Monday, October 05, 2009

Monday cup of coffee: All-Canadian Final Edition

Some Canadian "culture", in honour of the forthcoming all-Canadian USL-1 final

I was in a Tim Horton's on Saturday morning when a manager appeared from the recesses of the store in order to deliver a full-voiced monologue reminding staff that it was a Saturday morning, so they should have "big smiles", and make sure to use their "Thank you, have a nice days!". The advice is largely unnecessary, as owning a T-Ho's franchise is already a license to print money, whether the staff is surly or chipper.

What it did signal to me, though, was perhaps the beginning of a postmodern form of management. Just like TV shows (think SNL, news broadcasts, etc.) have recently become enamoured with panning back to reveal boom mikes, other cameras, and the like, perhaps the next wave in management is to deliver employee harangues right in the presence of customers so they can have the full experience.

Or something. On to the good stuff.

We put the 'us' in USL-1

If you're like me, you spent a good chunk of your Sunday evening watching internet streams of North American second tier soccer. And if you did, you had the pleasure of watching the league's two Canadian sides, the Montreal Impact and Vancouver Whitecaps, advance to the league's final with aggregate wins over Puerto Rico and Portland respectively.

You also saw a professional performance by Montreal nearly ruined by typically dodgy CONCACAF officiating (a dubious late penalty), though this was thankfully cancelled out by an Eduardo Sebrango strike to make it a 2-1 final, and a 4-2 aggregate victory by Montreal.

Montreal celebrates the only way they know how -- by squirting!

Not only that, but you witnessed one of the more exciting matches I've seen in the last while, North American or otherwise. Vancouver, leading 2-1 on aggregate heading to Portland, got an early goal from Marcus Haber to go up 1-0, but dropped 2 goals by halftime to fall level overall. But second half goals from veteran Martin Nash (hey, did you know he's Steve Nash's brother?!) and Vincy Heat striker Marlon James put Vancouver ahead 3-2 before a late goal by Portland's "Finding" Nimo evened the match, but left them one goal short on aggregate.

That paragraph hardly does the thing any justice, though. Do yourself a favour and watch the highlights:

That Vancouver and Montreal have both advanced to the league final isn't entirely shocking. After all, these are two of the league's better run outfits, and both teams have experienced playoff success in the past, particularly the Whitecaps.

However, the manner in which these teams have rescued their seasons is impressive. For Montreal, it was all going tits-up in early 2009, with an inglorious exit from the CCL at the hands of Santos Laguna, a miserable Nutrilite Canadian Championship campaign, a mid-season firing of coach John Limniatis, and the banishing of Sandro Grande. But the veteran squad pulled it together and earned their finals trip with 4 straight playoff victories.

Vancouver showed promise with their near-miss in the Nutrilite tournament (more on this below) but struggled with injuries and a young squad to a 7th place regular season finish. But the latter half of the season was promising, and including the playoffs, the team has only 1 loss in their last 14 matches.

This gives a Vancouver-Montreal final full of intrigue. In post-game interviews, Martin Nash and goalkeeper Jay Nolly both suggested that Vancouver hoped to extract a measure of payback from Montreal. Nash mentioned the Nutrilite tournament specifically (referring to the Impact's bendover act for Toronto on the last day of the tourney) while Nolly kept it general.

The Whitecaps have 2 wins and the Impact have 3 in the 5 matches the teams have played this season in all competitions. Expect more to come on this subject in the remainder of the week.

First leg goes October 10th in Vancouver, second leg October 17th in Montreal. I might even get enthusiastic enough to go liveblog on y'all for the latter match.

This headline puts the 'AZ' in 'lazy'

In contrast to previous weekends, the team that I'm hoping to ride to Eredivisie glory, Alkmaar Zanstreek, or to their friends, AZ, finally managed a decent performance, and got some standings help from other teams. The Alkmaar boys beat NAC 1-0, while Ajax dropped points to our man Marcel de Jong (90 minutes) and his Roda side in a 2-2 draw. PSV also were only able to manage a draw, 0-0 against Utrecht (90 minutes for tentative Canadian Jacob Lensky in that one). Scumbags Feyenoord kept rolling, though, with a 3-0 win over RKC.

On the pool front, only Luis Suarez was able to add to his tally, with 2 more goals for Ajax. Not pool-related but definitely goal-related, the aforementioned Lensky scored a goal in Utrecht's midweek match against NEC.

Toronto FC puts the into the <word> into <phrase describing how they benefited from the results of other MLS matches while they enjoyed a week off, making an unlikely playoff run somewhat less unlikely>

Canadian soccer blog post I enjoyed this week: Not a blog post so much as a quite drunk special edition podcast from Some Canadian Guys celebrating grass at BMO, with a special guest appearance by a drunken Duane.

No comments: