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 have no argument that the in-match tactical decisions were often puzzling.
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.
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.
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).
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.