Sunday, January 04, 2009

Even a blind squirrel finds a nut . . .

I'm not as anti-CSA as some. I won't argue with many of the most common criticisms, but I also think those levelling the accusations need to take note of factors like the game's near-invisible profile at the national level and persistent and chronic underfunding. But the organization's handling of the Nykamp fiasco and keeping Dale Mitchell on after failures with the U20s and the MNT are more or less inexcusable.

But I like to think myself a fair-minded individual, and I'll give credit when credit is due. And while PDF match trackers remain as laughable a use of internet technology as ever, the Association has improved their website in a big way over the last year. The most significant improvements are to the search- and sort-able player database.

In recognition of occasional unshittiness of the CSA, I check the site from time to time to read news releases, check up on players, etc. You know, the regular behaviours of a Canadian soccer creeper with too much free time. A year-in-review release of 30 December caught my eye, and appealed to me for the following reasons:
  • a healthy diet of numerical analysis; in other words, by eliminating the emotions and agony of the matches of the year gone by to simple statistics, the write-up hides some of the sting
  • a good deal of neutral prose glossing over what was an abysmal 2008
Some highlights from the article, which is a MustRead:
Canada wasn't lucky enough to score when it counted most in the so-called CONCACAF Group of Death against opponents Jamaica, Honduras and Mexico.
This seems like a bit of revisionist history. But then remember this:
Just before the second half, Paul Stalteri created a marvelous chance when he centered the ball to Ali Gerba. Gerba's header in the 45th minute somehow hit the post and stayed out.
There were 2 moments/bounces/unlucky breaks that really defined the lost campaign. The first was Onstad's boner (in a bad way) against Jamaica in Toronto. The second was that missed chance against Honduras. If either ball is a few inches in another direction, Canada could very easily have had 6 points after 2 matches. It's easy to forget now, but the team played well against Jamaica and for 60 minutes against Honduras at Saputo.

Some other nuggets of numerical goodness:
Not since 1993 has Canada scored as many as 17 goals in a season. Canada scored in nine-straight matches from 31 May to 15 October. Were it not for an off-side call in the 19 November match (Chris Williams in the 91st minute), Canada would have managed at least one goal in every match of FIFA World Cup™ Qualifiers for the first time in Association history.

Unfortunately, Canada also allowed 21 goals in 2008, tied for third-most in program history. As such, Canada's goals weren't enough to secure wins and pick up much-needed points on the road to South Africa 2010.
A result of hiring a striker as coach? I've been hard on De Ro and others for failing to produce offensively, but clearly defense was the problem. Not the defenders or keepers necessarily, but defending as a team. The offside goal in Kingston is news to me (Chris Williams in a WCQ!), but I guess none of saw anything from Jamaica so a pink elephant could have stampeded onto the pitch and I wouldn't have known about it.

Coach Dale Mitchell called 46 players over the course of the year (39 of whom featured), the most ever in program history.
Good or bad? Discuss? I'll go first -- the year featured 2 experimental rosters (vs Martinique in January and vs Jamaica in November) which skewed the number a bit. Dale was actually pretty consistent in the players he chose while fates still hung in the balance.

All time stuff:
Also in 2008, Canada won its 100th game in men's program history. It has an all-time record of 100 wins, 67 draws and 122 losses. Canada's all-time record at home is 44 wins, 17 losses and 37 draws; Canada's all-time record in official FIFA/CONCACAF competitions is 50 wins, 37 draws and 45 losses.
The home record looks good.

In summary: Read this article, and the CSA doesn't always suck.


Duane Rollins said...

"occasional unshittiness of the CSA."

That's just great!

The CSA: Occasionally unshitty since 1878

Colin Smith said...

I read this piece on the CSA web site and found it quite useful and, as you put it, unshitty.

Coach Dale Mitchell called 46 players over the course of the year (39 of whom featured), the most ever in program history.

Bad, bad, bad. It shows complete lack of scouting of the MNT pool. It wouldn't have been such a problem if they had played a number of friendlies leading up to WCQ, but they didn't. I can't understand using so many different players during a serious competition like the WCQ.

I'll always remember Mitchell only using 2 subs in the first game against Jamaica with me thinking 'he has no plan whatsoever'. Canada could have won that match and bringing on some fresh legs in the 80th minute could have done it.