Sunday, June 10, 2012

Canada-Cuba in review

I followed Canada's 1-0 win in Friday's World Cup qualifier against Cuba the way many Canadian fans do when a game is played in the middle of a workday: searching for a web stream, stealing furtive glances at Twitter and the Voyageurs forums, and mostly hoping for the best.

It's one thing to live this way when the match in question is a far off, and ultimately meaningless, European friendly.  When it's a close to a must-win game against a beatable opponent but under terrible conditions, it's two hours of pins and needles.

So I only got around to watching the match today.  The pitch conditions and recording quality make a complete set of player ratings rather difficult. Instead, here are a few thoughts:

Olivier Occean: Beast?

The Olivier Occean performance on Friday was unlike anything I've seen from him for Canada. His hold-up play was fantastic, and he won almost everything in the air. The goal was clinically taken, but I was more impressed with the way he absolutely dominated his area of the pitch. He was physical without being reckless, and it will be interesting to see if he can repeat the job against Honduras. He asked to be subbed out and was limping around after the match, but it looked to me to be a textbook case of cramps.

Hirschfeld's moment of madness

I am one of the dwindling few who prefers Lars Hirschfeld over Milan Borjan as Canada's #1. The point is moot, for the next match at least, due to Hirschfeld's sending off for handling the ball outside the area. That he did so is not in dispute. I might argue that it did not negate a direct goal scoring opportunity and should only have been yellow (Kevin McKenna had his man under control) but it was still foolish.  What I am most concerned about Tuesday is the communication between Milan and his defenders.

A de Guzman mini-resurgence?

Julian de Guzman was the most influential Canadian player against the USA, and did a good job moving the ball on Friday as well, despite the cow pasture of a pitch. If Atiba Hutchinson has indeed returned to health, then he should be in the team in place of Nik Ledgerwood. The Julian de Guzman I've seen over the last two matches, with his close control, and ability to pick out teammates with long cross-field passes, it too good to be left on the bench.

De Ro is due

Dwayne De Rosario probably doesn't much care that he is one goal away from being sole goals leader in a Canadian shirt, but he has to feel snakebitten with the amount of chances that he has narrowly missed over the last 180 minutes. Canada will need a De Rosario goal in this round yet, and there is no better time to start than Tuesday.


The MLS website has the same chalkboard feature for CONACAF internationals as it does for league matches. Some interesting items:

  • Julian de Guzman, as he was against USA, was Canada's most prolific passer, with 47. He also completed a high percentage, misfiring on only 7.
  • The attack favoured the left side of the pitch, as Dwayne De Rosario (23 successful passes) and Will Johnson (26) had more of the ball than Nik Ledgerwood (16) and Tosaint Ricketts (7).
  • I don't understand the numbers beside each player's name. Is it saying that David Edgar had the best game for Canada?

I'd be surprised to see Hart insert any other players into his XI than Hutchinson and Borjan. There may be a case to be made for Simeon Jackson, as Tosaint Ricketts had a fairly anonymous game on the right.  But a game in 40-degree heat is not the best venue for a burner to display his talents, and I'm not sure Jackson would have done better in his place. Some are concerned about the short recovery for a 36-year old Ante Jazic, but he had little chasing to do in this match and is renowned for his fitness in any case.



 Panama 1 1 0 0 2 0 +2 3
 Canada 1 1 0 0 1 0 +1 3
 Cuba 1 0 0 1 0 1 −1 0
 Honduras 1 0 0 1 0 2 −2 0


player start sub mins goals yc rc
Ante Jazic 1
Andre Hainault 1

Kevin McKenna 1

David Edgar 1

Nik Ledgerwood 1

Will Johnson 1
Dwayne De Rosario 1

Olivier Occean 1
81 1

Julian de Guzman 1

Lars Hirschfeld 1

Tosaint Ricketts 1

Milan Borjan
1 25

Atiba Hutchinson
1 22

Simeon Jackson
1 9


Anonymous said...

De Guzman should be doing most of the passing because he's the holding mid distribution hub. Most of his passes are high percentage shorter range distribution from flank to flank and though he can spread the field with a longer diagonal ball to the flanks on occasion that's not really a true strength. It was worth noting that he got the hook for Hutchinson in the second half (Hart preferring the younger legs of Ledgerwood and Johnson for the defensive side of things with the team a man down) and if Hutch, Johnson, and de Guzman start together and we are down a goal the second half I suspect that JDG probably will be the guy getting the hook for the extra attacker. Great opportunity for him to be a strong team man in that role.

I have grown to like Johnson a lot, so much so that I see him as the next MNT skipper. Great engine room, smart and aware positionally, just needs to control his emotions when he feels that he's unjustly called for a foul: just get on with game, Will, it's CONCACAF reffing!

Ledgerwood looks to be a good defensive mid sub. He's taken over the Chris Pozniak role because he can also fit into either fullback spot but really is more stopgap in those positions.

I'm looking forward to seeing how the fullbacks do vs Honduras on Tuesday night.


J said...

I like Johnson as well. I'm not sold on him as captain (other than his playing allegiances, he's about as Canadian as Alain Rochat, which shouldn't matter but does to me) but he's hugely important and has an immense work rate.

Johnson makes all the right plays but doesn't surprise with the occasional bit of class like de Guzman can still do.

It will be interesting to see if/how the midfield roles change if Hutchinson starts in place of Ledgerwood.

Anonymous said...

nice posting.. thanks for sharing.