Friday, January 25, 2013

Watch Canada vs Denmark LIVE!

The hardy few that consider themselves fans of the Canadian national soccer teams have in the past done much grousing about the inability to view many of  the team's matches. Voyageurs lore is full of in-jokes ("Massih Wassey", "Philips Bakery, on Upper Middle Street, by the library") from Caribbean radio feeds, or that one team some eastern European teenager was texting updates to collected Voyageurdom from some other long-forgotten match.

In recent years fans of the team have continued to have much to complain about, but Sportsnet, the team's broadcast partner, has generally done a good job of getting the team on the airwaves.  The odd game has been shifted to the network's premium station, Sportsnet One, due to scheduling conflicts (Jays), though it's hard to imagine there are many serious sports fans (a contradiction in terms) without access to that channel.

Saturday's friendly against Denmark is essentially a closed-door affair, between played in a foreign country, far from any hotbeds of Canadian or Danish ex-pats.  This is the kind of match we'd normally hear about through twitter, or other means (remember refreshing the CSA match tracker PDFs?) and than rant about uninformedly later.

So kudos to the Sportsnet crew for getting an internet stream of the game. The fans will much appreciate it. I doubt this match is even on Danish TV; for some of Canada's players, at least, this could well be the first time a match they've played in has been broadcast in any form at all.


Canada vs Denmark
LIVE streaming video via Sporstnet
Saturday, 26 January 2013
3 pm et / 2pm ct / noon pt, live coverage beginning at 2:30

Canada roster
Denmark roster

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

There's only one de Guzman

There's only one.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Get to know your Canadian national team

The players gathered together for the CSA's semi-regular January camps often represent a fairly haphazard blend of out-of-season North American and Scandinavian-based veterans, former national U20 and U23 youths being given a longer look, and the occasional out-of-left-field flyer taken on a guy of only tenuous Canadian nationality (hey there, Pedro Pacheco!)

The squad interim manager Colin Miller has cobbled together this week (though word is many of the selections were made prior to him taking on the job) might be the most extreme case  we've seen in some time. Like he surely will be over the next ten days, let's get to know your Canadian national soccer team:

Player Pos. Team League Age Caps Gls
Lars Hirschfeld GK VĂ¥lerenga Norway 34 45 0
Roberto Stillo GK Genoa Italy 21 0 0
Simon Thomas GK unattached N/A 22 0 0
Nana Attakora D Haka Finland 23 3 0
Andres Fresenga D Racing Club Uruguay 20 0 0
Doneil Henry D Toronto FC MLS 19 1 0
Dejan Jakovic D DC United MLS 27 12 0
Ashtone Morgan D Toronto FC MLS 20 2 0
Mason Trafford D IFK Mariehamn Finland 26 0 0
Jonathan Bourgault M unattached N/A 24 7 0
Kyle Bekker M Toronto FC MLS 22 0 0
Philippe Davies M Richmond Kickers USL 22 0 0
Dwayne De Rosario M DC United MLS 34 71 20
Terry Dunfield M Toronto FC MLS 30 10 1
Manny Gomez M CA Griffa Argentina 25 0 0
Nikolas Ledgerwood M Hammarby IF Sweden 28 22 0
Russell Teibert M Vancouver Whitecaps MLS 20 1 0
Matt Stinson M Toronto FC MLS 20 0 0
Evan James F unattached N/A 22 0 0
Frank Jonke F Jaro Finland 27 0 0
Kyle Porter F FC Edmonton NASL 23 0 0
Tossaint Ricketts F Sandnes Ulf Norway 27 18 5

Averages 24.36 8.73 1.18

A good portion of these names will be familiar only to the dedicated fan of the various Canadian programs, and even the diehards I commune with on twitter were having some trouble to place the rather generically named Emmanuel "Manny" Gomez (most first confused him with a former TFC player from Gambia).

In order to get to know this squad better, I've come up with a few helpful categories.

