Monday, March 31, 2008

Mitchell's Minutes: 5 games in

I don't do well at carrying through on any of the statistical tracking projects that I start, and I now no longer bother with a comprehensive set of records (caps, goals, etc.) since the CSA site switched to its new and more accurate format. But I do like to keep tabs on the players which seem to be in the plans of the current skipper (I almost used "new" but we've known he was the man for nearly a year now).

Here's who has played, and how much, under the current regime, up to and including last week's Estonia match:

Player Starter Sub Minutes
de Guzman, Julian 4
Stalteri, Paul 4
Bernier, Patrice 3 1 298
Radzinski, Tomasz 4
De Rosario, Dwayne 3
Hirschfeld, Lars 3
Klukowski, Mike 3
Nakajima-Farran, Issey 3 1 265
Hainault, Andre 3
Hutchinson, Atiba 3
Gerba, Ali 3
Onstad, Pat 2
Serioux, Adrian 2
Hastings, Richard 2
Hume, Iain 2 1 154
Imhof, Daniel 1 2 152
Brennan, Jim 1
Cann, Adrian 1
Harmse, Kevin 1
McKenna, Kevin 1
Nash, Martin 1
Reda, Marco 1
Williams, Chris 1
Gbeke, Charles 1
Occean, Olivier
3 75
Friend, Rob
2 74
Pozniak, Chris 1
Simpson, Josh 1 1 62
Jakovic, Dejan
1 25
Ledgerwood, Nik
1 18
Johnson, Will
1 17
Simpson, Dave
1 10
De Jong, Marcel
1 6
Ribeiro, Antonio
1 5
Totals 55 17 4939

* Totals include non-FIFA sanctioned friendly vs Martinique, but not friendly against Danish club side Vejle BK

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Canada - Estonia redux

A summary,in pictures, of today's friendly in Tallinn:

More to come?

OK, a real photo from the match:

It's hard to comment too much on a match played in a snowstorm that you were only half-watching because you had to pretend to be busy at work, but it seems the scoreline was unfair to Canada [CP report]

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Odds & ends: Estonia and Guatemala

The U23 Olympic Qualifying tournament wrapped up on Sunday, and Canada's 3rd place match with Guatemala escaped my attention almost entirely. I intended to check out at least a few minutes of the action, but I had the time of the match wrong. Canada, with what amounted to a B lineup (Wagenaar, Hainault, Johnson, Ornoch didn't start, for example), ended up winning on penalties following a 0-0 draw. (Honduras beat USA in the first place match but, really, who cares?)

Even though the result of the tournament was disappointing, it was great to have a week and a half of intense action to follow. And long-suffering fans need not wait too much longer to watch Canadians in action: Wednesday's friendly with Estonia is still on the menu. I've already raved about the lineup that Mitchell has called together for this match, but there's something else I'm excited about: live coverage of the match on CBC.
Another Estonian team
OK, it's not CBC TV, just a web stream, but since I'll be at work that's even better. It gets underway at noon ET, so a long and unproductive lunch break may be in order.

The weather in Tallinn is apparently pretty ugly right now (by European standards) which may suit some of the Canadian lads just fine, but hopefully doesn't affect the quality of the pitch or the match too much.

Some players may be a bit tired, particularly Andre Hainault, who put in his time with the U23 squad then flew to Europe to catch up with the national team, and Rob Friend, who played 90 minutes on Monday. Hainault may be good to go, but I don't see Friend getting more than 45 minutes on Wednesday.

Prediction: Canada 3 - 1 Estonia (De Rosario, Gerba, Hutchinson)

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Canada U23 torrents

As much as I don't want to watch some of these matches ever again, here's a chance for you to catch up if you missed them*. The Guatemala match can be a useful tonic in those dark times when being a Canadian supporter pushes you too close to the edge.

12.03.2008: Canada v Mexico

14.03.2008: Canada v Haiti

16.03.2008: Canada v Guatemala

20.03.2008: Canada v USA

The first three matches are Spanish language broadcasts from ESPN Deportes, but as fans we've certainly endured worse.

This page will be updated to include tomorrow's potentially interesting 3rd place match against Guatemala when the video becomes available. No live blog, though. Too much resurrection stuff going on.

* The links are torrent files. If you don't know how to download them, read up!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

U23: Canada - USA live blog

We'd like to see more of this!

CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying
Semifinal match: Canada vs. USA

8 pm local (Nashville, TN), 9 pm ET

[spanish | english] : These live streams may not work in Firefox, so you might have to use IE.

I'm setting this up early because I'll surely be too jittery to do it tomorrow. Its a semifinal match, but since both finalists in the tournament will qualify for Beijing '08, this is the important round.

This match is so important, in fact, that the Canadian media have decided to take a break from ignoring Canadian soccer. Some recent articles:

Cdn U-23s relish underdog status vs. US (that headline has me hungry for hotdogs)
Canada gears up for Olympic soccer qualifier vs U.S.

You can do a Google News search and find more, but they are all essentially mash-ups of the same wire stories.

If you need any more reason to get fired up a for a match against the U.S., here it is:

Check back tomorrow when the action begins, beginning no doubt with the pre-game beer updates.

Game day

It's two hours until game time. I've been watching a bit of Guatemala-Honduras, which has been predictably chippy, and is 0-0 at the half. The Honduran #10 is lucky to still be in the match, as the yellow he received could easily have been red.

The beer choice for this evening is Alexander Keith's Red Amber Ale. I stayed away from Keith's for a while after the child porn charges against their former commercial spokesperson, but they are a decent Canadian brew. And it is clear that going foreign brough bad luck last time. It may not matter much, as I've developed a killer sore throat and may be sucking down tea and Halls for the next few hours instead.

Keep checking back for updates. The next will probably include the lineups, maybe 30 or so minutes before kickoff.

T minus 30 (or so) minutes: I'm not quite sure if our match will kick off on time, with Guatemala and Honduras going to extra time (edit: Honduras is through to Beijing on PKs). But the starting eleven is up, and it's the same as for the 5-0 thrashing of Guatemala. It should look like this:

Ramalho - Jakovic - Hainault - Ledgerwood
Hemming - Ayre
Ricketts - Rosenlund - Johnson

Getting a bit nervy. I settled in to watch some hockey and saw two brilliant goals by the Canadiens (sure, they were both by the Russian Alex Kovalev) which could be a good omen.

6:00: It's underway. Somehow I missed the first few missed, distracted by basketball of all things.

12:00: Not much to say so far. USA has the better of the play, as might be expected. Canada defending in numbers, perhaps too large a number.

16:00: Will Johnson is described as "a little hot and heavy in the head". A bit puzzling, if you ask me.

18:00: Altidore gets free near the back post, but Wagenaar robs him! Someone sign this guy.

24:00: Canada is not attacking at all. And the announcers have got all excited about two Adu shots that were 6 yards wide.

Half time: Sorry about the lack of updates. Issues here at OOT central. It's 1-0 USA, on an Adu free kick that was poorly defended, but also misplayed by Wagenaar in the 29th minute. Shortly thereafter, Ayre was subbed out for Kyle Hall and Canada started to look a bit better. Each team has had a couple of half chances and Canada has the only yellow card, to Hainault for a foul on Altidore.

I'll be switching to the Spanish broadcast for the second half because these American announcers are nauseating. Case in point: the Adu goal. They were going on and on and getting boners about Adu's great service when the goal was clearly a case of Wagenaar initially jumping the wrong way. In fact, Adu shot it directly at the point where Josh was positioned.

The ref has been calling very little, the harsh yellow on Hainault excepted. Ornoch is getting abused and therefore hasn't been as effective, while Johnson is taking his usual beating, though without earning any whistles.

USA has surely dominated, but Canada isn't out of it. The goal came on a set piece and was a bit of a cock-up by all Canadian players involved. Otherwise, USA hasn't had any gilt-edged chances. Altidore did come in to try to poke loose a ball that Wagenaar had collected, which the keeper did not appreciate, and a minor fracas ensued. That was dangerous play and probably deserved a warning if not a booking.

We'll see what the second half brings. Obviously Dasovic has used a sub already, but it was a useful one as Keegan Ayre had missed almost every pass he tried in the first half, while Hall effectively used his pace. Ricketts and Johnson both had half chances with shots over the bar, but Canada needs to do more.

45:00: 2nd half is on. 45 minutes, and a few goals, away from Beijing.

47:00: I nearly shit my pants. Hainault gets a yellow for a foul on Altidore. I thought he already had one, so it was the showers I thought. ... and Adu scores off the free kick, a good one this time. FUCK! No more live stuff from me unless Canada gets back in it. I do stand by my belief, though, that Adu is a piece of shit and won't amount to much in Europe.

Sometime later: What a waste of time this night has been. I wish I could say I'm happy for the US, but they're no less a bunch of dicks than Mexico, and I hope they crash and burn in the Olympics.

(In case you're wondering, it's 3-0 now. This sucks)

Monday, March 17, 2008

Canada - Estonia roster info

These are exciting and busy times for Canadian soccer. The Olympic qualifying tournament has featured an exciting series of games. The next important match is Thursday in Nashville, a clash with the Americans that will send the winner to the Olympics.

All of this excitement has distracted me from the upcoming Estonia friendly, now just over a week away. The roster hasn't officially been announced yet, but has been making the rounds on the soccer boards.

