Monday, February 22, 2010

A social experiment

Since by all appearances, it seems like Major League Soccer and its players intend on taking a break from soccer, I am endeavoring today to do the same. Instead of the usual disjointed and days late ramblings on footie, I am pursuing an experiment that I have long talked about, but never carried out.

The context

The back lane to my abode is well-travelled, as far as back lanes go. Partly this is because I live in a fairly busy neighbourhood, where daytime work traffic is replaced by night time going out traffic, with only a few hours of relative calm in between. Partly it is due to the fact that the main road through the neighbourhood is a one-way street, and travelling down back lanes is a necessary part of getting around.

And last, but definitely not least, it is because the back lane serves as a tributary to the raging stream that is the Great Bottle Return Silk Route. Living within a few hundred metres of a hotel beer vendor/bottle depot, we experience a fair bit of traffic from drunks/entrepreneurs trafficking in alcoholic beverage containers. Mostly they are passing through, but they aren't opposed to further collection in the final stages of their journey.

The experiment

I've always wondered whether I overestimate the extent to which these types travel the highways and byways of the neighbourhood. A too-frequent topic of discussion is how long an unguarded kitty of bottles would last in that lane. Today I will find out.

I aim to test not only the frequency but also the sophistication of these back alley businessmen. The honeypot includes:
  • a mixmatched six-pack of bottles, which the depot will accept, with a word of reproach for failing to correctly organize the case
  • 4 loose bottles, two of which are kosher, two others which are non-traditional sizes from homebrews and will not be accepted
  • 3 loose cans, also acceptable
A savvy bottleman might exchange the rogue bottle in the sixpack for one of the loose ones which is of the correct vintage. Or they might take the whole lot but for the two valueless ones.

The situation

Here's how it looks at 11:40 am. The bottles are no more than half a metre from the rutted snowy tire tracks of the lane.

Seven (7) Half Pints, one (1) Rickards' Red, two (2) Bavaria, one (1) Fort Gibraltar, two (2) non-refundable homebrew bottles

12:40 pm: Situation unchanged. As a further test of the bottleman's mindset, I dropped 55 cents in change beside the box. Does the man who trolls the streets picking up discarded bottles feel that bending over to pick up loose change is beneath him? I fear, though, that the change will soon be obscuring by a thin layer of light snow.

Stay tuned for updates.

2:15 pm: Still no change.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Canada-Argentina: How badly will we lose?

Whenever Canada books a high profile opponent in soccer, the first reaction is excitement. If you're like me, though, the second reaction is often fear. Not quite mortal fear, but rather fear of embarrassment.

You see, the average Canadian sports fan, upon hearing that Canada will be playing Argentina, will immediately (and gleefully) reply: "Wow, we're going to get our asses kicked!" And there is undoubtedly a possibility that this will happen.

You may want to argue with your uninformed friend, but if you choose to do so, you might as well prepare yourself with some facts. That's why I've done you the favour of presenting a list of Canada's all-time encounters with FIFA top 10 teams since the world rankings were first published in 1993. These aren't necessarily teams ranked in the top 10 currently, but in the top 10 at the time of the match.

Date Location Opponent (Rk) Opp Can CAN Rnk Result Type
05/06/94 Edmonton Brazil (1) 1 1 58 Draw Friendly
08/06/94 Toronto Germany (2) 2 0 58 Loss Friendly
10/06/94 Montreal Spain (9) 2 0 58 Loss Friendly
12/01/96 Los Angeles Brazil (1) 4 1 65 Loss Gold Cup
20/02/00 San Diego Mexico (10) 1 2 85 Win Gold Cup
02/06/01 Ibaraki, Japan Brazil (2) 0 0 71 Draw Confederations Cup
18/01/03 Ft. Lauderdale USA (10) 4 0 70 Loss Friendly
01/06/03 Wolfsburg Germany (4) 4 1 77 Loss Friendly
26/03/05 Barcelos Portugal (9) 4 1 84 Loss Friendly
09/07/05 Seattle USA (10) 2 0 85 Loss Gold Cup
03/09/05 Santander Spain (8) 2 1 84 Loss Friendly
22/01/06 San Diego USA (7) 0 0 84 Draw Friendly
31/05/08 Seattle Brazil (2) 3 2 62 Loss Friendly

Wins 1

Draws 3

Losses 9

Average margin -1.54

As you can see, Canada doesn't have a stellar record in these matches. 1 win from 13 is nothing to get excited about. On the other hand it shouldn't come as much of a surprise when a team from the top 10 meets a team that is often closer to 100 than to 50.