Despite my reservations about his selfish style of play Dwayne De Rosario has been one of the first names on the team-sheet for the last decade of Canada managers. And while he hasn't lived up to his promise, nor has he come close to filling the shoes of his predecessor Craig Forrest, Lars Hirschfeld is Canada's #1 goalkeeper until someone takes the title from him. 

Unfortunately for Lars, the man who gave up 8 goals in his last match for Canada may be largely helpless to prevent a repeat result, given the strength of Canada's next two opponents, USA and Denmark, and the inexperience of the team in front of him.

After Hirschfeld and De Rosario, there are only 4 other players in the team with 10 or more caps for Canada. Of this group, Tosaint Ricketts and Nik Ledgerwood both played a relatively prominent role in the recent WCQs, probably larger than one would have hoped, due to injuries in the team. It is telling of their future role for Canada that both players are already in their late 20s yet neither has laid claim to a regular first team spot, and both now ply their trade in a Scandinavian second division.

Dejan Jakovic struggled with injuries in 2012 but even when healthy was unlikely to be in the starting central pairing. With Kevin McKenna retiring from international duty, he'll be in the mix with Andre Hainault, David Edgar, and a host of younger players for the job. Terry Dunfield (he of the gut) is the most surprising inclusion. He had a decent season for TFC in 2012, but at 30 years old and possessing few top-level skills, he doesn't have much of a future for Canada.

Like the North American leagues, Norway, Sweden and Finland operate a summer season, so players based there are often given an opportunity during these January gatherings. Mason Trafford is a central defender who couldn't make the leap to MLS with the Vancouver Whitecaps, but was a fixture in the team during several years in the NASL. Frank Jonke has spent the last five years as a target forward for a variety of Finnish teams. Nana Attakora is only 23, so journeyman might be an unfair label, but after a great deal of promise in his first Toronto FC season, he is still looking to find his footing. His career has taken him to Haka in the Finnish second division.

Arguably the most experienced of the new generation of MLS-trained players in this team is Toronto left-back Ashtone Morgan who played in 30 MLS matches last season, and earned his first cap for Canada in August. Central defender Doneil Henry has also had a few matches for TFC, mostly out of position, and should get more action this season. Russell Teibert is a tremendously skilled winger, as the highlights from his lone Canada appearance will show you, and will hope to see more action for Vancouver under Martin Rennie than he did in 2012 (he had more minutes as an 18-year old in 2011). Bryce Alderson, an 18-year old teammate, was also selected but had to withdraw due to injury. Matt Stinson, a 22-year old, saw a fair bit of action for Toronto in 2011 but was largely out the picture last season.  And recent #3 overall draft pick, Kyle Bekker, will get a chance to join some of his new Toronto FC teammates in Tucson before he joins the MLS side's training camp.

Winger Kyle Porter is part of a strong Canadian contingent at Colin Miller's FC Edmonton. It is curious that he was the only one selected; there is a case to be made for others including goalkeepers John Smits and David Monsalve, defenders Antonio Rago and Paul Hamilton, and midfielder Shaun Saiko. Midfielder Philippe Davies spent several years up to 2011 with the Whitecaps but was never able to crack the MLS lineup. Despite his extensive North American experience he is still only 22 (the same age as Bekker). Forward Evan James was part of last year's U23 team and was recently released by the Montreal Impact. Word is he is trying to catch on with the Whitecaps. Simon Thomas has guarded the net for the Whitecaps at the youth levels and is surely looking to be signed as the team's third keeper.

I had expected last year's new man, Lucas Cavallini, to be called from Uruguay. Instead another young player, Andres Fresenga, a defender, was called. If he shows promise he has a shot at Canada's wide-open right back spot. Manny Gomez plays in the Argentinian fourth tier and has also represented Canada at youth levels, but half a decade ago, and only in two official matches.

He lost his job in the German 3rd division. I'm not sure what his future plans are.

He's a young keeper at a Serie A team. He is also in line behind 4 or 5 other guys for the starting job. I'd like to see him get some minutes against Denmark.