Let's have a look-see:
GKLars Hirschfeld29CFR ClujRomania
GKKenny Stamatopoulos28Tromso ILNorway
DMike Klukowski26Club BruggeBelgium
DAndre Hainault21Sparta PrahaCzech Rep.
DRichard Hastings30Inverness CTScotland
DKevin McKenna28FC KölnGermany
DPaul Stalteri30Fulham (on loan)England
DMarcel de Jong21Roda JCNetherlands
DJosh Simpson24KaiserslauternGermany
MDaniel Imhof30VfL BochumGermany
MAtiba Hutchinson25FC KøbenhavnDenmark
MJulian De Guzman26Deportivo la CoruñaSpain
MIssey Nakajima-Farran23FC NordsjællandDenmark
MPatrice Bernier28KaiserslauternGermany
MDwayne De Rosario29Houston DynamoMLS
FTomasz Radzinski34Skoda XanthiGreece
FRob Friend27Borussia MonchengladbachGermany
FAli Gerba25FC IngolstadtGermany
FIain Hume24Leicester CityEngland

Now that is as close to a first-choice lineup we've seen in a long time. I can't think of any players I'd include in a starting 11 that aren't among the 19 listed. Tam Nsaliwa might fit the bill, but he first needs to get his citizenship situation sorted. You might want to quibble about whether Jim Brennan should be there or Olivier Occean deserves a place ahead of Gerba or Hume, but those are depth players in this group.

As usual, here are the caps and goals in this group:
Lars Hirschfeld210
Kenny Stamatopoulos50
Mike Klukowski100
Andre Hainault90
Richard Hastings441
Kevin McKenna379
Paul Stalteri627
Marcel de Jong10
Josh Simpson170
Daniel Imhof340
Atiba Hutchinson312
Julian De Guzman282
Issey Nakajima-Farran90
Patrice Bernier270
Dwayne De Rosario4513
Tomasz Radzinski369
Rob Friend141
Ali Gerba145
Iain Hume222

I don't have much further to say for now, other than state how pleased I am with this group. It looks like Mitchell and the CSA are starting to focus on the players who will play key roles in World Cup qualifying.

Andre Hainault will surely have some interesting stories to tell. He'll have a game on the weekend for the U23 side, either for 1st or 3rd place. Then he'll jet to Estonia to play on Wednesday. Since his loan deal to Sparta Prague, he will have spent nearly as much time with Canadian sides as with his own, and certainly had more time on the pitch wearing the Maple Leaf.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

U23: Canada - Guatemala live blog (?)

This post is just a placeholder for now. The game is an earlier start than the other two, so I may not be around to provide commentary, insightful or otherwise.

Here are the details in case you are interested in tuning in:

Canada - Guatemala
3:30 pm local time (6:30 ET, 3:30 PT)

[Live stream] [ CSA match page ]

Canada needs to win, and have Mexico beat Haiti, while not surpassing Canada on goal difference. Nobody seems to be sure of all of the tie-breaking scenarios, but at this point that's getting too far ahead of ourselves anyway. I'm hoping for a coin flip, where Canada has a good history.

T minus 12 minutes: I won't be able to join the action live until the 2nd half, as I'll be sitting on the bus for the next hour or so. But do your fellow readers a favour and post some updates in the comments, I'll be sure to include them when I get home.

The starting lineup has been posted at the CSA site. The players: Joshua Wagenaar, Nik Ledgerwood, Dejan Jakovic, Andre Hainault, Graham Ramalho, Tosaint Ricketts, Keegan Ayre, Tyler Hemming, Tyler Rosenlund, Will Johnson and Andrzej Ornoch.

Ramalho, it would appear, replaces Diaz Kambere, who played the first two matches. Ricketts starts again after Hall took his place to start against Haiti. Johnson is back, but Rosenlund still starts. The omission from the previous starting lineups is Jacob Lensky.

45:00: Here I am. The good news: Canada leads 1-0, on a Will Johnson goal (free kick according to the CSA report). The bad news: they likely need more ---- and as I'm writing, Johnson has scored again! Fakes out the keeper and gets it just over the line before it's cleared! The other bad news I was going to mention is that Canada has blown a lead in both games so far. Let's hope I'm not bad luck.

48:00: I don't know if Guatemala has a second string line-up out there because they are already qualified, but they are getting shredded right now. Ornoch nearly put a shot in at the far post.

50:30: Canada was no luck when it comes to the penalty spot. Johnson gets carded for diving after going down in the penalty area and there seemed to be enough contact to warrant a call the other way.

56:00: 3-0 for the good guys! Ricketts pots a rebound after a Hainault header hit the woodwork from a corner. The corner was earned after some strong work by Ornoch. Good stuff all around!

58:00: A formation comment: After starting the first two matches at right back, Ledgerwood has moved to the left to make room for Graham Ramalho on the right. Rosenlund is in the middle as he was against Haiti, while Johnson seems to be occupying Lensky's spot as left attacking mid.