The encouraging sign, though, is that Canada has rarely delivered a bed-shittingly poor performance. The worst beating was a 4-0 loss to the Yanks in January 2003, one of those developmental camp games in which both teams were fielding less than full lineups.

Also encouraging is that Canada has done well against Argentina's South American neighbours Brazil, with 2 draws and a 1 goal loss among the 4 matches. However, of those 3 results, one was at home and two were at neutral sites.

Matches that fall under the same category as the upcoming match against Argentina (away friendlies, and I won't include the USA matches) have not been particularly fruitful: 4-1 losses to Portugal and Germany, and a 2-1 loss to Spain. But hey, at least we didn't get shut out.

In short, when Canada travels to Argentina in May, we'll almost certainly lose. But it might not be as much of a blowout as you might think.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Canada-Argentina confirmed for May 24th

The long rumoured friendly between Canada and Argentina, which has been more or less a sure thing for some time now, has now been confirmed. The match will take place at Estadio Monumental in Buenos Aires, home to River Plate.

An important change is that the match is scheduled for Monday, May 24th, not the 25th as initially rumoured.

While Toronto FC aren't playing in midweek, they do have a weekend match on the schedule. It will be very interesting to see whether Julian de Guzman is allowed to join Canada for this match.

UPDATE: De Rosario comments on the friendly announcement, and hints that he'd like to be there for the match, which is a bit surprising as he bailed on the more important Gold Cup tournament. This will be a very interesting club vs country storyline as it develops.

Monday cup of coffee: Louis Riel edition

While much of the rest of the country endures the blandest of made up holidays -- Family Day -- we Manitobans celebrated a typical Canadian anti-hero, Louis Riel. A man who started two rebellions in two provinces, served in a provisional government, and was eventually hanged for treason; while finding time to go to seminary, become an ultramontanist, and teach school in Montana.

People across this country are taking the day off and enjoying the Olympics, and since Canadian soccer news kind of took the week off (apart from the FC Edmonton thing, which I've already covered), I suggest to you, my loyal readers, that you do the same. Enjoy the outdoors, even.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

New link on the sidebar

Normally this wouldn't be worthy of news, but I'm glad to be posting a new link on the sidebar, in the category of "teams".

FC Edmonton, a drab and hopefully temporary name, will be joining the NASL in 2011. They also have a drab and temporary looking website, which presently features two press releases: one announcing the new team, and one announcing the all-Dutch coaching staff which includes former NEC and PSV manager Dwight Lodeweges and Dutch U-20 coach Hans Schrijver.

This is not the new Edmonton team's logo

Yes, folks, it looks like I'll have a new favourite team next year.

Other thoughts on the team from the Canadian soccer blogosphere:
If you can find other links with a unique perspective, please let me know.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Monday cup of coffee: Final edition? (And it's Tuesday)

I recently received the rather welcome news that my employment status will undergo an adjustment from "under-employed" to "fully employed, and then some". My chosen pursuit is the education of children (this may be frightening to some of my readers) which means that I'll be keeping my nose to the grindstone at least until the end of June. Blogging will tail off even further in frequency (and probably quality as well) with no more posting during the day and very little posting during the week. If you can, refrain from any wailing and gnashing of teeth.

In the intervening weeks until I start this job in earnest, I'll try to keep the posts coming, even though February-March is a bit of a dead zone for soccer news in this country.

Without further ado . . .

Schedules galore

Last week we saw the release of the 2010 MLS schedule and the Voyageurs Cup/Nutrilite Canadian Championship schedules. Yesterday, the NASL/USSF division 2 schedules were released, including team slates for Montreal and Vancouver.