And there you have it. 

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Confirmed call-ups for USA, Denmark friendlies

For the middle of winter, it's sure been an eventful week in Canadian football.  The Impact announced the hiring of the Swiss Marco Schaellibaum as the replacement for the hastily deposed Jesse Marsch.  Toronto FC sacked Paul Mariner as manager to create room for current QPR defender and former New Zealand international Ryan Nelsen, who may not join the team until June, but then again maybe much sooner.

Of more direct importance to the writer of this blog, the CSA tapped recently named FC Edmonton boss Colin Miller to take the reins of the men's national team on an interim basis, including the upcoming friendlies against USA and Denmark.

This is Miller's second stint as caretaker boss. He also guided the team for a few friendlies in 2003 and 2004 in the interregnum after Holger Osieck and before Frank Yallop.  One would assume with Miller's recent Edmonton appointment that he has no illusions of being in the running for the full-time national team job.  

A recent interview with Gavin Day at MLSsoccer reveals a man who seems to know what is expected of him:
“I'm not a babysitter,” he said. “I'll come in there and put demands on players. It'll be hopefully two performances that will get us over that massive hump of not qualifying for [CONCACAF’s] final six.”
As for the team that will take on USA and Denmark:
“You'll find it's a younger squad,” he said. Not that it hasn't been easy trying to get players released from their clubs as you can imagine. It's not ideal but it is a young squad.”
He wasn't kidding about the younger squad.  As per usual, the squad announcement must wait until all players have been confirmed.  For the time being, the following young (and certainly not prominent) names have been confirmed for the matches, which are less than 3 weeks away:

DNana AttakoraHaka2330source
MKyle BekkerBoston College2200source
MBryce AldersonVancouver Whitecaps1800source
M/FDwayne De RosarioDC United347120source
MRussell TeibertVancouver Whitecaps2010source
DAndres Fresengaunattached2000source
GKRoberto StilloGenoa2100source
MPhilippe DaviesRichmond Kickers2200source
MJonathan Bealieu-Bourgaultunattached2470source

Nana Attakora is under contract to a recently relegated Finnish team, Kyle Bekker is garnering interest ahead of the upcoming MLS SuperDraft, and Bryce Alderson mostly does not play for the Whitecaps (at least the senior side).  By way of contrast, the USA team Canada will be facing includes MLS goal record man Chris Wondolowski.

update 2013-01-10 11am: Dwayne De Rosario has been given the green light to return to action and will be joining the team for the January friendlies.  He will have a chance to add to his national team goals record in two completely meaningless matches.

update 2013-01-10 10pm: I've added Russell Teibert to the list. No reported source, twitter or otherwise, yet, but it came by way of a twitter DM from a user that has steered me right before. And with Alderson being selected it's hard to imagine Teibert, who appeared for Canada against T&T in Florida last August, being left off the team.

update 2013-01-15 4pm: Gerry Dobson chimes in with the following tweet:
I suspect these are names that have in fact been chosen.  If he had used the phrase "the likes of" to suggest we should merely expect players "like" Bekker, Fresenga, and Teibert, that is pretty sloppy.  We already have Bekker and Teibert on the list.

Right back Andres Fresenga, previously playing in Uruguay and rumoured to be getting a shot with the Whitecaps, goes on the list.

update 2013-01-16 3pm: We have a goalkeeper. Genoa backup Roberto Stillo confirmed in a radio interview Monday that he had been selected to the squad.  The 21-year old Mississauga native has represented Canada at the youth levels.

update 2013-01-17 10pm: The latest additions are two Quebec players, midfielders Philippe Davies and Jonathan Beaulieu-Bourgault. "Confirmed" might be putting it a bit strongly; news of their inclusion comes via a post from a well-connected Voyageurs poster (his past activity indicates he has a personal relationship with Olivier Occean and is familiar with the Quebec soccer scene).

