Sunday, March 23, 2014

International football is broken

In the 15 years or so during which I have been more than just theoretically aware of the existence of the Canadian national soccer team, this country has lost out on a number of talented players to other countries, mostly due to FIFA's rather arbitrary and far too generous rules determining national eligibility. Asmir Begovic and Jonathan de Guzman featured in a 5 year old post with the title "The Treason Scale". Lesser talents like Daniel Fernandes, Steven Vitoria, heck, even Jacob Lensky traded in the Maple Leaf for some more convenient option. Even the women have got in on the act, with Sydney Leroux now starring for the USA, though the inclusion of Lauren Sesselmann on Canada's women's team largely cancels that out. Only a recent software upgrade on the Voyageur's forums has allowed users to write the name of Owen Hargreaves without incurring the wrath of a censorship script.

It was once de rigueur to reference the too-quick naturalization of Brazilians by Arab petro-states as a sign of the growing pointlessness of national team football. But is there any bigger offender nowadays than Jurgen Klinsmann's USA?

These were my thoughts in tweet form before deciding to elaborate:

American fans like to cite Giuseppe Rossi as their man who got away. He's a decent player and would probably be a starter in the USA's current set-up, but they've more than made up for that with Klinsmann's German shopping spree. The six guys referenced in the series of tweets above are:

  1. John Brooks. Born and raised in Berlin
  2. Alfredo Morales. Born and raised in Berlin
  3. Jermaine Jones. Born and raised in Frankfurt
  4. Daniel Williams. Born and raised in Karlsruhe
  5. Fabian Johnson. Born and raised in Munich
  6. Terrence Boyd. Born in Germany to an American serviceman and German mother. Lived briefly in New York before returning to Germany with his mother.
Now, before I get too critical, let me remind Canadian fans that squads over the last decade have included Marc Bircham (his grandfather spend a few years in Winnipeg, or something), Will Johnson (born in Toronto but moved shortly thereafter to England and then USA), Marcel de Jong (born in Toronto, then moved as a youngster to Holland), Pedro Pacheco (who cares), and Sesselmann and Rachel Quon on the women's side.

But never have we fielded a squad like Klinsmann's team against Ukraine where 40% of the team has spent less time in the USA than Justin Bieber has.

I've said before that international football is largely pointless when one can trade nationalities so easily. In the case of many of these "American" players, their passports are legit, being born to USA servicemen, but it certainly puts to rest any notion of a connection between the health of the game in a country, and the strength of its national team. When one is a darkhorse World Cup threat largely on the strength of a 70-year military occupation of a European ally, isn't there something wrong?

Monday, March 10, 2014

Tracking Canadian content in 2014

For the nth consecutive year, I'm tracking the percentage of total minutes played by Canadian players for each of the countries now 5 professional teams, with Ottawa Fury making their debut in 2014. The tracking takes the form of a Google spreadsheet with a game-by-game participation of Canadian players, and occasional tweets giving an updated Canadian content table. A summary of the data appears in the right-hand sidebar when viewing the blog.

If you're a bit thick, or not spreadsheet-inclined, here's a snapshot from Toronto FC, last year's most Canadian MLS side.

The spreadsheet includes:
  1. Canadian content details, including individual players, for each match, and a link the official match report. Note not all matches will have total minutes played of 990 due to sendings off.
  2. Matches are by competition-type, which can include: regular season (NASL and MLS), Voyageurs Cup, Champions League, and (god willing!) playoffs. Friendlies (pre-season, mid-season or other) are not included. Matches from the most recently begun competition will appear at the top.
  3. A totals summary for all competitions. The team's overall rating is a simple bit of math: (totalMinsByCdnPlayers/totalMinsByAllPlayers*100)

As is often the case, some might debate which players ought to be considered Canadian. My rule of thumb is that players ought to be eligible to play for a Canadian national team. NASL rosters are still in flux, but these are the players for Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver on their official rosters.

Toronto: Kyle Bekker, Dwayne De Rosario, Jordan Hamilton, Doneil Henry, Ashtone Morgan, Jonathan Osorio, Quillan Roberts

Vancouver: Sam Adekugbe, Bryce Alderson, Marco Carducci, Russell Teibert

Montreal: Patrice Bernier, Maxime Crepeau, Zakaria Messoudi, Karl W. Ouimette, Maxim Tissot

If you would like to debate nationalities, proceed to the comments section of this post. I am aware that Wandrille Lefevre (Montreal) could potentiality obtain Canadian citizenship and become eligible for national team participation shortly.

Past editions (final summaries): 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008