Monday, November 26, 2012

A thin red line

Player Age Age in 2016
Ante Jazić 36 40
Lars Hirschfeld 34 38
Kenny Stamatopoulos 33 37
Patrice Bernier 33 37
Kevin McKenna 32 36
Julian de Guzman 31 35
Michael Klukowski 31 35
Olivier Occean 31 35
Terry Dunfield 30 34
Atiba Hutchinson 29 33
Iain Hume 29 33
Pedro Pacheco 28 32
Dejan Jaković 27 31
Nikolas Ledgerwood 27 31
André Hainault 26 30
Marcel de Jong 26 30
David Edgar 25 29
Milan Borjan 25 29
Simeon Jackson 25 29
Tosaint Ricketts 25 29
Will Johnson 25 29
Lucas Cavallini 19 23

Canada's roster for last 2 World Cup qualifying matches of 2012.

Patrice Bernier has announced his retirement from international duty. Ditto skipper Kevin McKenna. But these surely aren't the only players who have played their last matches for Canada.

Exit stage left

The placement of the red line on this list -- the players selected for Canada's October qualifiers -- may be rather generous. It is meant to divide those likely to be in position to play some role in Canada's next World Cup qualifying campaign. The important matches begin in earnest in 2016.

Of the players to that took part in this most recent set of matches, only 'keeper Lars Hirschfeld and Ante Jazic, enjoying a late-career indian summer, would have found themselves on the wrong side of the line. Dwayne De Rosario, who missed the last two WCQs injured, would have been on the edge.

The point is that players north of 33 can not be counted upon to be making useful contributions to the team.

Are these losses worth grieving?

Perhaps it's my Mennonite upbringing.  Or maybe it's that I live in a city that never changes and tends to indulge in instant nostalgia for those rare exceptions (witness this coverage of the Winnipeg Stadium trough, or the fact that the opening of a furniture store is being treated like the second coming). Either way, I seem to be stuck with some conservative tendencies when it comes to change. Nature abhors a vacuum. I abhor major roster upheavals?

But should I? The core of the national team for the last decade has been made up of the likes of McKenna, Mike Klukowski, Julian de Guzman, Lars Hirschfeld and Dwayne De Rosario. All players have had successful professional careers, and surely have pocketed multiple millions as paid players. Yet they have accomplished approximately nothing while wearing the colours of their country.

Yet I have enough experience of bad sports teams (Winnipeg!) to have some appreciation of the difference between teams that have enough quality to occasionally produce hopeful moments (the Bomber teams of Matt Dunigan, Khari Jones and Kevin Glenn) and those that have no redeeming qualities (the rest). I am rather concerned that Canadian fans are in for several years of the latter.

The kids are not alright

Perhaps one ought not to be concerned about the farewells for those players above the red line, but the bottom of the list is of far greater concern. Apart from a Lucas Cavallini cameo, the 2012 WCQs did not feature any players currently under 25.  A core group of Milan Borjan, David Edgar, Will Johnson and Simeon Jackson is young enough and good enough to be important players for at least another half decade.

But if one operates under the assumption that footballers peak in their late 20s (surely you can find the research to back this up) these really ought to be the veteran leaders of a younger team.

And there is a dearth of names for the blanks that need filling in. Rewind the careers of Johnson, Edgar, Jackson four years, and you will find that these were already established professionals at a decent level, and a bet placed on their national team futures would have been a safe one. Yet apart from a possible headcase (Randy Edwini-Bonsu) and a future Rob Friend (Marcus Haber) there are few players that I'd be relatively confident in seeing on the pitch in four years time. Ashtone Morgan and ... ?

All of which is to say that supporting Canada's national team is going to suck. But you knew that already.


Anonymous said...

Last time we were elimnated from WCQ in 2008, Canada had TFC and both Montreal and Vancouver in a fledgeling USL.

Four years later the optimism should be the fact that there is more of a pyramid than ever. Besides the 3 MLS teams, 2012 also saw a Canadian focused NASL club, expansion plans for NASL in Ottawa, the CSL undergoing review and refocus, some strong CIAU teams, a few PDL clubs (WSA Winnipeg to name one), and a competitive national club championship.

The players that comprise these teams may not be nation team caliber, but it is a sign that the grass roots are taking root.

If anything, your mennonite upbringing should appreciate a root metaphor. :)

Two names I want to see in MNT kits in 4 yrs:
Shawn Saiko & Paul Hamilton.

Jamie in Sweden

James said...

Is Josh Simpson still out of the picture in the next 4 years? I know the injury was bad, but I sure hope it wasn't career ending.

jonathan said...

Josh Simpson should re-enter the picture sometime next spring. But he may already have left the scene by 2016.

He is part of the same age cohort as Iain Hume and Atiba Hutchinson. I haven't watched enough of his play to have decided if he relies upon speed to beat his man, or if he is one of our rare technical players. If the latter, he could make an impact down the road if he stays healthy. If the former, combined with this serious injury, 33 in 2016 is probably too old.

Anonymous said...

Right now it's rock bottom. The problem comes in when this team goes into a tourney like GC 13 and punches above it's weight in the results department and too many fans hop on the bandwagon and overrate individuals or the team in general as being far better than it actually is.

In retrospect, that's what happened to this generation of footballers following the GC 07 run (and the generation from the GC 2000 triumph): they didn't have the ability to meet the expectations foisted upon them. So when expectations weren't met (i.e. the best midfield in CONCACAF) it just became, to mix metaphors, a scapegoat witch hunt, blame coaches or specific role players.

With this transitional period people need to keep things in a better perspective, even if we get a few good results. For me, I'll get interested again in 4 years time.