Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Nutrilite Canadian Championship Pool: 2010 edition

*** 38 entries submitted. Check out all the picks made to date ***

It's that time again. With the Voyageurs Cup/Nutrilite Canadian Championship rapidly approaching, it's time to revive the most popular contest in this blog's history.

The contest, of course, is the VC/NCC prediction league, the previous edition of which received upwards of 30 entries, and was won in a close finish by some canadian guy squizz.

Because of the tightness of the finish, I'll be tweaking the tie-breaking procedures this year, but other than that the format will remain the same.

Here's the important information:

  • Participants will predict the final score of each of the 6 NCC matches.
  • Total discrepancy from the final score of each match will be tallied. e.g.: If you predicted Toronto 1 - 0 Montreal for the opening fixture, and the final was 2-2, your discrepancy factor would be 3 goals (off by 1 for TFC, off by 2 for MTL). Low score wins.
  • First tie-breaker will be total number of exact scorelines. Second is total number of correct results (win/draw/loss). Third will be correctly predicting the tournament's high goal scorer.

It's simple: win the whole thing, get a prize. The prize will be a team scarf of one of the participating teams, or an FC Edmonton scarf if they're available by tourney's end. Or one of these, if they're available to schmucks like us:

In order to maintain interest at the bottom of the table, the lanterne rouge (overall loser of the pool) will get to choose the scarf that is awarded to the winner.


Your entry should include, in something like this format (minus the spreadsheet, please):
  • The exact score of each fixture (in the correct order, please)
  • Your prediction for tournament leading goal scorer.
Something like this:

28/04/10 Toronto 2 Montreal 1
05/05/10 Vancouver 1 Montreal 0
12/05/10 Montreal 1 Toronto 1
19/05/10 Vancouver 1 Toronto 1
26/05/10 Montreal 2 Vancouver 0
02/06/10 Toronto 2 Vancouver 0

Golden boot: Chad Barrett

(my entry, by the way)

You can enter by posting a comment with the relevant info, but I'd prefer it if you can send an email to You might as well include a nickname for how you want to be listed when I post the results every week; otherwise I'll be attaching your really name to your crappy picks for the whole world to see.

CONTEST DEADLINE: All entries must be received by midnight of Tuesday, 27 April 2010, the eve of the opening encounter.

I know this might seem like a long way out, and you may want to learn a little bit more about what the Montreal and Vancouver rosters are going to look like when the season starts (or how the TFC roster shapes up, for that matter), so I'll continue to pimp this contest over the next four weeks.

I'm shooting for 50 entries, so if you have a platform for promoting this thing, I'd appreciate the support that way as well.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Voyageurs Cup Preview: The goal scorers

With temperatures today of +19 C, it seems appropriate that we should be talking about domestic soccer again. And why not, as the Voyageurs Cup/Nutrilite Canadian Championship is a mere 4 weeks away from kicking off. It all gets started on April 28th, when the defending champs host the Montreal Impact at BMO Field.

For a tournament with such a short history, there's not much to talk about from the archives. While I respect the much longer history of the Voyageurs Cup trophy, the tourney as presently constituted has only been around two seasons.

Over those two seasons, a total of of 26 goals have been scored by 18 different players. Here they are:

Dwayne De Rosario TOR 3
Eduardo Sebrango MTL 2
Roberto Brown MTL 2
Rohan Ricketts TOR 2
Chad Barrett TOR 2
Amado Guevara TOR 2
Ansu Toure VAN 2
Joey Gjertsen MTL 1
Severino Jefferson MTL 1
David Testo MTL 1
Tony Donatelli MTL 1
Maurice Edu TOR 1
Marco Velez TOR 1
Kevin Harmse TOR 1
Martin Nash VAN 1
Charles Gbeke VAN 1
Ethan Gage VAN 1
Marcus Haber VAN 1

Remarkably, not a single player scored in both years of the competition. Also somewhat remarkably, leader De Rosario's 3 goals were all scored in a single match.

