So along the way this morning, we'll be learning a little bit about this landlocked country, home to Alexander the Great.
Let's begin with the name: the country is Macedonia, but in this internet age of acronyms, many prefer FYROM.
F is for friendly
It is a habit, one that is hard to break, for Canadians to rag on the CSA at every opportunity. That is why it is so important to point out when they get something right.
And booking a November friendly, even when Canada has no important matches on the calendar, is the right thing to do. Pompey Canuck will argue otherwise, but beginning to evaluate the players that will form the core of the Canada squad over the next four years is an important task, and squandering two international dates this month would have been disappointing.
Rumour has it that Canada had been negotiating with the Czechs, which shows a level of ambition from the Association that we're not accustomed to. Even though that match seems not to have panned out, Macedonia is a good get, and should make for a fairly competitive match.
I expect to see a Euro-based squad, though I would not be disappointed to see a few out of season North American based players like Julian de Guzman or Nana Attakora included. Particularly interesting will be whether players like David Hoilett or Jacob Lensky would answer a call.
The fixture goes November 14th in the capital, Skopje. In the only previous head-to-head match between the countries, a friendly in Toronto, Canada came out victorious on a goal from the prolific Niall Thompson.
Y is for Your two favourite Canadian pro teams
This was the source of much of my weekend's disappointment. I was hopeful, maybe even cautiously optimistic, that Vancouver would pull off the upset in the return leg of the USL-1 final. I was also hopeful that the officiating would be better than we saw from a lady-ref Ms. Chenard at Swangard. On both counts, my hopes were dashed.
I aborted my live blog in frustration after the Montreal penalty goal. On my grainy stream it looked like a bad call, but upon further investigation, it was probably the right one. The sending off of Shaun Pejic however, a player finally starting to show why he spent his career in the English Conference, did get my hackles up as I had never before seen a straight red for dissent like that. The sending off ruined any chance of what had been an entertaining start turning into a terrific match.
Now that I have the emotional stuff out of the way, allow me to congratulate the Impact and coach Marc dos Santos. The man turned around a team that was falling apart at the seams after collapsing at Santos, Nutrilite embarassment, Sandro Grande drama, and a disappointing first half of the USL season. The veteran squad responded late to MDS, but the Impact won all 6 playoff matches and are deserving champions.
An RDS article explains how Montreal overcame adversity in '09, while a french CP hit runs down the match itself.
The Whitecaps also deserve to be congratulated. After winning the title last year, they blew up the veteran core of their squad and began a youth movement with a bevy of under 23 talent featuring at various points of the season. USL-1 rookie of the year Marcus Haber was the most impressive but Ethan Gage, Wes Knight, Luca Bellisomo, Randy Edwini-Bonsu, Mason Trafford and others all made important contributions at various points in the season.
They also should be congratulated for finishing on top of this year's Canadian content standings. Despite a final that featured minimal Canadian content on both sides, the Whitecaps top this year's list, barring a long Toronto FC playoff run that is very Canadian-heavy.
(Parenthetically, here are the final 2009 Canadian content numbers for both teams. I'll run the numbers with sort-of-Canadian Eddy Sebrango excluded after TFC wraps their season -- O'Brian White will receive the same treatment
|USL Regular Season||13034||29695||43.9%|
|CONCACAF Champions League||762||1980||38.5%|
|USL Regular Season||11643||28637||40.7%|
On the 'Caps press side, a CP article explains that I wasn't the only one upset about the red card shown to the otherwise abysmal Pejic.
R is for Rankings, FIFA-style
The newest edition of the FIFA rankings are out, and Canada made a nice jump. 13 spots, to be precise, which can be attributed to the uglier results of 2008 (umm, I don't want to talk about it . . .) being devalued as they age.
Canada sits 53rd overall, and more importantly, 5th in CONCACAF. It is important to maintain a high position in the CONCACAF table, in order to avoid another Group of Death in qualifying for 2014.
Our Thracian friends (I mean Macedonia, see how I dropped some knowledge there) are 66th.
O is for Overseas obsession (the Eredivisie)
In case you've forgotten, the team that I follow most closely is the alphabet-spanning AZ. They are a part of the Dutch Big Four, along with Feyenoord, PSV, and Ajax. Perhaps it is time to include Twente (they could probably take the Rotterdam side's place) as they have moved into first place after a 3-2 win over my AZ over the weekend.
PSV and Ajax were also winners this weekend by 1-0 and 4-0 scorelines respectively, while Feyenoord dropped a derby match against Sparta 2-1.
Data relevant to our Eredivisie pool includes goals from Luis Suarez and Mounir El Hamdouai.
See for yourselves the table and top scorers in the most pleasing teletekst format.
M is for Music of Macedonia
Yes, this is 2009, not 1989.
Lots to talk about today, but running out of space and time. Here are some quick hitters.