappointing seasons from import regulars such as Kevin Hatchi, Serisay Barthelemy and Yashir Pinto may be partly to blame.

Among the Canadians, the top 3 in terms of minutes were defenders Paul Hamilton (2024 minutes) and Antonio Rago (1946) and midfielder Shaun Saiko (1817). The latter was also the team's leader in goals scored with 7, yet was still frozen out of the lineup for much of the second half of the season.

Edmonton does deserve credit for mining the oft-overlooked talent pool of Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS). In addition to Hamilton, who spent several years at Trinity Western University, the Edmonton roster includes another XXXX players who formerly played collegiately in Canada: Paul Craig (attended UPEI, 693 minutes in 2012), Elvir Gigolaj (St Mary's, 167 minutes), and keeper John Smits (University of Toronto, 630 minutes)

Looking forward to 2013, one would hope that a continued willingness to feature Canadian talent will correlate to greater success in the standings.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

WCQ goals contest: Matchday 4 update


I'm not in the moody for a breezy intro to the standings for this blog's goals prediction contest after Canada's no-show in Panama City.

After 4 of 6 matchdays, here are the standings:

EntryPts
Trevor C23
Alex G21
Paul B20
Seth G19
Scott B19
Branden F18
Jon W17
Jamie M16
Theo G14

Two matchdays to go. One thing that is certain: Dwayne De Rosario won't be adding to anyone's tally.

You can view the full spreadsheet to see your competitor's picks, and your own if you've forgotten.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Hate-watching Canada-Panama

Canada lost 2-0 yesterday in Panama City, deep-sixing their chances of advancing to the Hex out of Group C. The result was bad, but there was so much else that I hated.

Panama, the country
How do I hate thee? Let me name the ways:

  1. Your countries' priorities are so profoundly warped that a 6-hour night time party outside a business hotel with the sole purpose of disrupting an opponent's sleep is considered a legitimate form of expression. Police stood by and watched. In any civilized country demonstrators would have been jailed.
  2. You can't keep the stadium lights on for more than 6 minutes. Seriously.
  3. You can't competently produce a television broadcast from your national stadium of the 1 sport your country cares about. Constant switching of camera angles, action missed for replays, etc.
  4. Throwing beer at foreign press is a standard form of celebration.
We had been told that Panama was of a different sort than the other Central American hellholes (I'm looking at you, Honduras) but that was clearly not the case.

Panama, the players
We had also been told that the players respected the game a bit more than their dive-happy neighbours.  The team's outrage in Toronto over Kenny Stamatopoulos' hide-the-pickle routine, and repeated harping about the Hutchinson-to-De Ro goal-without-honour would suggest they felt some claim to the moral high ground.  This is what I saw.
  1. Early swarming of the young El Salvadoran referee to ensure he would fail to stamp any sort of authority on the match.
  2. Repeated diving/simulation to earn fouls in the attacking area by Blas Perez and Quintero.
  3. Repeated diving/simulation to waste time in the second half by the above-mentioned players, and the rest of the team, notably the keeper Pinedo.  I counted 4 separate occasions where a player went down, rolling and clutching his face, looked upfield for the ref's reaction, that jumped into a sprint when no foul was awarded.
Elmer Bonilla, referee
He didn't make any game alteration decisions but was clearly cowed by the occasion, helped along by some early protests by the Panama team. This was a game begging for 4 or 5 yellows for rash challenges and simulation but he mostly kept the cards away.

Canada, the players (Marcel de Jong, excepted)
I hate everything about Panama, its people and the players, but the Canada performance was out-of-this-world bad.  They clearly were not up for the occasion from the start and any result would have been entirely undeserved. The midfield was awful, especially Julian de Guzman.  Patrice Bernier deserves his own sentence, so terrible was his contribution. David Edgar was shambolic at right back, though Kevin McKenna also had an off-night.

Marcel de Jong put in a creditable performance.  Canada has one player that can cross the ball.

Stephen Hart
By what logic does changing the formation for the team's most important match during his tenure to a 4-4-2 after four years of 4-5-1 make any sense? His hands were somewhat tied, but the team had no idea what to do under that alignment, and it forced him to play several out of position. The performance level ticked up noticeably when the side shifted into the more familiar 4-5-1.

He must be fired if Canada doesn't qualify for the Hex. And a proper international coach (not Tony Fonseca!) brought in to take his place.