With all of the matchdays now on the calendar, here are some items to take note of:
  • Like Toronto FC, the Vancouver Whitecaps also have a match on the same day as the Champions League final, at home against Rochester on May 22nd. Unlike TFC, it is unlikely that there will be a conflict because of the time zone, and the fact that Vancouver tends not to play on Saturday afternoons.
  • In another good bit of conflict avoidance, both leagues had the good sense to avoid scheduling matches on the Sunday of the World Cup final (11 July 2010). All three Canadian teams are in action on the Saturday.
  • Only Toronto will be playing on Canada Day, which this year falls on a Thursday. The Impact and Whitecaps will play each other the day before at Stade Saputo.
  • NASL matches will only fall on weekends (Friday-Sunday) or on Wednesdays, with no two-match weekends as we used to see with the USL-1/A-League schedules. Along with the Wednesday Voyageurs Cup matches, the sked for Vancouver and Montreal is quite regimented.
  • Montreal and Vancouver will square off 6 times, not counting playoffs (twice in Voyageurs Cup action, 4 times in league play)
Throw in a little tournament called the World Cup, and a growing slate of Canada friendlies, and 2010 promises to be a busy year for soccer. I hope I have time to take some of it in.

Edmonton to NASL?

Rumours about an Edmonton franchise in the second tier of pro soccer in North America have been popping up for years, but now we are in almost-official territory. Official word is expected today, and details are already breaking on another blog.

This is exciting for a number of reasons. Chief among them:
  1. A 4-team Canadian Championship lends itself more easily to a one-off final match, and adds a little credibility to the tournament.
  2. An Edmonton team would be the shortest road trip from my home base (only 14 hours!)

No March friendly for Canada

There's been a good deal of excitement lately about the friendly opponents that Canada has been lining up for 2010, but one small disappointment is that Canada won't be playing during the early March international window. Stephen Hart explained in a radio interview that there simply wasn't enough time to gather a squad together.

Eredivisie update

When my boys, AZ Alkmaar, crashed out of Champions League, and even avoided a consolation trip to the Europa Cup, I figured they'd put all their efforts into their league play and finish the season strong. January, however, was not a good month for the team, and they currently sit 7th in the Eredivisie table.

Things are looking up, though, as they won away at Feyenoord on the weekend, despite one of the more spectacular own goals you'll ever see. Snakebitten striker Mounir el Hamdaoui also found the back of the net, a good omen to be sure.

The goal:

Another notable performance, with implications for our ongoing Eredivisie prediction pool, was a 4 goal performance at midweek from Ajax and Uruguay striker Luis Suarez.

Here's how things stand in that contest:

AZ 32 Mounir el Hamdaoui (AZ) 8
Ajax 49 Luis Suarez (Ajax) 22

TOTAL (PTS + GOALS x 2) 141
Headhunting Canuck
AZ 32 Luis Suarez (Ajax) 22
PSV 58 Balazs Dzsudzsak (PSV) 8

TOTAL (PTS + GOALS x 2) 150
Pompey Canuck
PSV 58 Luis Suarez (Ajax) 22
Ajax 49 Jon Dahl Tomasson (Feyenoord) 8

TOTAL (PTS + GOALS x 2) 167
Lord Bob
Ajax 49 Keisuke Honda (VVV) 6
FC Utrecht 32 Mounir el Hamdaoui (AZ) 8

TOTAL (PTS + GOALS x 2) 109

Reader Pompey Canuck had the good sense to select both top goal man Suarez, who is scoring at a goal a game pace, and unbeaten PSV, while avoiding this disastrous AZ team, and is running away with the contest. If we are to apply some sort of emotional calculus, I think this is more than enough to overcome any sour feelings about his own team's competitive and financial shortcomings this season.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Nutrilite Canadian Championship Schedule

The schedule has been announced for the 2010 Nutrilite Canadian Championship, the winner of which receives the Voyageurs Cup, as well as an entry into CONCACAF Champions League.

