Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Too many cooks spoil the soup?

In Sunday's post, I invited discussion regarding the following statement from a year-in-review article on the CSA site:
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?

Colin Smith weighed in in the comments section, and in the interest of people other than me (and especially you pesky RSS subscribers who can't see the comments) getting a chance to read what he had to say, here it is:
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.
I have no argument that the in-match tactical decisions were often puzzling.

OK, maybe I should stop writing this tortured prose with adjectives that cover for Mitchell's frequent incompetence. Puzzling is far too weak a word. The decisions, like the one cited, were stupid. Lacking any thought. Falling fully under a take-no-risks managerial approach fully consistent with our society's rampant anti-democratic corporatism (actually, ignore that last one -- I've been reading too much John Ralston Saul these days).

But as to the central question of whether Mitchell experimented too much with his roster in important matches (WCQs) and a small number of friendlies beforehand, I wasn't quite yet convinced. My general impression was that a small group of players constituted the lineups for the friendlies and important (read: early) qualifiers.

So I went about it this way: How many players played (and were called) in the calendar year 2008, when matches against Martinique (31 January) and Jamaica (17 November) are excluded?

I chose to exclude those matches because the January camp could not have been intended to provide real preparation for WCQ with so many key players in season in Europe, and the Jamaica match was a lost cause, with no real reason for top players to be called.

The numbers are interesting. Omitting the bookend matches of 2008, here's who played:

Player First called First played
1 Lars Hirschfeld at Estonia at Estonia
2 Daniel Imhof at Estonia at Estonia
3 Mike Klukowski at Estonia at Estonia
4 Andre Hainault at Estonia at Estonia
5 Kevin McKenna at Estonia
6 Julian de Guzman at Estonia at Estonia
7 Paul Stalteri at Estonia at Estonia
8 Marcel de Jong at Estonia
9 Tomasz Radzinski at Estonia at Estonia
10 Ali Gerba at Estonia at Estonia
11 Richard Hastings at Estonia at Estonia
12 Issey Nakajima-Farran at Estonia at Estonia
13 Atiba Hutchinson at Estonia at Estonia
14 Dwayne De Rosario at Estonia at Estonia
15 Josh Simpson at Estonia at Estonia
16 Rob Friend at Estonia at Estonia
17 Patrice Bernier at Estonia at Estonia
18 Kenny Stamatopoulos at Estonia
19 Greg Sutton vs Brazil vs Panama
20 Ante Jazic vs Brazil vs Panama
21 Adrian Cann vs Brazil vs Panama
22 Tam Nsaliwa vs Brazil vs Brazil
23 Jaime Peters vs Brazil vs Brazil
24 Pat Onstad vs Brazil vs Brazil
25 Adrian Serioux vs Brazil vs Brazil
26 Josh Wagenaar vs Brazil
27 Jim Brennan vs Panama vs Panama
28 Iain Hume vs Jamaica vs Jamaica
29 Dejan Jakovic vs Honduras
30 Olivier Occean at Mexico at Mexico
31 Kevin Harmse at Honduras at Honduras
32 Nik Ledgerwood at Honduras
33 Chris Pozniak at Honduras vs Mexico
34 Charles Gbeke vs Mexico vs Mexico

34 players called, and 28 saw the pitch. This is still a large number, but that is to be expected of one of the busiest calendar years in some time. You could argue the list could easily have been even smaller, seeing as:
  • Josh Wagenaar and Kenny Stamatopoulos were called as backups but never played
  • If Tam Nsaliwa's citizenship issues had been worked out (no fault of Mitchell's that they weren't), it is likely a player like Pozniak or Harmse would not have needed to be used later in WCQ due to injuries and suspensions to other midfielders
  • Josh Simpson would have been involved in the team had he not been injured; his spot was filled largely with Brennan, Jazic, and de Jong. Any of those players might have stayed home for all of 2008 had Simpson been healthy.
In short, I am of the opinion that an overly fluid roster was not chief among Canada's problems in '08. Midfield had been pretty much settled (De Guzman, Hutch, De Ro, Radzinski) while forwards were narrowed to two options. Klukowski and Stalteri were constants on the wings. Only the centre back position was in real flux, which is where I would begin my criticism.

Speaking of problems with Canadian soccer in 2008, the blog Canadian Stretford End (some England reference?) has an interview with Julian de Guzman. (Don't misunderstand me: Jules wasn't the big problem with Canadian soccer, but he discusses some in the interview).

Spurns our digital advances, and speaks ill of the CSA and OSA. What a misanthrope!

I also once tried to score an interview with Canada's #6 by sending a vaguely worded email to the address listed on his website, but obviously "Sam", as he calls himself, has better connections.

Also, I got a bit of an ego boost yesterday as this blog experienced a little bit of a traffic spike. Closer investigation, though, revealed an all too obvious reason: I had all the details for streaming Canada vs Sweden, who apparently got together in some other sport last night.


squizz said...

"obviously "Sam", as he calls himself, has better connections."

Facebook - the wave of the future!

Sam said...

The "Stretford End" is the West Stand at Old Trafford and has a reputation of being the loudest stand in the ground.

J said...

Thanks for the clarification, Sam. Does your title suggest that there does exist a Canadian equivalent of the Stretford End? The south end of BMO, perhaps?