Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Eredivise pool update: September

Ruud van Nistelrooy going for goal.

In order to further alienate the already small pool of readers*** that manage to find their way to this blog, I'm devoting this post to an even narrower passion: Canadians following Dutch soccer.

I've been running a contest of sorts since the beginning of the Eredivisie season. The premise is simple: pick 2 Dutch teams and 2 scorers, and hope they do well for you.

This post is just a check-in to see how we're all (all 4 of us, that is) doing.

In short, it's all pretty close:

Pompey Canuck 69
J 61
Headhunting Canuck 60
Lord Bob 55

Once you dive into the details a bit, you'll see that those of us who chose Luis Suarez of Ajax should have a big lead, but two of us were hamstrung by having picked AZ as one of our teams:

AZ 12 Mounir el Hamdouai (AZ) 5
Ajax 19 Luis Suarez (Ajax) 10

TOTAL (PTS + GOALS x 2) 61
Headhunting Canuck
AZ 12 Luis Suarez (Ajax) 10
PSV 20 Balazs Dzsudzsak (PSV) 4

TOTAL (PTS + GOALS x 2) 60
Pompey Canuck
PSV 20 Luis Suarez (Ajax) 10
Ajax 19 Jon Dahl Tomasson (Feyenoord) 5

TOTAL (PTS + GOALS x 2) 69
Lord Bob
Ajax 19 Keisuke Honda (VVV) 5
FC Utrecht 16 Mounir el Hamdouai (AZ) 5

TOTAL (PTS + GOALS x 2) 55

Pompey Canuck seems to have his eyes closest to the prize (not sure yet -- if I can dig up this KNVB referee's book that I swiped from a training seminar that took place at the conference centre where I was working years ago, that would be it), but it's still early.

The AZ pick stings me particularly, since they are not only dragging me down in the contest, but also harming me emotionally.

I could accept the slow start to the season (12 points from 8 games), though with some reservations, since the team's usual pattern is to start strong and fade late. But to compound their league struggles, the team essentially pissed away its Champions League chances by losing a 1-0 lead in injury time against Belgian side Standard Liege.

When I was planning this post yesterday, I was all ready to start crowing about a Dutch team beating a Belgian one, just like in 1831, but that all changed with some uninspired 2nd half play, and sloppy high ball defending in extra time. Dropping points in Champions League sucks, but for a Dutch team to drop them to Belgian side in a stadium that was once called Fortress Alkmaar for how well it was defended in European play, well, that was brutal.

Throwing a bone to the Canada diehards: Anybody pumped for Canada-Cameroon at les Jeux de la francophonie today?

*** This blog's readership consists of equal parts Google Image searchers, diehard Voyageurs, casual soccer fans on those days (like today) when the Footy Blog takes pity and links us, and bored housewives.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Atiba Hutchinson FTW

As vaguely promised, here is video of the Atiba Hutchinson-led comeback by FCK over the weekend.


Monday, September 28, 2009

Monday cup of coffee: September 28th edition

I've added the date to the title of this Monday post because I had a look at my post archives, and it has become awfully difficult to make sense of ever since I essentially stopped posting on all days but Mondays. I hope this will help. If not, I'll have to try to get more regular with my posting.

Speaking of keeping regular, I'm drinking coffee right now, and I'd give anything to be drinking out of the mug pictured above. I've always had a fascination with Stalin (not in a bad way) and I'd love to be the proud owner of a mug with such a humourous and puntastic use of a murderous dictator's name.

On to the soccer.

Something is rotten in the state of Denmark
Actually, nothing is particularly rotten that I know of. But when my friends and I were travelling there, we pulled out this line with the measliest of excuses.

Something most definitely not rotten (I guess it was ripe, or maybe even still green) was Atiba Hutchinson's performance for Danish giants FCK over the weekend. Trailing 1-0 late in the 2nd half, Hutchinson scored twice, 10 minutes apart, to give the Copenhagen side the win.

I'm told the goals were rather nice to look at, so anyone with links to a video clip should post them forthwith.