Canada's chances
There is an off-chance (a big Panama win over Honduras and a big Canada win over Cuba in the next matchday) that Canada could go to San Pedro Sula in October, lose, and still qualify. This is good because Canada will lose in San Pedro Sula, another epic shithole.

What did I miss?

Sunday, September 09, 2012

WCQ goals contest: Matchday 3 update


Though many of the entrants may no longer recall it, prior to the start of this round of qualifying I set up a goals prediction contest. Pick 3 scorers for Canada, 2 each from our Group C opponents, 2 from the giants of CONCACAF (Mexico and USA) and 1 from each of the remaining countries.

Halfway through the round, here is how things stand:

EntryPts
Trevor C18
Alex G17
Branden F15
Paul B15
Scott B14
Seth G14
Jon W14
Jamie M12
Theo G9

Poor Theo.  He's the only one to be missing both Alvaro Saborio (4 goals) and Clint Dempsey (3) in his team.  Not surprisingly, all 9 entries earned the point for having Dwayne De Rosario in one of the 3 Canadian player slots.

You can view the full spreadsheet to see your competitor's picks, and your own if you've forgotten.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Canada vs Panama: Player ratings

PREAMBLE

As luck would have it, I had a can't-be-missed obligation during last night's match. I don't have a PVR. Instead, I bookmarked the match video thread at the Voyageurs forum before the match, in order that I wouldn't see any spoilers by finding the thread after the match.  (This is a neat trick if you should ever need to use it).

But there are no need for spoilers here: In the most crucial match at such a late stage of qualifying in at least 15 years (I know, it's pathetic) Canada beat Panama 1-0.

Here's the goal:


Veteran Canadian supporters will note the similarities between Dwayne De Rosario's record-breaking tally and a Tosaint Ricketts strike against Ecuador.

NOTES

Things are far from set in stone, and Canada will almost certainly need to pick up a point either in Panama City on Tuesday, or in October in San Pedro Sula, but there is no way to overstate how massive this victory was.  There are other places to find excellent match reports and analysis; I'll stick to the ratings below after offering the following thoughts:

  • Craig and Gerry did a good job lauding the atmosphere at BMO Field. Though the field mics seemed to have been set low, there was no hiding how electric the place was.  We may now be taking for granted the tireless work done by the Voyageurs and others to pack the south end with hardcore support, but what was most heartening to me was the level of excitement clearly visible among the rest of the 17,000+ Canadian fans.
  • The antics of Panama's Quintero were absolutely despicable; if Julian de Guzman's card from Quintero's second half dive is not rescinded, or at least transferred to Simeon Jackson, the team should be furious.  But Canada seems to be learning.  De Rosario and Jackson both went down more than once on light contact, and Kenny Stamatopoulos' hidden-ball trick was classic CONCACAF.
  • Speaking of which, the referee did buy into some of the play-acting, but otherwise did a decent job taking control of the match.
  • Will Johnson will miss the next match due to accumulation of yellow cards, forcing a change to the starting XI on Tuesday. It will be interesting to see if Hart makes any other roster moves, possibly including the insertion of Marcel de Jong into the lineup.
  • Dwayne De Rosario's winner puts him atop the all-time list for Canada, finally moving ahead of ex-boss Dale Mitchell
RATINGS

Lars Hirschfeld - 6.5: Canada's keeper had little to do, but made the few saves required of him and was aggressive off his line when necessary. There was clearly some miscommunication on a Kevin McKenna back-pass, but distribution was decent by his mediocre standard.

David Edgar - 6.5: Edgar did have some trouble on occasion in one-on-one battles against the quicker Panamanian winger, but was usually solid and strong in the air when called upon. He got forward occasionally, though not always to great effect.

Kevin McKenna - 7: That teammates don't turn away from Kevin when he is ripping into them is a sign of how much of an acknowledged leader he is with this team. Strong in the air in the defensive end, and met the ball twice in the opposing penalty area. I won't fault him for his header onto the post, but his complete miss on the earlier free header lowers his grade.

Andre Hainault - 6.5: There were some fitness concerns after an injury at the weekend with Houston and Andre did look a step slow at times. But he combined with McKenna to shutdown the dangerous attacking pair of Luis Tejada and Blas Perez and like his partner was strong in the air, though both men had a few clearing headers that weren't cleared far enough.