In case you can't be bothered to click through to read the article, here's the sked:

Date Home Away Location
2010-04-28 Toronto FC Impact Montreal BMO Field
2010-05-05 Vancouver Whitecaps Impact Montreal Swangard Stadium
2010-05-12 Impact Montreal Toronto FC Stade Saputo
2010-05-19 Vancouver Whitecaps Toronto FC Swangard Stadium
2010-05-26 Impact Montreal Vancouver Whitecaps Stade Saputo
2010-06-02 Toronto FC Vancouver Whitecaps BMO Field

While there is an argument to be made that the tournament would be better with a winner-take-all championship final, there is a lot to like about the way the schedule has been organized:
  • While the CSA is typically anything but consistent, they deserve credit for sticking to the precedent by which the defending champs (TFC this year; Montreal in 2009) host the last match
  • While TFC finds itself in a Champions League scheduling conflict, this tournament is in the clear. The matches are completed and a champion crowned before the Canadian soccer fan turns its attention to the World Cup. The ratings should profit from the increased attention paid to the sport in the run up to South Africa.
  • All 6 matches will be broadcast on Rogers Sportsnet. Last year, only 4 matches made it to air.
  • Holding the matches on 6 consecutive Wednesdays should help draw the casual fan.
I'm not so sure Montreal is thrilled about playing on the first two matchdays, both on the road, but we'll have to see how it all plays out.

It's interesting to see that there is no TFC match the day after Canada's May 25th friendly in Argentina. The likes of de Guzman and de Rosario could make the trip if TFC allows it, though a second South American friendly around the same time, currently only at the rumour stage, could make such a trip more difficult to accommodate.

What is for certain is that this blog will once again be holding a Voyageurs Cup pool. The format may be altered a touch, or not, but I hope this year's edition can match or exceed last year's, which featured 30 entries. Our defending champion is squizz, of some canadian guys. . ., and we hope he'll deign to re-enter the competition.

Contest details will be announced a few weeks before the first matchday.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

A brief word from the department of records and the undersecretary for international friendlies

With our latest friendly behind us, it is time to start looking forward to the rest of Canada's match calendar for 2010.

The promised home friendlies in September lack only an opponent, with the dates and location more or less set. An announcement is expected in the next few days about friendlies on the next international dates, which are in early March.

But for most Canadian fans, the biggest news has been out for a while: a May 25th friendly against Argentina. It has now moved from the rumour stage, to the in-between stage where the match appears on Canada's FIFA page, which means we are about two weeks away from an official announcement from the CSA. A friendly in Buenos Aires is a Big Fucking Deal™ and the CSA brass deserve to be applauded for the balls to get that one done.

Now, on the Voyageurs forums, the usually reliable jonny63 brings news of a possible Ukraine friendly in late October (article in Ukrainian). Home or away is not known, but this is another high profile opponent which would draw a crowd in several parts of Canada.

With one match already played, two more or less confirmed, some spring international dates available even before World Cup squads start looking for last minute tune-ups, it almost seems as though our national association is going to deliver on its promise of some 30 or so matches before the next World Cup qualifying round.

And because I care

A list of all Canadians to see action in the calendar year 2010, which I'll update after every match:

David Monsalve 1

Ante Jazic 1

Dejan Jakovic 1

Andre Hainault 1

Eddy Sidra 1

Massih Wassey 1

Antonio Ribeiro 1

Tyler Hemming 1

Julian de Guzman 1
Stephen Ademolu 1

Ali Gerba 1

Adrian Cann
1 45
Nana Attakora
1 19
Randy Edwini-Bonsu
1 14

Carlo Rivas
1 2

TOTALS 1 4 990 0 3 0

Monday, February 01, 2010

Canada - Jamaica in brief

Canada lost 1-0 to Jamaica in Kingston last night on a 2nd half goal by Luton Shelton (who is now teammates with Lars Hirschfeld at Valerenga).

It's rather pointless to go on analyzing a match that none of us have seen, so I'll keep my thoughts brief.

Ante Jazic takes on Luton Shelton.

What did we learn?
  • Canada will struggle in any match when only 2 players from a theoretical best eleven are playing (de Guzman and Jakovic). It doesn't help when the 2nd and 3rd best guys in camp come up injured before the game (de Rosario and Will Johnson). Depth is improving, but still not a strength.
  • David Monsalve is, at the very least, a reasonable option at GK. At least the CSA tweeter was impressed.
  • At this stage of the cycle, Stephen Hart isn't afraid to give new players a chance. Five players earned their first Canada caps last night: Monsalve, Carlos Rivas Jr., Nana Attakora, Massih Wassey and Randy Edwini-Bonsu.
  • The current regime at the CSA is finally becoming Web 2.0 savvy: witness the CSA twitter feed and Youtube channel.
Of course a win would have been nice, but I'm not sure it's so important at this point.