62:00: FK for Guatemala in a very dangerous spot. Wagenaar's momentum carried him outside the area when he claimed a ball. The shot gets past the wall, but Wagenaar makes a nice save.

63:00: Canada is mostly defending now, which is understandable given the scoreline. But they are giving up more chances when they had a more attacking mindset. I'd love another goal, but maybe that's asking too much.

68:30: Some good defending by Hainault forces a Guat to take a dive in the penalty area. The ref isn't buying it, although no card is in the offing.

69:30: Ornoch gets sodomized by Guatemala #6, who picks up a yellow card. Ledgerwood is down and it looks like cramps, or perhaps he was hurt charging out to block a shot.

73:00: Johnson gets chopped down by a brutal challenge, but not card is awarded. I really like what I've seen from Johnson so far in these 30 minutes. Meanwhile, he takes a long shot and forces a save and the rebound almost falls for Ornoch. Canada needs a sub soon, I think.

81:00: 4-0 Canada! Ricketts scores on an Ornoch feed. This after Canada was under siege for a bit. They were living dangerously. Hall on for Ayre. Ricketts also nearly scored on a similar play minutes later.

85:00: Ornoch is a beast! He is winning nearly everything played his way.

86:00: A cameo for Andrea Lombardo. Will Johnson comes off, after miles of running and lots of hard work, not to mention 2 goals.

89:00: The first appearance of the tournament for Marcus Haber, who replaces Andrzej Ornoch, who has been impressive in every match, without scoring.

93:00: I'VE ACHIEVED A SOCCER BONER!! Kyle Hall left totally unmarked on a corner, the last of the match, and blasts it into the top corner. 5 fucking nil.

It's over. Some quick thoughts:
  • The worst result in Mexico - Haiti would be a Haiti win. That eliminates Canada. A draw is fine, as goal difference is the first tiebreaker. Any Mexico win by less than 5 goals is okay too. I hope Mexico doesn't give up and shit the bed to screw Canada.
  • The broadcast names Johnson the man of the match. I only saw the 2nd half, but I can't argue that choice. Rosenlund played well in his place on Friday, but Johnson has an added dimension with his ability to dribble in traffic and run at players. His 3 goals from less than 2 games lead the tournament. I've been disappointed with his season at De Graafschap (and he likely has been as well) where he lost his starting spot and hasn't played much lately, but in this tournament he has been dynamite, his brain fart against Mexico notwithstanding.
  • I've watched two and a half matches, and I have seen only a few times when Canada's defense has been broken down. Hainault seems to win every challenge he puts a foot into, and overall they are well organized.
  • When was the last time Canada scored 5 goals in any competition (not womens')?
  • What a weird set of games. Canada is outplayed (arguably) by Mexico and draws, but that was also a game they could have won. Then they outplay Haiti but are on the wrong end of a long shot and a fair play snafu. And then this, utter domination of the first place team in the group.
I won't be watching the Mexico match, but I feel pretty good about things now. I'd say Canada have a 75% chance of advancing now, which is much better than I felt about 48 hours ago.

In the other match: At the half it's 1-0 Mexico. That's a great scoreline as far as Canada is concerned, but the one fly in the ointment is that Haiti are down to 10 men. I'm not too worried about them scoring two, but Mexico netting four is another story. Hopefully Haiti can keep holding them off.

If you're keen to watch this Mexico-Haiti match (I don't have the stomach for it, I'm following by way of some forum threads), the same live stream as above is carrying it.

Full time: Mexico 5 - 1 Haiti. If I had been watching this match, I would have had a heart attack. Canada advances with a better goal difference, by one, than Mexico.

A man after my own heart

While I wasn't happy with the result yesterday, I do like the attitude of U23 coach Nick Dasovic in this interview.

Some choice quotes. On Haiti's poor sportsmanship, leading to their first goal:
[. . .] midway through the second half, Nik Ledgerwood was took an elbow to the throat. The Canadians had possession of the ball and when the referee didn't whistle to stop the play, they kicked the ball out.

Haiti took the throw in and rather than give the ball back to Canada - in keeping with soccer's spirit of fair play - they kept possession and scored.

"They threw the ball in and we figured it would come back to us and our players were standing around and the next thing you know the guy's got a free shot from the top of the box and it's 1-1," Dasovic said.

I wasn't sure that was the case, as I missed part of the incident flipping back and forth between viewing and blogging, and I didn't feel like reading anything about the game afterwards.