With 7 caps and 3 starts for the senior national, one-time backup keeper and currently unemployed Jonathan Beaulieu-Bourgault is both the second oldest and second most experienced player so far selected. This is a sobering thought.

More updates when they become available.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

2012: A blogging year in review

2012's most popular posts (by pageviews) were a curious mix of the ridiculous, the factual, and the downright angsty, not unlike the team this blog has primarily followed over the years.

Here's a rundown of the posts that had the most traffic last year.

These roster posts tend are a good way to attract eyeballs, especially if one is quick on the draw. Coming at the beginning of the summer, when hope sprung eternal (or at least halfway between eternal and whatever dismal level it is at now), in advance of a high-profile friendly and a bunch of games in Toronto certainly didn't hurt.

9. Terry Dunfield's gut: A story in pictures (18 March 2012)
The second leg of Toronto's CCL quarter-final against the Galaxy featured a strange moment where Terry Dunfield was sent to the sideline for some sort of uniform infraction. It was the makings of a few pithy tweets (and misspelled) tweets at the time:
It was only a later look that revealed the absolute ridiculous of Dunfield on that night:

  • He was wearing three layers, including two official jerseys, in Los Angeles
  • That gut!

7. (tie) Confirmed call-ups for T&T friendly
(29 July 2012)
Like the USA roster post above, people love knowing who will be on the team. Go figure! This post, like several others throughout the year, was a collection of confirmations of players from other sources prior to the official roster being released.

7. (tie) Canada all-time vs Cuba (10 October 2012)
Going into the final two World Cup qualifiers the door to the hex was still relatively wide open. The necessary first step was a win against Cuba. This post offered a historical reason to be hopeful of such a result. A rash of defections days before the match that left the godless communists with hardly a bench to speak of certainly didn't hurt either.

6. Canadians on the move (20 July 2012)
A run-down of the national roster, highlighting those players who found new jobs over the summer transfer season.  The biggest moves were likely the Julian de Guzman trade to FC Dallas, and Olivier Occean's transfer from small-fry promoted side Greuther Fuerth to medium-fry Eintracht Frankfurt.  For the players themselves, the moves have yielded fair and mediocre results respectively (professionally -- financial terms are another matter altogether).

5. Hate-watching Canada-Panama (12 September 2012)
Exactly what the title says.  I count the many different ways I hated that match and Central America's subpar lighting infrastructure.  The real fun is in the comments where some Panamian fans get their flame on, though I feel we came so some sort of consensus at the end.

4. A thin red line (26 November 2012)
A depressing spreadsheet post, one of many throughout the years, highlighting those players who are likely too long in the tooth to be of much use to Canada's national team in the future.

3. Canada vs Panama: Player ratings (9 September 2012)
Following Canada's biggest win of the WCQ round, optimism was running.  Fans were eager to read and chime in about the players that secured the 1-0 victory at BMO Field.  I offered my ratings, and you will not be surprised to learn that I thought Atiba Hutchinson was awesome.

2. Voyageurs Cup pool: 2012 edition (18 April 2012)
This contest is always popular, and this year's announcement was no exception. 47 entrants competed to most accurately predict the results of the 2012 Voyageur's Cup (or Amway Canadian Championship if you prefer, which I do not).  In the end, readers Tuscan and Diego R came out on top, well ahead of the rest of the field.

1. Canada to play Armenia in Cyprus (17 January 2012)
A short banal post, featuring a picture of an Armenian holding two bunches of grapes, was this year's most popular.  Surely this is due to some quirk of Google's search algorithms, but that's no reason not to show that picture again.

That's the kind of year it's been.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

National team debuts in 2012

Over the past 5 years as the calendar turns over I have made a point of noting on this blog the players that have made their first appearance for the Canadian senior national team during that year.  It's a nice look at how the player pool has evolved, and to see which once-promising youngsters from various Canadian youth teams have actually panned out.  With a veteran team crashing out of WCQ and a new coach eventually on his way, 2013 will likely see some more new faces, but we also had several in 2012.