With so many of these players no longer competing with one of the Canadian clubs (sayonara Messrs. Haber, Harmse, Velez, Edu, Jefferson, Gjertsen, Gbeke, and Ricketts), a productive season from any of the top 5 active scorers (De Ro, Sebrango, Brown, Barrett or Toure) could give them a chokehold on this table for a few years to come.

If I was a betting man, I'd say that Chad Barrett will lead the scoring ranks this season (I know, I threw up a bit too). And if you're a betting man, then make a pick too, as top scorer will be one of the tie-breakers in my Nutrilite Canadian Championship prediction league, details of which will be announced by April 1st. Same goes if you're a betting woman, though if you like football and betting, you should probably also leave a number.

Apart from the World Cup, the 6 V-Cup/NCC games are for me the soccer games I'm most excited for this summer. I hope you are too.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Canadian content 2010

Regular readers of the blog will know that I've tracked the Canadian content on Canada's pro teams over the last two seasons.

It's quite simple really. I track the percentage of minutes played by Canadian players, and compare as it a percentage of the total minutes played by the entire team.

In 2009, as in 2008, the Whitecaps were the most Canadian by this metric.

I expect the race in 2010 to be close. Montreal doesn't seem to have a great deal of depth in Canadian talent, but Vancouver will, while TFC should also be starting 4 or 5 Canadians every game (O'Brian White counts for now, with an asterisk, until he suits up for Jamaica).

Since Toronto FC has their first game this afternoon, I'll begin tracking the data today. You can follow the race on the sidebar of the blog, and catch all of the details, game-by-game, here.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Gerbage goals?

With the recent kerfuffle involving Ali Gerba's situation with Toronto FC, there has been a lot of criticism directed at the fleshy striker. Legitimate gripes about his fitness, work habits, and attitudes are among them. Questions regarding his lengthy list of professional clubs also abound.

"I'm so hungry!!"

There have also been many unsuccessful attempts to reconcile his checkered professional record with his more than respectful goal scoring record for Canada. Like junior high students learning algebra (see what I did there? -- as a math educator I couldn't pass this up) those trotting out this argument keep running up against a wall without finding a solution.

The most commonly espoused theory is that Gerba's goals for Canada were scored against less than worthy opponents, with the implication that Gerba simply lacks the quality to score in MLS.

Does this theory hold water? Here's a look at Gerba's games, with the rank of Canada and it's opponent at the time of the match:

CAN RNK Opponent OPP RNK Goals
85 Honduras 50 0
85 Costa Rica 24 0
85 USA 10 0
85 Cuba 70 1
84 Spain 8 0
85 Austria 70 0
71 Jamaica 77 0
94 Venezuela 70 1
94 Costa Rica 52 0
94 Guadeloupe NR 1
56 Guatemala 81 2
56 USA 16 0
53 Iceland 117 0
53 Costa Rica 52 0
62 Estonia 129 0
62 Panama 67 0
60 St. Vincent 147 2
60 St. Vincent 147 2
77 Jamaica 94 0
79 Mexico 32 1
81 Honduras 60 0
81 Mexico 24 1
83 Guatemala 112 2
92 Jamaica 65 1
92 El Salvador 90 1
92 Costa Rica 30 0
92 Honduras 39 0
56 Jamaica 81 0

Quickly, of his 15 goals for Canada, 9 were scored against a lower ranked opponent (4 each against Guatemala and St. Vincent, and one against Guadeloupe, who surely would have been ranked lower than Canada if FIFA ranked them at all).

That works out to a strike-rate of 0.82 goals/game against lower ranked sides, and 0.35 against higher ranked ones.

Open and shut case, right?