All's well that ends well
The first round of the USL-1 playoffs ended well for both the Vancouver Whitecaps and Montreal Impact. Vancouver entered the proceedings as the lowest seeded of all playoff teams, with Montreal just above them in the standings. Both faced an impressive Carolinian opponent: Montreal taking on the southerners from Charleston, and Vancouver taking their chances with the northern-based team and improbably-named RailHawks.

The two-legged aggregate scores were Vancouver 1 - Carolina 0, and Montreal 4 - Charleston 1.

In detail:
Next up: A Pacific Northwest rivalry is rekindled as Vancouver takes on the Portland Timbers, while Montreal goes way south of the border to battle the Puerto Rico Islanders.

The comedy of errors
Though they managed not to lose on the weekend, Toronto FC did find new ways to frustrate fans. Needing points whenever and however they could get them in order to make a playoff berth somewhat less unlikely, TFC twice blew a one-goal lead before settling for a 2-2 draw in Chicago.

Nick Garcia, in particular, deserves to be singled out for his part in the two Chicago goals, though Stefan Frei was caught in no man's land on the second as well.

Not surprisingly, a well-known TFC blogger is finding ways to spin this positively. For the sake of Julian de Guzman, Ali Gerba, Nana Attakora and the few other TFC players I like, let's hope he's right.

Much ado about nothing (Eredivisie report)
It was rather a nothing weekend in the Dutch top tier. As is becoming far too commonplace, AZ were losers, while the other three of the big four -- Ajax, Feyenoord, and PSV -- picked up 3 points.

In the pool competition, I dare say that I didn't look too closely, but as far as I can tell, none of the selected scorers found the back of the net this weekend.

With naught else to write about, how about some Canadian content: Marcel de Jong played 90 minutes in a 4-1 loss by Roda to RKC Waalwijk, while Jacob Lensky continued his impressive run with 90 minutes of his own for FC Utrecht who beat my boys AZ 1-0.

Canadian soccer blog post I enjoyed this week: I linked a few of the posts I enjoyed this week above, so do yourself a favour and click on them.
Non-soccer blog post I enjoyed this week: Fucked Up nooit in The New York Times
This post from a Dutch music blog takes a survey of how problematic it has become for the 'newspaper of record' to discuss this rising indie popcore act without offending their no F-bomb editorial policy. The band's recent Polaris prize triumph makes the balancing act all the more difficult.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

USL-1 playoffs: How to watch

Soccer on TV: Now with 50% more douchebags!

Like the flu shot, the USL-1 playoffs only roll around once a year. Both Canadian teams are in action again, and said action starts tomorrow


Thursday, 24 September 2009
Stade Saputo, Montreal, QC
19:30 et / 18:30 ct / 16:30 pt

TV: USL Live, Radio-Canada
Radio: CKAC Sports (fr), Team 990 (en)


Thursday, 24 September 2009
Swangard Stadium, Burnaby, BC
22:30 et / 21:30 ct / 19:30 pt

TV: USL Live
Radio: None?

Is there really no radio station broadcasting Whitecaps matches?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Monday cup of coffee

I've started to work up a good hate-on for the Tim Horton's french vanilla cappuccino ad. You know the one: the guy in the auto shop is all sheepish about wanting such a girly drink.

It's dumb to get worked up about a television commercial, but probably equally stupid to get emotionally invested in sport. My CFL affiliation has caused me no end of misery this season (join the club!) and Toronto FC fans must be sorting out their emotions, what with the excitement of JDG offset by the mounting unlikelihood of missing the playoffs for a third straight season.

Let's get into it.

De Guzman vs Becks
Julian de Guzman
's Toronto FC lost Saturday to David Beckham's LA Galaxy in a game that pushes TFC closer to the brink of elimination from the MLS playoffs. I watched on a crappy online stream of a crappy sportsnet broadcast, but I still feel qualified to offer the following thoughts:
  • De Guzman was rusty, but still by far the class of the TFC lineup. At times, his talent was wasted, like in the 1st half when he hit a perfect ball to Chad Barrett, who seemed not to understand what to do with such quality.
  • Ali Gerba had a good game with two very-near misses, and I can't understand for the life of me why Lesly Fellinga came on to replace him.
  • David Beckham is very good when he wants to be.
  • Stefan Frei is good, but also young, and fans have overrated his play this season.
Here's hoping JDG isn't too down on life with TFC so far.