However, before we move on to 2012's first-timers, here's a look at how involved the 2011 debutants were in the national team setup this year:
  • David Edgar: 8 matches, 697 minutes, 1 goal
  • Tosaint Ricketts: 9 matches, 619 minutes, 2 goals
  • Milan Borjan: 4 matches, 206 minutes, 1 clean sheet
  • Ashtone Morgan: No appearances
Three of these 4 have became regular members of the team.  David Edgar was a fixture of Stephen Hart's WCQ defense, playing out of position at right back. Milan Borjan served as the first-choice backup to Lars Hirschfeld. Tosaint Ricketts was either in the starting lineup as a wide player, an emergency central striker, or the first attacker to come off the bench.  Ashtone Morgan was selected to a number of camps but did not play, being fourth in line for the left back spot behind Ante Jazic, Marcel de Jong and Mike Klukowski. With that list due to shorten this year due to expected international retirements, expect to see more of him in 2013.

Now for this year's first timers, including first opponent, caps and minutes played:

Player Debut against Caps Mins
Doneil Henry T&T 1 45
Lucas Cavallini T&T 2 41
Russell Teibert T&T 1 28
Samuel Piette USA 1 4

With an early-season friendly against Armenia being played by a selection of mostly European-based players and a "glamour" centennial friendly against the Americans right on the eve of World Cup qualifying proper, Stephen Hart did not do much experimenting in 2012, as one would expect in a WCQ year.  In fact, the combined 118 minutes played by newbies are the fewest since I began tracking the number in 2007.

A closer look at the debut players:

Doneil Henry (19 years old / Toronto FC)

Along with Russell Teibert, Henry's only appearance for Canada was in August's 2-0 win over Trinidad and Tobago in Florida, of which only highlights exist. He played in the first half of what ended up being a clean sheet. Before he establishes himself with the national team he will need to become an MLS regular, which would be no mean feat for a centre half who is still a teenager. Kevin McKenna's international retirement opens a spot on the depth chart but for the time being Henry would find himself behind Andre Hainault, David Edgar and Dejan Jakovic, and possibly others.

Lucas Cavallini (20 years old / Club Nacional, Uruguay)

Cavallini also featured as a sub in the Trinidad friendly, and a more extended relief appearance in that Honduras match we don't talk about because 8-1.  From what I've seen of Lucas in youth matches for Canada, Cavallini could be the robust central forward with a nose for goal that Canada has often been missing.  The problem, of course, being that it is far too early tell.  What evidence we have on offer from his club career (he currently is on loan from Nacional, one of Uruguay's biggest clubs, to a much smaller side, Juventud) comes by way of grainy youtube video highlights of goals scored against opponents of dubious quality.

Russell Teibert (20 years old / Vancouver Whitecaps)

Like Henry, Teibert will need to work his way into an MLS lineup before he can expect to be a regular for Canada.  Under new Vancouver boss Martin Rennie, Teibert actually played fewer minutes for Vancouver in 2011 than he did the previous year as an 18-year old. However, should he take a few big steps forward in his professional career over the next few seasons it will be of tremendous benefit to Canada.  He offers a skill-set on the left side that was sorely lacking during WCQ, particular with injuries to Josh Simpson and later Dwayne De Rosario.  He was heavily involved in the late-going of the Trinidad friendly, generating (and missing) several goal chances.

Sam Piette (18 years old / Fortuna Dusseldorf, Germany)

Piette was a surprise inclusion in the squad that gathered prior to the USA friendly and the first two World Cup qualifiers against Cuba and Panama.  It was an even greater surprise when he came on in the dying stages of the 0-0 USA draw, the third youngest ever to do so for Canada. He is in a good professional environment at Dusseldorf and his currently working his way up the youth ranks there.  Canada is not starved for defensive midfielders, but he could be a good one by the time the next WCQs roll around in 2016.

Previous editions of this annual post are available for the year's 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011.