And on Ornoch getting nearly sodomized in the penalty area:
"The guy almost pulled (Ornoch's) shirt off and then the guy took him down from behind, and they just let it go, and the ref was right there," Dasovic said.
File that one under "Refereeing - CONCACAF". Still, I'm heartened by Dasovic's attitude, and if my schedule permits, I will again be providing a live blog for Canada - Guatemala. The man himself explains the scenario:
"If we both win 1-nil, we're tied all the way through, and it comes down to a coin toss. And I would like to see that coin before they toss it. I would not trust the coin to not have two heads on it," Dasovic said with a half-hearted laugh.
[. . .]
"I said to the players, at the end of the day, if you want to get out of this group, you need to win a game, and we haven't done that yet," Dasovic said. "So, win the game tomorrow, and if we win it, we'll sit back and we'll be rooting for Mexico."
Now I'm not sure of the tie-breaking scenarios, and I'm surprised that Guatemala beat Mexico on Friday, but the last thing I should be doing is letting a chance to watch Canada play slip by, scarce as they are.

If you're left scratching your head about the title of this post, go to Sunday School. Or better yet, learn something.

Friday, March 14, 2008

U23: Canada - Haiti live blog

Ornoch, doing his thing.

I'm planning on another live blog again, providing the feed pans out. All the games have been available so far here, and I'm hopeful again for tonight's match with Haiti. Bookmark this post if you're interested in checking back in during game time.

I should mention that the game starts at 20:30 eastern. Do the math for your own time zone (22:00 for Newfies, as I know math and book-learnin' aren't among their strong points).

T minus 30 minutes: Heading to pick up some beer. Anticipation is running high. Interesting factoid: when looking for a picture from the Mexico match, I ran across the third different spelling I've seen of Ornoch's first name. The list consists of Andrew (anglicized, obviously), Andrzej (or something like it) and Andrazes. I've also seen Dejan Jakovic listed as Dan Jakovic a few times in the last few days.

T minus 18 minutes: Back with beer. I know it's all about Canada tonight, but I had a hankerin' for some imports. The choices: 710 ml of Heineken, an alright beer, but a choice filled with nostalgia about the year I lived there (and perhaps support of the Dutch contingent on the U-23 squad which includes Jacob Lensky, Will Johnson, Graham Ramalho and Marcus Haber), and 500 ml of Holsten Festbock. I think the LC was clearing out the stock of that beer from Christmas as it was on sale. In any case, as I often do on Fridays, I invoked the "most fuck for your buck" rule: at $1.93 for 500 ml and 7.0% alc., the Festbock was the clear winner. I looked for, but did not find, any Haitian beers. Depending on how the match goes, I may need all of this beer in the next 2 hours.

By the by, the feed appears to be working. Right now there's a story on the Cuban players that defected. How ironic it would be if USA's 1-1 draw with the full-strength side came back to bite them in the ass. Or maybe it isn't ironic, I'm not sure. I haven't listened to Alanis lately.

The CSA fixture page should list the starting lineups shortly.

T minus a few: Caught these numbers as they panned across: 14, 13, 12, 15, 16, 7, 3, 4, 1, 5. I missed one, but those players are Rosenlund, Kambere, Hall, Hemming, Ayre, Ornoch, Lensky, Jakovic, Wagenaar and Hainault. I'm assuming the other one is Ledgerwood, keeping the same back line as Wednesday.

0:00: We're underway. I hope it's a good one.

2:00: Haiti with an early chance from a corner. One of the keys to the game for Canada is "Explotar la tactica fija". We'll look that one up in a bit.

5:00: Yikes! A dangerous chance for Haiti, and Wagenaar rushes out and grabs the ball from the striker's feet. In Josh we trust. Also, I like the Haiti shirt. Reminds me of a 1980s windbreaker.

8:00: The ball just sat there for a few moments in the Haiti box off a free kick. Kambere earned the free kick with some nice combination work with Lensky.

11:00: Canada is starting to control the midfield after a couple of early scares. Nothing too dangerous in the way of chances, though. Haiti's best chances look likely to come on look balls played down the wing. Hainault is defending well, again. He's helping his cause come WCQ time.

14:00: Good Lord! A breakaway for Kyle Hall and he gets too close and ends up missing the net. It was a great ball from Rosenlund that beat the offside trap.

16:00: Goal Canada! Tyler Rosenlund finishes, after a great run by Hall down the right side to the end line, that followed from a nice piece of work from Ornoch. Lovely goal! I'm not sure if it's chilled yet, but it is time to crack a beer.

21:00: Haiti's physical forwards are causing problems, though Canada seems to recover by defending in numbers. Kyle Hall reminds me of a cross between Jaime Peters and Atiba Hutchinson. Lets hope is career arc mirrors the latter, not the former.

25:00: The feed is starting to get choppy. Time to say a quick prayer. We're in the dark right now, so expect a hiatus on updates.

30:00: Crisis averted -- the video is back! Haiti has perked up since the Canadian goal, and I certainly won't feel comfortable until we score at least one more. Kyle Hall is causing no end of trouble on the right side, and nearly beat the offside trap a few more times.