Wrong. It's only that simple if you conveniently ignore that Canada doesn't score a lot of goals, especially against higher ranked teams. Here's what you can say about Ali scoring against big sides:
  • His strike rate of 0.35 goals/game in these matches is still higher than the overall strike rate of any active Canadian player
  • He has two goals against Mexico. In World Cup qualifiers. If you can find any player from the last 20 years that can boast more than that, I'd love to hear it.
By way of comparison, Canada's co-leader (with Gerba) in goals among active players is Ali's (for now) teammate Dwayne de Rosario. Who did his 15 goals come against? Haiti (2), St. Vincent (2), Belize (2), Costa Rica (2), Guatemala (2), Martinique, Venezuela, Scotland, Finland, Korea Republic (1 each).

For a guy with a reputation for scoring big goals, he hasn't scored much against quality opponents. The highest ranked on De Ro's shit list is South Korea, who were ranked 42nd at the time of the Gold Cup in 2002.

In conclusion, Ali Gerba may be fat, lazy, and useless. But don't use such a bullshit argument to back it up.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Eredivisie update: March

I just celebrated our annual loss of an hour's sleep (you'll understand when you're older, Saskatchewan), by watching an excellent quality stream of Ajax-PSV.

The two matches between these clubs each season rarely disappoint, and there is nearly always something at stake. It's much like a Real-Barcelona clash, though in this case, there was the inconvenient fact that outsiders FC Twente, from Enschede, sit 5 points clear at the top of the table.

When I was living in Holland, I tried as hard as I could to hate Ajax. I disliked PSV even more, but with my first loyalty then and now being with AZ, and with 6 months in Amsterdam to give me a taste for the arrogance of Ajax fans and Amsterdammers in general, we almost had a New York Yankees thing going. The two matches I went to at the ArenA were lacklustre affairs against weak sides where Ajax left the scoring late, yet were immensely gratifying because the atmosphere was so poisonous.

Today was different, and I found myself loving every good moment for the Ajax side, which has been the case more or less since I left the country. The atmosphere was great, no doubt aided by a 4-1 Ajax victory. The only chant with a hint of derision or irony was the singing of "Suk there it is" (you know how it goes), for last minute Korean substitute Suk Hyun-Jun. Urby Emanuelsson's first half goal was a beauty -- check the youtubes in a few hours

The league is being to settle out. Twente are in the driver's seat, and PSV and Ajax are the only other teams with any shot at all to catch them for the title. Feyenoord seem pretty well entrenched in 4th, and as much as I'd love AZ to catch them I don't see it happening.

Fortunately, things in our Eredivisie contest are far from over. Here's how it looks:

AZ 45 Mounir el Hamdaoui (AZ) 16
Ajax 64 Luis Suarez (Ajax) 27

TOTAL (PTS + GOALS x 2) 195
Headhunting Canuck
AZ 45 Luis Suarez (Ajax) 27
PSV 65 Balazs Dzsudzsak (PSV) 10

TOTAL (PTS + GOALS x 2) 184
Pompey Canuck
PSV 65 Luis Suarez (Ajax) 27
Ajax 64 Jon Dahl Tomasson (Feyenoord) 8

TOTAL (PTS + GOALS x 2) 199
Lord Bob
Ajax 64 Keisuke Honda (VVV) 6
FC Utrecht 42 Mounir el Hamdaoui (AZ) 16

TOTAL (PTS + GOALS x 2) 150

The hand-in-hand resurgence of AZ and Mounir el Hamdaoui (or Moon-Ham for short) has vaulted me to within a shout of the lead. Mounir will need to continue to outpace Jon Dahl Tomasson for me to have a shot at the prize.

Speaking of prizes, I think of settled on a good one. The winner will receive a scarf of one of the relegated teams -- whichever I can find cheapest on Ebay.

The last placed team takes an automatic drop, while the #16 and 17 go into the relegation playoffs.

Goes with anything.

