Saturday, October 08, 2011

St Lucia-Canada take two: The floodgates opened

I didn't get to see yesterday's game, Canada's third of the preliminary group stage of CONCACAF World Cup Qualiying. Neither did you. Played on a cricket pitch on an island of 170,000 people, there was no video broadcast of the game. Canadian fans were thankful, instead, for a jerry-rigged online radio broadcast by the CSA's Max Bell and Red Nation's Gavin Day.

I was only able to catch 15 minutes of the broadcast, but the announcers seemed to do a good job. And the team seemed to do an even better job, ending the night with a historic 7-0 win. Both the goal total and margin of victory were records for a qualifying match.

Unlike the first two matches, during which Canada's 7 combined goals were spread among 6 players, Canada's strikeforce yesterday was bit greedier. The spoils were divvied up among only 3 players: Simeon Jackson (3 goals), Olivier Occean (2), and Iain Hume (2).

Somewhat unusually, for Canada, all of the goals were scored by players one might reasonably classify as strikers.

Since I can't very well comment on a match I haven't seen, I'll instead celebrate this goal festival by sharing the strike rate stats among Canada's active attacking players.

player goals caps mins gpg mpg
Ali Gerba 15 31 1828 0.48 122
Tosaint Ricketts 2 6 85 0.33 43
Dwayne De Rosario 18 63 4703 0.29 261
Simeon Jackson 6 22 1344 0.27 224
Olivier Occean 4 20 997 0.20 249
Iain Hume 5 31 1655 0.16 331
Josh Simpson 3 39 2442 0.08 814
Rob Friend 2 33 1640 0.06 820

Despite the outbursts from Occean, Hume, and Jackson, noted ornithologist Ali Gerba is still the runaway leader when we sort on the goals-per-game (gpg) statistic.

We're all tired of debating whether Rob Friend is a useful player for Canada. I think he is, though this table suggests otherwise. Josh Simpson hasn't always been used in the attacking role where he now features for Canada. One hopes each player will have the chance to pad their goal scoring records.

One of the common explanations for the rotund and enigmatic Gerba's incredible strike rate for Canada is that he only scores against weak opponents. This is easily debunked. The same could somewhat more justifiably be said about goals leader Dwayne De Rosario. However, if we were to apply the same criteria to the rest of the strikers, the entire table would be brought into disrepute. Last night's game was responsible for 50% of Jackson's Canada goals, 50% of Occean's, and 40% of Hume's. Jackson and Hume both also scored against Puerto Rico, certainly a stronger foe than the St Lucians, but also a minnow by any standard.

As a Canada fan, I choose not to turn up my nose at goals scored against a garbage team. Big European teams run up against relative minnows just as often, but nobody would seek to explain away, say, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar's 29 goals for Holland (#2 in the world, and finalists in South Africa, in case you had forgotten) by noting that 7 of them have come against San Marino and Moldova. And even big countries sometimes fail to run up the score against weak teams, as was in evidence in the paltry 1-0 win by the Netherlands over Moldova yesterday.

If we sort the chart by minutes per goal, we have incontrovertible evidence that none of Gerba, De Ro, Jackson, Hume or Occean are the best Canadian striker.

player goals caps mins gpg mpg
Tosaint Ricketts 2 6 85 0.33 43
Ali Gerba 15 31 1828 0.48 122
Simeon Jackson 6 22 1344 0.27 224
Olivier Occean 4 20 997 0.20 249
Dwayne De Rosario 18 63 4703 0.29 261
Iain Hume 5 31 1655 0.16 331
Josh Simpson 3 39 2442 0.08 814
Rob Friend 2 33 1640 0.06 820

Nope. It's Tosaint Ricketts!

Here's to seeing the goals come in bunches again, against Puerto Rico at BMO Field on Tuesday. Don't forget to the taste the soup!

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