34:00: These announcers know their shit, though I understand little of what they are saying. They mentioned Wagenaar being with ADO Den Haag previously, and the Begovic suspension in the first game.

38:00: Canada gives up a couple of free kicks just a little too far out to be dangerous. At the other end, good link up play ended with a long miss by Hemming (or someone else).

40:00: Another link up between Hall and Ornoch nearly ended in a second Rosenlund goal. The Haiti keeper snatched the ball right before Tyler could put a head to it.

42:00: Canada's midfielders are holding the ball a little too long. Lensky just had it stripped from him, and the play ended with a shot into the side netting.

44:30: Lensky drops the fuck-bomb after missing a shot from another great pass from Rosenlund. Rosenlund looks to have great touch on his mid- to long-range passes.

Half time: Some thoughts:
  • Ornoch is a player. He looks powerful, but it's his skill and touch on the ball that impresses. I may be getting ahead of myself here, but he may have played himself into the mix for World Cup Qualifying, especially if Canada's qualifying campaign extends past 2008.
  • Canada sagged a fair bit in the second portion of the half. Too much defending. I'm hoping that's not the Mark Watson influence on the staff.
  • The two changes from Wednesday's starting lineup, Rosenlund and Hall, have been two of the best players in the game. It might be fresh legs, but they also have been doing great tactical work, especially Rosenlund. Good coaching by Dasovic, too.
  • Wagenaar has been forced to do a bit of work and has handled it well. It amazes me that TFC didn't want to sign him.
  • People seem to dig this live blog shit. I've got about 4 times my (admittedly piddly) daily traffic in the past two hours. Oh yeah: A warm welcome to my first ever Macedonian visitor! I'm curious, feel free to leave a comment and explain your connection to these proceedings.
I also lied about the beer. I was too wrapped up in the game to take the 30 seconds to go downstairs and grab it out of the freezer. But I cracked the Festbock, and the evening is unfolding quite nicely.

I forgot to mention this earlier, but I can't let it pass: There's a Haiti player WEARING GLOVES. In California. I googled the weather there, and it's 15 C. Unless he has some sort of skin condition, that is inexcusable.

Who knew? Action in the comments. For the guy having trouble with the feed, there's another to try this one.

45:00: There's a sub coming out of half time: Rickets on for Lensky. I agreed with bringing out Lensky earlier on Wednesday because he wasn't showing much, but I thought he played well in the first half, barring one bad giveaway.

49:00: It didn't take long for that substitution to pay off (no goals, though). Ricketts earned two straight corners with speedy runs down the flank. I should mention that Hall swapped sides when Ricketts came on, so now Hall is on the left.

54:00: After a Ricketts giveaway, some nice buildup by Haiti ended with another ball into the side netting. Canada really needs a second goal so I can breathe easier.

57:30: A sub for Canada: Ryan Gyaki in for Tyler Hemming. Hemming started brightly but faded out of the game a bit. Gyaki didn't do much Wednesday. Let's hope he shows more tonight.

59:00: For the second game in a row, a shot off the crossbar. Kyle Hall intercepted a pass deep in the Haiti end and Ornoch drilled a shot that the keeper tipped onto the bar.

62:00: Joshua Wagenaar is ALL balls! He just made a great feet first challenge after a series of mistakes my Canada left the Haitian forward 1-on-1. Although the suspension of Begovic for the first match had much to do with it, this decision to play Wagenaar is looking inspired.

64:00: Maybe it's the buzz I've got going, but I think I just understood the announcers say, in Spanish, that Canada is playing with fire (con fuego). If that's what they said, they're right. Spanish by Osmosis: 12 Steps to being a Canadian Soccer Supporter.

While I was typing this, Ornoch got a yellow for rocking some dude. Let's hope Dasovic doesn't panic and bring in Lombardo, who was useless against Mexico.

66:30: Ornoch made a sweet run, bodying two Haitian defenders off the ball, and got to the endline, but his pass was a bit behind Ricketts who couldn't buy enough time to shoot.

69:30: The Mexican fans have been filing in throughout the second half, and judging by the reaction to the calls, they are definitely behind Haiti. Screw 'em.

71:00: Son of a bitch. Haiti scores, after too much dicking around in their own end. I might have missed it, but Haiti might not have done the fair-play thing after Kambere booted it out with Ledgerwood suffering from a nasty Haiti elbow.

74:30: And I quote: "Are you fucking kidding me!" Nick Dasovic, after a possible penalty call was denied. Great man.

76:00: Canada is pressing now, and I don't understand why they didn't play this way the whole game. They clearly are a better team, but sitting back hast cost them.

84:00: SHIT!!! Wagenaar gets lobbed from about 35 yards, and it's 2-1 Haiti. If Canada doesn't manage a tie, their Olympic dream may be over.