[Match report]

Other Canadian pro action
The USL-1 regular season wrapped up this weekend. Montreal lost at Carolina, while Vancouver won 2-1 at home to the Cleveland cellar dwellers.

Playoff matchups are Montreal-Charleston and Vancouver-Carolina.

The Whitecaps are the lowest-seeded team in the USL-1 playoffs, but look likely to hold on to top spot in the Canadian content race.

Eredivisie report
had another bad loss this weekend, dropping a 1-0 affair in Alkmaar against NEC. PSV showed their class by knocking off Feyenoord at De Kuip. But the match that had the most profound effect on the Eredivisie competition was the 4-0 win by Ajax at VVV Venlo.

If you watch the video, you'll notice a certain Uruguayan named Suarez scoring all 4 goals, which matters as you'll see below:

AZ Mounir el Hamdouai (AZ)
Ajax Luis Suarez (Ajax)

Headhunting Canuck
AZ Luis Suarez (Ajax)
PSV Balazs Dzsudzsak (PSV)

Pompey Canuck
PSV Luis Suarez (Ajax)
Ajax Jon Dahl Tomasson (Feyenoord)

Lord Bob
Ajax Keisuke Honda (VVV)
FC Utrecht Mounir el Hamdouai (AZ)

Poor Lord Bob.

Canadian soccer blog post I enjoyed this week: USL Division 1 Expansion in Canada, Part One: Winnipeg
I'm not sure if I need to offer any reasons other than the geographical as to why I enjoyed this post, but sadly I am less optimistic than our west coast pundit.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Monday cup of coffee

I'll be honest. I watched more tennis this weekend than soccer. More football (pointyball style) also. But I've still got some stuff.

Canadian pro action
This was a busier week than most on the Canadian pro scene.

Of course, there was the de Guzman signing, which should improve Toronto immensely. I'm with Jason de Vos though: the team still needs a lot of work.

There was also some action on the pitch. In a rare display of finishing acumen, Toronto FC put three goals past Colorado, which is good because the back line leaked two (which could have been more).

And the USL-1 sides both played twice this week, including a mid-week clash that saw Vancouver beaten in Montreal 1-0 on a late goal by Peter Byers.

While the points that Vancouver and Montreal picked up this weekend have firmed up their playoff spots, Toronto is still on the outside looking in.

The weekend's games:
Both Vancouver and Montreal have slipped recently in their Canadian content stats.

Ornoch philosophizes
I'm just about done writing about Andrzej Ornoch in this space. He tasted his first Eredivisie action this weekend as a sub in a losing effort, but I'm more interested in an otherwise run-of-the-mill interview given to a fan site after his signing.

In it, he takes a question about music and gets philosophical:
Q: Do you have hobbies? What music do you listen to?
A: Right now I'm learning to play the piano. I'm not very good yet but I enjoy it. I also think it's great to play with turntables. Music is a great way for me to relax. I love all music and I grew up with hip hop and R&B, but I think any music is good when an artist shares his talent. It's a bit strange that these days I'm listening to the classics. But the best music is my thoughts, and if only people had a chance to listen to those.
Umm, WTF?

Bernier on Real Madrid
No, not a shock move for Patrice Bernier from Denmark's FC Nordsjaelland to 'los Galacticos'. Instead, it's an analysis of the players and the challenges ahead for Real Madrid from Patrice Bernier's surely-not-widely-enough-read French language blog on the Radio Canada sports site.

After making some salient comments about some of the players, he nails his conclusion:

L'ère galactique 2 débute sous tension. Les nouveaux venus doivent rapidement s'adapter à une culture et à un championnat différents. Si une chimie d'équipe ne se construit pas en un mois, des résultats immédiats sont cependant attendus à Madrid.

La situation est d'autant plus complexe que les nouveaux joueurs recrutés ont des profils similaires. Les dirigeants se sont entêtés à embaucher des joueurs offensifs et devront vivre avec les conséquences, surtout en défense, où les options sont plus limitées.

