Like everyone else, I was as excited as I was shocked to learn that Canada had booked itself two friendlies in this November international window, considering the lack of important matches on the horizon. It signalled that the CSA might in fact consider not cheaping out, and giving its coach time to develop a team for the critical tournaments two and three years down the road.
As with all things Canadian soccer, the payoff was less than the promise. The games itself against 66th ranked Macedonia and 56th ranked Poland (at least until the new rankings tomorrow) were dire and dour respectively. Canada failed to score, showed themselves to be vulnerable in defense, and were largely uninspired in midfield.
So, what did we learn?
1. Canada is lacking in creative attacking players
Tomasz Radzinski, who is almost 36, was our most dangerous player over the course of the matches. Enough said.
2. Canada is not dangerous from the wide positions.
Whether it was the wing players from the run of play, or set pieces, Canada could only manage a few semi-dangerous balls from out wide. The most tantalizing crosses generally came from defender Mike Klukowski, both on set pieces and open play.
3. Canada needs new blood at the back
We all know Paul Stalteri will keep getting called until he breaks the caps record. I'm fully on board with this and largely share this man's opinion. Soon after though, he should be put out to pasture. We need new options at right back. Stalteri was called for a penalty against Macedonia, and while it was likely a dive, it was still a reckless challenge. In the centre of defense, Kevin McKenna and especially Richard Hastings are too slow to be of much use. Dejan Jakovic looks like he's a man for the future, but we need other options.
I personally hold very little hope that David Edgar will amount to much (I know I'm alone in this position) but he should be tried, along with Nana Attakora, and even Adam Straith.
4. English lower division strikers should not be our penalty takers
No need to explain.
5. Goalkeeping depth is an issue
Lars Hirschfeld showed his rust and was a disaster for the first 60 minutes of the Poland match, but his shot-stopping instincts saved the day until he got his head into the game. Josh Wagenaar was adequate against Macedonia, but needs a full-time starting gig. It certainly doesn't help that none of Canada's pro teams start a Canadian in goal.
6. Julian de Guzman is not the same as he was in 2007
Whether Julian is permanently in decline or just not in form is yet to be determined, but he looked like TFC Julian in these two matches, not Deportivo/Gold Cup MVP Julian. He looked uninspired, a step slow, and not as strong on the ball as we are used to seeing.
7. Canada is disadvantaged by the CONCACAF qualifying process
Unless you make the Hex, you only get 8 WCQ matches. In Europe you get 10 over a much shorter period. The teams Canada played against clearly showed the kind of mettle and team toughness that is earned over a series of high-pressure matches.
8. Polish internet streaming video is better than Macedonian internet streaming video
9. I need to swear off live blogging
I had fun both times, but I've now blogged five losses in a row for my favoured teams (Canada x2, Impact x2, Whitecaps x1).
Your thoughts? I'm looking forward to seeing what matches are scheduled in 2010 (even home dates!?!) and finding out the composition of the squad for the annual January Caribbean holiday. We need new blood.
We can stop calling: Kevin McKenna, Paul Stalteri (once he gets the record), Richard Hastings, Tomasz Radzinski (unless he wants to keep playing)
Probably could do without: Patrice Bernier, Iain Hume
That's almost half of the starting lineup from Macedonia.