90:00: 4 minutes of injury time. It's not looking good ...

91:00: It seems like Lombardo came on at some point while I was having a bit of a cool down session. He just put a shot way over the bar from a Ledgerwood cross.

Full time: Fuck. 2-1 Haiti. Needless to say, I'm pretty disappointed with the way my Friday night has turned our. Here is a list of the things that made me angry:
  • Canada completely stepping off the gas after their goal. When they were aggressive and controlled the midfield they were great. But when 8, 9 or 10 men were defending, Haiti began to gain momentum.
  • Haiti's poor sportsmanship. I saw it again, and Haiti did not return the ball to Canada after the Ledgerwood injury. I'll replay it for you: Ledgerwood takes a nasty elbow and goes down on the right flank. After a Haiti chance, Canada gains possession. Kambere puts it out, Haiti takes a throw and attacks. And scores. That is bullshit.
  • The officials. Maybe it wasn't a penalty on Ornoch, but it seemed there was as much in the tackle as Hainault put on Wednesday against Mexico.
Thanks to any and all readers for tuning in. I don't know if I'll blog Sunday's match against the Guats. I may have hung myself, or at least settled into a nice depression. Depending on the results of the Mexico - Guatemala match, Canada may be realistically out of it come Sunday, though I'm too pissed (off) to do the math right now. But the real reason is that I might have personal commitments, depending on the time of the match.

Go buy a kitten or help an old lady cross the street, before you end up punching someone in the face like I am likely to do.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

U23: Canada - Mexico live blog

11:00: Just got back from curling. Watching it live is as much fun as you would expect from watching it on TV. My friends and I were the youngest in our section by about 30 years, though not the rowdiest. The old broad who kept yelling "B.C. sucks" takes the honor. But more importantly, WTF! Canada up 1-0? I joined in before the goal was scored, so I don't know who did it. The word is Ornoch.

Here's the stream. How's your Spanish?

14:00: Horrid backpass by someone (for Canada). Players I've seen or heard named on the pitch so far include Ornoch, Wagenaar, Johnson, Ricketts, Ledgerwood, Hainault. Maybe that's it. Mexico controlling things right now, but nothing too dangerous.

19:30: The CSA live match page has all the deets, with respect to lineups and the like. Apparently it was Johnson who scored in the 3rd minute.

20:30: Damn. Penalty for Mexico. Looked a clear dive, but surely I'm biased. Hainault is the guilty party though others are to blame for the buildup. Shooter scores, and in true Latin style, over-celebrates. I think there should be a ban on complicated celebrations of PKs. If you don't score, you're a moron. It's easy. So no backflips, please.

26:00: Half a chance for Ricketts, linking up with Ledgerwood. #12 for Canada, Vancouver Whitecaps' Diaz Kambere, sure has a good set of wheels.

36:30: It's hard to keep this up when you're into the game. I've been impressed by Ricketts, not only by a few nice runs but also the subtle mohawk that he is rocking.

38:30: A lot of giveaways, so far, by the Canadian back four and midfield. It looks to me like a lack of understanding, which could be attributed to the minimal prep the team has had together. Free kick now to Canada . . . Ricketts gets a head to it and forces the keeper to punch it over the bar.

: Some thoughts ...
  • Canada has looked reasonable, which is better than I had expected.
  • Ornoch looks like a tough S.O.B., and I'm glad we have him. He showed a bit of skill getting past two Mexicans at one point.
  • I don't know much about the positions of our players, but I'm surprised to see Dejan Jakovic starting in the centre of defense with Hainault.
  • Jacob Lensky started, which means he's cap-tied to Canada, something that had long been in doubt (Czech passport, plays with the Feyenoord team of traitors).
And, for kicks, some curling photos:
Ok, only one. The rest were garbage, or pictures of women from Saskatchewan (same difference, some might say).

We'll see if I can last the whole 2nd half. The time change is still killing me, and I have to be up early to begin with. And the Spanish dulcet tones of these announcers are slumber-inducing.

45:01: There don't appear to be any changes to the lineup to start the 2nd half.

55:00: Canada looks better to start the second half, although Mexico just had a chance. They are keeping the ball and giving it away cheaply less.

56:30: Yellow card to Mexico's #9 for being a douche. And well deserved. Until now, the theatrics have been pretty minimal and the ref solid, the questionable penalty notwithstanding. Although #10 for Mexico is a real scumbag, it seems.

58:30: Lensky off, Kyle Hall is on.

60:00: A shameless dive by Mexico's #10 in the penalty area near the end line had me worried for a second. The ref saw through it, though Ledgerwood earned a yellow for something else.\

65:00: Ornoch off, Andrea Lombardo on. Ornoch played really well and I'm looking forward to seeing more of him. Canada soaking up pressure right now.