Les risques de tension sont aussi nombreux quand des joueurs entrent dans l'espace de leurs coéquipiers, un problème inexistant à l'ère galactique 1. Dans cette optique, a-t-on vraiment besoin de Franck Ribéry pour compliquer les choses?

Keep watching that space.

Eredivisie report: Feyenoord, Ajax, and PSV were all winners this weekend. The other de Guzman scored again. My boys, AZ, lost, to Den Haag, of all teams. All in all a bad week.

There were Canadians in action too: Ornoch got some late minutes as mentioned above. Marcel de Jong and Jacob Lensky both played 90 minutes in losing causes for Utrecht and Roda respectively.

Get your picks in and start following Europe's seventh best league!

Canadian soccer blog post I enjoyed this week: Canadian depth at centre back
I enjoy it whenever our man Sam posts about something other than Man U. And this post on Canada's future at this important position was bang on. The picture is certainly a lot different than it was when I made a similar post two years back.

Non-soccer blog post I enjoyed this week: If you like bikes, cynicism, and irony, you should be reading Bike Snob NYC. This return-from-vacation post turns the world of arm wrestling on its head, so you know it's a good one.

BONUS FEATURE: In which I do the work for other bloggers/podcasters
Some of you may love the some canadian guys . . . podcast. Some of you may also like having podcasts properly organized on your iTunes/iPod. So I've set up a feed. Mostly for my own use, but I should share the wealth. Back catalog (eps 2-14) to be updated forthwith.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Julian in red every week?

I have my reservations about the move, but I think I should be able to get used to this.

If you're so inclined, and so lucky as to have a liberal office internet use policy, check out the press conference to announce JDG's signing at 1:15 pm et streamed live on the Toronto FC website.

I'll be tuning in, if only to find out whether the new man will be playing on the weekend.

There's only one de Guzman!

(But if there were two de Guzmans, the second one, via twitter, would say: "Congrats to my big brother JULIAN DE GUZMAN who just signed for 3 Years at Toronto FC. The new franchise player! Follow him @JBDEGUZZI. YESS)

And, for all the cycling nuts in the place, Ryder Hesjedal grabbed the first stage win in a grand tour by Canadian since Steve Bauer in 1988, by conquering a mountain stage at the Vuelta in Spain.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Asmir Begovic Nothing Really is Impossible

Well, Asmir Begovic, you finally are getting yourself served. squizz recently went off on Asmir for joining his country's team: Bosnia, like everyone predicted him to do. As usual, athletes that tell the truth is still something I'm looking to find when it comes to Canadian national soccer players.

I understand Asmir that you are totally bummed about playing for Canada and suffering through the politics, but could just one of our international talents just make a stand and stick around.

Anyways, for those of you that don't recall, back in 2007 Canada hosted the U20 World Cup and during that time frame Adidas was near the tail end of it's "Impossible is Nothing" campaign and they came across Asmir Begovic's story of having to play in his bedroom and how he first learned to become a soccer goalkeeper as it was too dangerous to go outside in Bosnia. He emigrated to Canada and was givien the time and money to develop his game from the bedroom to the soccer field.

Well after the cap tying rules were changed Mr. Begovic has decided that it would be better to play for Bosnia than Canada. I guess who can blame him: they will play more games against international competition then Canada, but it's not like they are any closer to qualifying.

But I guess home is home, so today I salute you with one of my fingers. You can decide for yourself which one I'm using.

Monday cup of coffee: Tuesday edition

We all know that holiday Mondays aren't really Mondays at all. And in any case, I was too busy enjoying the first weekend of real summer, canoeing some of Manitoba's lakes and rivers, to be bothered with a catch-all post of soccer happenings.

I did, however, spend those moments of yesterday evening where I wasn't falling asleep on the couch (watching the seemingly excellent mini-series Guns on CBC), catching up on the stories of the past few days.

De Guzman to TFC?
Perhaps the biggest story to emerge over the weekend is the likelihood that Julian de Guzman will sign on with Toronto FC.

