Thursday, June 02, 2011

Canada 2 : 2 Ecuador

THE MATCH

For much of the game, this had the look of a typical Canada match. Canada started brightly and could argue they were the better team for most of the first half. The midfield moved the ball around, and the team had a lot of success attacking down the left flank. A good team buildup, begun by Atiba Hutchinson winning the ball in the Ecuador half, and finished by Josh Simpson laying off to Terry Dunfield for a 30-yard blast, resulted in the first goal.

It all seemed to change at the half. Dunfield was wisely withdrawn, likely for fear of picking up a second yellow card. Julian de Guzman, his replacement, played a reasonable half, but didn't close down his opponent on Ecuador's second goal. Just before their second goal, Ecuador scored their first on a corner. The small-ish Christian Benitez headed home between a couple of much taller, but inattentive, Canadian defenders. Going down a goal seemed to wake up the Canada squad, which seemed to take a while to adjust to some of their own substitutions. The team sustained pressure, but it looked like one of those nights where a decent effort would go unrewarded.

That all changed in injury time. A late foul outside the Ecuador penalty area drew the protests of half the Ecuadorean squad. The team surrounded the Jamaican ref. Sensing an opportunity, Julian de Guzman alertly set the ball down and played it to substitute Tosaint Ricketts, who slotted the ball home. This is just the sort of thing that might come in handy against some of the more theatrical sides in CONCACAF

The match, in the end, was a thoroughly entertaining affair and Canada probably got the result they deserved.

THE HIGHLIGHTS

youtube clip, in Spanish

MATCH VIDEO

[1st half] [2nd half]

THE PLAYERS

One viewing of a match is not enough to rate the players individually. I'd like, however, to give special attention to a few who stood out:

Atiba Hutchinson - A few times he was let down by his fellow midfielders, but throughout the night it was apparent that Atiba was a class apart from the rest of the 22 on the pitch. His calmness and alertness on the ball opened up space for others, and his anticipation of the play allowed him to break up numerous attacks. Canada fans have been clamouring for him to play a more advanced role, but I honestly believe playing as one of two defensive mids allows him to contribute the most to Canada.

Josh Simpson - I have rarely seen a Canadian player with the determination and ability to run at players and beat them. (De Rosario often seems determined to do so, but typically lacks the ability). He set up the first goal with some good skill on the ball, and nearly set up a second a moment later with his speed and skill only to have Will Johnson blast the ball wide of an open net in front of him. It is no surprise that Canada seemed to suffer when Simpson was removed in the second half.

Simpson and Hutchinson are Canada's best players now. This should be apparent to anyone who has watched Canada's last half-dozen matches.

Other players offered a more mixed performance and produced more questions than answers. I'll keep my thoughts brief on each one:
  • Dwayne De Rosario had a few moments, but too often gave the ball away cheaply.
  • Will Johnson is tireless and likely saved a goal with his tracking back but does not offer enough on the attack to be played wide right.
  • Simeon Jackson as lone striker is not the answer. He offers more to Canada in the position where Johnson started yesterday.
  • Canada had much success attacking down the left flank, but Marcel de Jong's runs too often left the central defenders exposed.
  • Dejan Jakovic's injury could be a tough one for Canada to deal with if he's not available for the Gold Cup.
  • Milan Borjan made some good saves and could be staking a claim for the #1 job.

THE CROWD

As is often the case, Canada fans were outnumbered. On the other hand, the diehard support did a good job of making themselves heard throughout the match. I don't want to read too much into the support (or lack thereof) since the match was a friendly, but Gerry Dobson does a good job of calling out some of the weak excuses in a blog post for Sportsnet. On the bright side, the announced attendance of 14,000 should have produced a tidy profit for the CSA.

My own view is that friendlies should be placed where they will sell the most tickets and earn the most money. If that means Ecuadorean fans are paying the CSA's bills, so be it. It is only when World Cup qualifiers roll around that large pro-Canadian crowds are an absolute must. It remains to be seen whether such crowds can consistently be found in Toronto or Montreal.

NEXT CANADA MATCH

GOLD CUP GROUP C
CANADA v USA
Ford Field, Detroit, MI
Tuesday, June 8th, 8 pm et
sporstnet one

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Simpson is clearly the offensive lightning rod of the team. Hutchinson is a more consistent performer, but I see him more in the box to box role as opposed to a deeper lying mid position. DeGuzman looks out of form defensively, lacking the pace to cope with quicker opposing mids 1 v 1, but I like his first touch and tight control on the ball in crowded situations. Dunfield relies instead on first and second touch quicker distribution to get the ball moving. Both he and DeGuzman were guilty of poor giveaways near the edge of our penalty area. Not a fan of DeRo at the international level: apart from his set play shooting threat, the stuff he can generate goals with an MLS level doesn't cut it at this level anymore.

Friend looked plodding and he (along with Gerba) would be an easier match up for the out of form US CB Onewyu but Jackson's pace up top would cause problems for the American back line. Ricketts has wheels and is a fresh alternative to the perpetually promising but perpetually underachieving Peters on the right wing. The playmaker for the Belarus victory, Pacheco, appears to be an afterthought at this time. De Jong is willing and robust but he doesn't give the composure on the ball that an in form Klukowski can provide. Ledgerwood did okay, but was helped quite a bit by the defensive awareness of Johnson on the right.

My guess as per Hart's line up for Tuesday:

----------------Borjan-------------------
Ledgerwood---McKenna--Hainault------De Jong
----------Hutchinson--DeGuzman
----------------DeRo--------------------
----Johnson----Jackson------Simpson--------

Cheers,
BearcatSA