Ante Jazic - 6: Jazic was solid defensively, save for a lapse that left Roman Torres free for a 2nd half chance, likely Panama's best opportunity of the match.  He got forward often enough on the overlap with De Rosario that Panama's defenders had to honour the option, opening up space for Dwayne to cut in.

Julian de Guzman - 6.5: There is no doubt that the widest divergence of opinion of the men on the pitch will be in regards to de Guzman.  It is hard to judge his efforts without knowing what role Stephen Hart asked him to play. He won the ball for Canada countless times by being the third man into a 50-50 situation, and his close control allowed Canada to start the offense from its own end. The critics will the occasions when he lost possession in midfield sparking a counterattack, and his few incisive passes forward. Both camps are likely correct.

Atiba Hutchinson - 8: Back in March, I penned a magnum opus making the case for moving Atiba to right back. Let me rescind  those remarks. A healthy Hutchinson in midfield is among the class of CONCACAF and he showed it last night. His quick thinking on the De Rosario goal will be celebrated, but he showed the kind of creativity and quality in the middle and attacking thirds that the team is mostly lacking.  He made some vital tackles and showed his wiry strength, though there were also a few loose touches.  My man of the match.

Will Johnson - 7: The blunting of Panama's attack was a battle won in midfield and Will was a big part of that.  He did his normal Will thing, full of running and ball-winning, and generally solid in possession.  He will miss the return engagement in Panama City and his quality on corners and set pieces will be hard to replace (though Patrice Bernier might do the job if he is given the opportunity).

Dwayne De Rosario - 7: My usual criticism of De Rosario is that he too often takes an extra touch and in the offensive end when a quick pass or shot would do.There were times last night when he was guilty of that. But he did also combine well at times with Occean, and of course he was hip to Hutchinson's jive on the record-setting goal.

Simeon Jackson - 6.5: Simeon Jackson and Stephen Hart seem to be learning how best the player can be deployed on the right. He gave Panama's left back fits, and of course won the foul that created the goal. He also put in a good defensive shift. I would like to see him drift into the middle more often where he can be a more direct goal threat, but this is not the job that is being asked of him.

Olivier Occean - 6.5: The quality of the work done as a target striker and hold-up man done by Occean was largely revealed once he was taken off and Tosaint Ricketts took his spot. He doesn't have the speed to get on to through passes, but was involved in some good combination play and had two strikes narrowly wide.

SUBS

Patrice Bernier - 6: Did not make much of an impression but for a decent bending free kick. 

Tosaint Ricketts - 5.5: His speed late in matches is a massive asset, but it took him some time to get involved (that his teammates were mostly thumping the ball aimlessly forward at that point clearly didn't help).  BUT: run to the corner flag, young man!

Marcel de Jong - 5.5: His two-way game is surely going to come into play at some point in this round of qualifying.

BENCH

Kenny Stamatopoulos - 10: I never imagined I'd mention his name in the report of a crucial match but his hidden-ball trick was something to behold.  I'm ready to admit I'd be howling in protest if the roles were reversed, but the situation was escalated by the Panama player pushing him when he appeared ready to give up the ball.

NEXT MATCH

The vitally important return leg is this Tuesday in Panama City (9 pm et / 8 pm ct / 6 pm pt).  Of note, the match will be broadcast nationally on the widely carried CityTV in addition to Sportsnet One.  A result in this match would go a long way towards securing progress into the Hex.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Canada - Panama preview

Some links and info on the biggest men's match of the decade . . .

Betting odds: CAN 2.40 draw 3.10 PAN 3.00 (bwin)

I check these from time to time to get some idea of how the rest of the world view our chances (Canadian fans are of course scared shitless).  I am increasingly of the opinion that with these relatively low profile matches they don't put much thought into the odds.  Canada was a much heavier favourite earlier this week (1.95 or so) which means most of the betting action as been on the Panama side.  I'm not surprised.

Media previews




I don't speak Spanish but I'm smart enough to figure out this is good news.

Tactics

Stephen Hart talks tactics with The Score's Kristian Jack (youtube video): Parsing his comments, it seems to me he is considering starting Marcel de Jong at left back although observers at practice yesterday seemed to suggest the group of Jazic - Hainault - McKenna - Edgar would stay together.

Butts in seats

Word is the lower bowl is all but sold out and the upper deck will be opened to walk up attendees. Pack the place, Toronto.

Prediction

1-1.  I'm too jaded as a fan to be more hopeful than that.


Thread to be updated nearer to game time with more info.