Lastly on the contest front, April 1st will be the day I launch my second annual Voyageurs Cup/Nutrilite Canadian Championship prediction pool. The inaugural edition was a smashing success and I hope I can build on that this year.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

CONCACAF Champions League: Records by country

With the knockout rounds of the CONCACAF Champions League being contested this week, it seems as good a time as any to dust off some old stats I'd been keeping regarding the performance of various country's within the competition.

The stats are current (I decline to use the word accurate) as of the end of the group stage of the 2009-10 competition. In all their glory, here they are:

CONCACAF Champions League Record by Country
Mexico 44 14 15 161 65 146 2 2.21 0.89
Canada 5 4 3 15 11 19 1.58 1.25 0.92
Honduras 15 4 15 53 50 49 1.44 1.56 1.47
Puerto Rico 6 7 5 22 26 25 1.39 1.22 1.44
Panama 9 6 11 38 39 33 1.27 1.46 1.5
Costa Rica 5 4 7 18 29 19 1.19 1.13 1.81
Guatemala 5 3 8 20 36 18 1.13 1.25 2.25
USA 9 13 18 47 66 40 1 1.18 1.65
Trinidad 7 2 15 30 47 23 0.96 1.25 1.96
El Salvador 3 5 8 14 33 14 0.88 0.88 2.06

2 0 12 0 0 0 6

1 0 3 0 0 0 3

  • Any matches that ended in penalties were counted as ties, as I do for all the stats I post.
  • Mexico clearly dominates. Their dominance is further underscored when you recognize that 5 of their 15 losses, and 11 of the goals scored against Mexican teams, were recorded against Mexican league opponents in the later rounds of the competition.
  • I haven't run the numbers in any statistical software, but to the naked eye, it appears there is a stronger inverse correlation between goals conceded and PPG than the positive correlation between goals scored and PPG. In other words: beware a leaky defence.
  • There is no real correlation between the strength of national teams and the performance of that country's club teams in the competition, apart from the fact that Mexico is really good in both.
  • Since the competition is only two years old, one good run by one team (read: Montreal Impact 2008-09) in one of the less heavily-represented countries really skews the results
Any thoughts? I'd love to hear them. I think this is a valuable bit of number crunching, so please tell your friends. I'll post another update at the end of this year's tournament, if not sooner.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Better late than never?

As we continue to endure the North American soccer offseason, with the last Canada friendly now a distant memory, and the next still over two months away, there's not a lot of grist for the old blog mill these days.

Perhaps it was with a thought for poor saps like me that the CSA took over two and a half months to finally make an announcement about their 2009 recipients of the Fans' Choice award. We'd like to think that, but of course it was their typical intransigence. I'd like to get worked up about it, but it's a relatively meaningless award that -- like a your tax return when you're not making anything to have to pay -- is not exactly time-sensitive.

In any case, the voting produced what has to be the least shocking set of results imaginable: TFC man about town Dwayne de Rosario, and one of the two women's national teamers I could pick out of a lineup, Christine Sinclair, were the winners.

Christine Sinclair recently scored her 100th international goal and is probably deserving of the award for her consistent performances over the last decade. De Rosario won because he is the most notable Canadian to play for TFC, or was. That's the way it is when the centre of gravity of Canadian soccer supporters is located in the Golden Horseshoe.

We have no place judging what others do in the privacy of their ol' onion bag.

Of course I voted for Mike Klukowski, left back and this fan's choice for life, unless I find out he is a serial rapist.

A propos de rien . . .

I sometimes get discouraged because I feel like nobody is reading what I write, or lately, don't write. So it's always nice to get feedback like this, from a recent reader comment:
You know you're being cited as reference in La Presse (one of the 2 big french newspaper in Qu├ębec?): [link]

Bravo, you deserve it :-)
I'm not sure about Martin's conclusion, but I do appreciate the extra French Canadian eyeballs this site received for a few days.

In the next month, stay tuned for:

  • An Eredivisie update (hint: AZ are on the rise)
  • Nutrilite championship contest details
  • Some World Cup related rankings analysis?