It may come as a surprise to some, but it really shouldn't. The longer that de Guzman remained out of work in Europe, the more likely it is that he would reconsider an offer from this side of the pond, the terms of which had always been generous. The bigger surprise, and disappointment, is that JDG was unable to get an offer from a European side that was up to snuff. I don't buy into the blackballing theory that Duane Rollins has thrown out there, and I do think he may have been a little picky, but that's not my problem.

I am interested in why JDG would agree now to a deal. Some problematic issues:
  • TFC are looking more and more likely to miss the playoffs, especially after their 1-0 loss this weekend. That means JDG may have signed on for only 6 games.
  • Playoffs or no playoffs, JDG will not be playing games for nearly half a year. This is not good when you are in the prime of your career.
Unless a deal provides an out clause at the end of the season, I don't see how this is good for JDG. By extension, it's not good for Canada's MNT either.

Canadian pro teams in action
Vancouver have played twice since last Monday: a 3-2 win over Austin Aztex on Wednesday, and a 1-1 draw against Minnesota on Friday.

Montreal have also played twice over the same span, earning two wins: 1-0 over Carolina, and 2-1 in Cleveland in the Cheese Bowl.

As mentioned above, Toronto FC were beaten 1-0 in Colorado, and in addition to playing terribly, failing to score, and harming their playoff chances, they had two players (Adrian Serioux and Amadou Sanyang) sent off.

If the rest of the season holds to form, Toronto will miss the playoffs, while Vancouver and Montreal will make it as lower seeds.

I'm looking forward to: Vancouver and Montreal going head-to-head at Saputo Stadium on Wednesday (Go Caps!)

If you want to check out the Canadian content in these matches, go check the data.

Eredivisie report: No Eredivisie action to report as top European leagues had the weekend off to accommodate World Cup qualifying. We did, however, receive a third entry into our Eredivisie pool from Pompey Canuck. Entries to date:Yours truly:
J: AZ, Ajax; Mounir el Hamdouai (AZ), Luis Suarez (Ajax)
HH: AZ, PSV; Luis Suarez (Ajax), Balazs Dzsudzsak (PSV - this pick is brought to you by the letter 'Z')
Pompey Canuck: PSV, Ajax; Luis Suarez (Ajax), Jon Dahl Tomasson (Feyenoord)
See the original post for details on how to enter.

Canadian soccer blog post I enjoyed this week: This has not been a good soccer day.
In this post, squizz, the most prolific of the canadian soccer guys, explains why I was so right in my decision to spend the long weekend in the wilderness instead of watching soccer (and, in my case, another sport).

Non-soccer blog post I enjoyed this week: I haven't been reading the blogs much. Does anyone have a good one for me?

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Remember when you cared . . .

Do you remember when you cared about Canada's monthly movements in the FIFA rankings of national teams?

Me neither.

But, for what it's worth, and for lack of anything better to talk about, Canada remains sixth among CONCACAF teams, and unchanged overall in 66th.

111USA USA9741Up-17
242Mexico Mexico8356Up36
393Costa Rica Costa Rica735-1Down-7
424Honduras Honduras7124Up48
635Trinidad and Tobago Trinidad and Tobago5177Up39
666Canada Canada5040Equal6
697Jamaica Jamaica4770Equal-12
758Panama Panama4313Up14
859El Salvador El Salvador398-4Down-10
8710Cuba Cuba3931Up10

CONCACAF's top 10

The cheap journalism trick used in the wire stories is to list the countries immediately above and below Canada in the rankings, if this bracket somehow defines absolutely a country's football prowess.

So let me do it here: Canada sits between Saudi Arabia (65th) and Wales (67th).

[full rankings]

* * * * *

A more important news story is Ottawa applying for a USL-1 franchise. The more pro franchises we have in Canada, the better the opportunities that exist for young players in this country.

Still, a part of me is bitter about how unlikely it is that Winnipeg will join the ranks of any league, any time soon.

* * * * *

The transfer window for Dutch clubs has closed, which makes it easier for those of you who have been holding off before making an entry in my Eredivisie contest to see if prolific goal scorers like Keisuke Honda, Mounir el Hamdouai, or Luis Suarez would be staying put.

None of the above will be moving before the winter break, so get your picks in.