Wednesday, March 30, 2011

MNT minutes in 2011

Yesterday's 1-0 friendly win over Belarus was Canada's second match of 2011. Although both of this year's matches have been European friendlies, restricting the participation of a larger pool of North American based players, it is not difficult to see who are the players who Stephen Hart sees as the core of the team coming up upon an important year of soccer.

21 players in total have seen the pitch so far in 2011:

player start sub mins
Atiba Hutchinson 2
Josh Simpson 2
Will Johnson 2
Simeon Jackson 2
Milan Borjan 2
Rob Friend 1 1 131
Jaime Peters 1 1 99
Dejan Jakovic 1
Adrian Cann 1
Adam Straith 1
Dwayne De Rosario 1
Mike Klukowski 1
Kevin McKenna 1
Andre Hainault 1
Nik Ledgerwood 1
Pedro Pacheco 1 1 74
Olivier Occean 1
Lars Hirschfeld
1 45
David Edgar
Tosaint Ricketts
2 36
Issey Nakajima-Farran
1 4

Atiba Hutchinson is the only player to play every minute of both matches. This should come as no surprise -- he is by now the most accomplished Canadian international and will be the key player in midfield for the upcoming qualifying cycle.

4 other players have started both matches: Josh Simpson, Will Johnson, Simeon Jackson, and Milan Borjan. Simpson is one of Canada's most dynamic attacking players, and should be a part of any Canadian XI in the near future if he is available. Johnson is clearly valued by Hart, and that he was one of 2 MLS players selected for the Belarus match is evidence of that. His work rate and ability to adapt his play to a system are key factors. Simeon Jackson plays a similar role to Simpson on the opposite wing, but reviews for his last match were not good and he has fallen out of favour at Norwich. He will need to improve to remain a key player for Canada.

Newcomer Milan Borjan is the most interesting inclusion among the multiple starters. The consensus among Canadian supporters is that Lars Hirschfeld will not be made available for the Gold Cup, meaning that Borjan will be the de facto #1. What to make, then, of Hart giving both keepers a half vs Belarus? I suppose it sends a message that both are in the picture for the #1 job once WCQ comes around.

Rob Friend, Jaime Peters, Pedro Pacheco, David Edgar, and Tosaint Ricketts all appeared in both matches. It appears that Hart values Friend and I'd suspect he'll be part of rosters for the Gold Cup and subsequent qualifiers. Jaime Peters needs to solidify his club role. Edgar and Ricketts are depth players, but I suspect they would be replaced by North American options when possible (Terry Dunfield can play the defensive midfield role much better than Edgar at this point).

Pedro Pacheco is an interesting player. We've not actually seen much of his play, of course, but he plays a different role than most Canadian players. Hart lined him up in the #10 spot yesterday, playing off of and behind the central striker, Friend. If he can maintain or improve his club level, I'd not be surprised to see him playing significant minutes in this role for the rest of the year. It is my impression that Pacheco, while undoubtedly not as talented as Dwayne De Rosario, would be more willing to adapt his talents to Hart's system, which is beginning to take shape.

Ultimately, we will see what Hart really sees as the core of his team when he selects the roster for the Gold Cup in June.

* * * * *

Speaking of the Gold Cup, Canada will be preparing for the tournament with a friendly, on home soil, in the week leading up to the tournament. Although the host city has not been announced (Toronto is seen as the likely site), a friendly for June 1st has been confirmed with Ecuador the opponent.

Ecuador are ranked 49th by FIFA. Canada has played Ecuador twice before, a 2-0 loss at the 2002 Gold Cup, and a 2-1 loss as part of the 1999 Canada Cup in Edmonton. It will be good preparation for the Gold Cup, a chance to get a result and improve our FIFA ranking, and most importantly, the 3rd home friendly within 10 months!


Anonymous said...

BearcatSA here,

I finally got back to a computer and posted my thoughts on the Vs' website. As much as I appreciate the efforts of Max and Gerry for their tweets, I have to take minimal reviews of the match somewhat with a grain (or block) of salt. Until I see Jackson play before my own eyes once again, I really haven't felt disappointed by his play in that position. I feel he is better than what Johnson did there during the last GC, and the RSL man ended up earning several positive reviews for his play. Jackson certainly has some elements he needs to work on, but he has worked hard defensively, made himself available for outlet passes through disciplined positioning, and he has a burst to beat a defender 1 v 1. Maybe Issey or Ricketts can challenge, but I would have no problem having him ahead of Hume in that spot.

Hume's a good late game sub. He can do his run around, physical, making-a-nuisance of himself like he did to great effect vs the USA at GC 07 QF. And though his set play service is valuable, he's a poor passer and he runs out of position too much, undermining the team's possession and shape in the process. South Africa match? Early game sub vs Honduras in Montreal during WCQ? Gong shows.

J said...

I don't want to give the impression that I've written Simeon Jackson off entirely as our right winger. However, it seems as though recently most Vs and others had him pencilled into that spot as an automatic starter. I feel that is no longer the case.

I don't think that Hume can do the job better. But given that a) Jackson is no longer getting any minutes with his club, and b) He's not exactly been a revelation there for Canada, it's worth exploring other options. We need an attacking force, so Johnson isn't the guy, but perhaps Dwayne De Rosario or Issey N-F or Ricketts deserves an extended look at that position.

(Of course, if a certain pair of guys, each of which already has a brother in the Canadian system, decided to wear red, that would be the spot for them).

Crow said...

great blog...the entries are interesting

Anonymous said...


My broad is that none of us saw the match for ourselves. Perhaps if I saw it and then reviewed my recording of it I might come to the same conclusion about Jackson.

No one in this squad is indispensible and Jackson needs to consistently prove his claim for a starting place ahead of the likes of Ricketts and Issey or even Hume.

As for D. Hoillet and Jono DG, I think I'd rather have guys committed to this program than fencesitters, even if they have better talent than the incumbents.