67:00: A second yellow to Mexico's #9! He's off. That should change things, as the target forward had caused his share of trouble. We'll see if Canada can press the advantage.

76:00: Johnson sees red for a shirt pull 80 yards from goal. Extremely harsh!

81:00: Canada made a sub. I don't know who, as I was brushing my teeth. Gyaki I think, maybe for Ayre.

Full time: OK, a bit of a lapse there. It got pretty tense, with Mexico throwing lots of pressure at the Canadian end with a few close calls, but no goals. Wagenaar made some brave challenges.

Canada has to be happy with the result. A 2nd place finish in the group is still likely (on goal difference), but I'm impressed with the play of the team, and in particular, Dejan Jakovic and Andrew Ornoch.

I'm in bed now, and the light is about to be turned out.

Canucks abroad

I don't mean to drive what measly traffic this site gets elsewhere, but I would remiss if I didn't announce a great new website that will serve to increase the volume of the Canadian soccer blogosphere, such as it is. (Volume of a sphere? That's four-thirds pi r cubed son. Respect).

Canucks Abroad probably doesn't quite fit the proper definition of a blog, but it's full of everything you want to know about Canadians playing soccer, especially those Canadians who have a pro career somewhere outside of this country ... you know, Canucks abroad.

* * *

Meanwhile, not abroad, Canada plays Mexico tonight in their first of three round-robin matches in Olympic qualifying. There doesn't seem to be any reason to get hopeful about the Mexico match, but the other two (Panama Haiti - thanks to fact-checker "Anonymous" in the comments for correcting this major oversight, Guatemala) seem very winnable. Finishing 2nd in the group would set up a likely showdown with the U.S.A. for a spot in Beijing, although that half of the CONCACAF draw is a bit messy, with U.S.A. managing only a 1-1 result against Cuba last night, then half of the Cuban squad defecting (they may be forced to forfeit). Seems Fidel's little brother Raul doesn't have the same appeal, and people are jumping ship.

Stay tuned for a full report. The match isn't on TV here, but there's a chance a stream of some burrito-loving Mexican broadcast will be available. I won't have a chance to post a link before the match starts (I'm watching curling tonight!), but the Voyageurs, as always, should have it covered.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Friday Night Football

Canada's U-23s play tonight against the Gauchos of the University of California Santa Barbara. The poster (follow the link) is a bit surprising, as it's been quite a while since Paul Stalteri has been under 23.

The real stuff starts Wednesday with the Canada-Mexico Olympic qualifying tilt.

Bonus: This thread on the Voyageurs forums shows what Ryan Gyaki has been 'up to' lately.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Friendly announcement

The word that is making its way around the internet is that Canada has lined up another June friendly opponent: Haiti, in Florida, on June 1st.

Haiti may well be Canada's most impoverished friendly opponent ever. Here are the countries ranked lower than Haiti on the United Nations Human Development Index:
    1. Haiti
    2. Sudan
    3. Kenya
    4. Djibouti
    5. Timor-Leste
    6. Zimbabwe
    7. Togo
    8. Yemen
    9. Uganda
    10. Gambia
    1. Senegal
    2. Eritrea
    3. Nigeria
    4. Tanzania, U. Rep. of
    5. Guinea
    6. Rwanda
    7. Angola
    8. Benin
    9. Malawi
    10. Zambia
    11. Côte d'Ivoire
    12. Burundi
    13. Congo, Dem. Rep.
    14. Ethiopia
    15. Chad
    16. Central African Republic
    17. Mozambique
    18. Mali
    19. Niger
    20. Guinea-Bissau
    21. Burkina Faso
    22. Sierra Leone
    My glance was cursory, but I don't remember Canada playing any of these (all African, save for Timor Leste) opponents. Canada has played Haiti recently, of course, a 2-0 victory in the 2007 Gold Cup (see the game in 55 minutes).

    Here's the sched leading up to WCQ against St. VAG (a rather unfortunate ingredient in our alphabet soup of acronyms):
    Good preparation and, most importantly, it looks like the team should be together from the end of May until the weekend of June 21st/22nd, which is the date of the second leg match against St. VAG. Familiarity breeds contempt, but in soccer it bodes well for future WCQ matches (knock wood.)

    Qualifying for the U-23 Olympic tournament is starting in a week, with Canada's first match March 12th against Mexico. Canada has friendlies against college sides, a 4-0 win against Westmount College (?) yesterday, and a Friday appointment with the University of California Santa Barbara (Rob Friend's alma mater and likely party school).

    Speaking of the Friendly Giant, OOT's favourite striker was at it again this weekend, with a goal and an assist, a week after tallying a brace for his club side. The goal is a tap in from nice buildup, but the assist is sublime:

    And... I just won a cool €0.65 with FC Schalke beating Porto on penalties. And Real is out! Yes, folks, its a good day.