Canadian Soccer Archive

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Canadians need to applaud Akindele for his rookie-of-the-year award

Since he has only turned down a Canadian national team invite — and has yet to turn down the Canadian program entirely, it’s OK to applaud Tesho Akindele’s major MLS […]

Since he has only turned down a Canadian national team invite — and has yet to turn down the Canadian program entirely, it’s OK to applaud Tesho Akindele’s major MLS award win as a victory for soccer in this country.

Akindele, who was born in Calgary, but grew up in the United States, was named the MLS Rookie of the Year on Monday. Akindele scored seven goals and added three assists during the MLS regular season for FC Dallas, and scored a playoff goal against the Vancouver Whitecaps.

Between Akindele and the Columbus Crew’s Ethan Finlay, that’s 18 MLS regular-season goals out of players who, ahem, could be playing for Canada. National team coach Benito Floro has been tracking both players, but Akindele made headlines by turning down the invite to join the Canadian squad for its most recent friendly against Panama.

In the most recent issue of Plastic Pitch(CLICK HERE), Akindele told Martin MacMahon that he was gutted by Canada’s 8-1 loss to Honduras that eliminated his birth nation from the 2014 World Cup qualifying process. At that time, Akindele was keen on playing for Canada.
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Canada 0, Panama 0: Why boring can be beautiful

If you were a neutral and stuck out all 94 minutes of Canada’s 0-0 draw at Panama, well either you really, really love soccer or you’re immune to boredom. You could sit through a Kenny G concert and be entertained.

If you were a neutral and stuck out all 94 minutes of Canada’s 0-0 draw at Panama, well either you really, really love soccer or you’re immune to boredom. You could sit through a Kenny G concert and be entertained.

Tuesday night’s game certainly wasn’t a masterpiece. It was a foul-filled, choppy affair, with really only two scoring chances of note. In the first half, Canadian keeper Milan Borjan leapt to stop a dipping left-footed volley from Anibal Godoy; in the second half, Borjan made an outstanding point-blank stop of a headed effort from Panama’s Luis Tejada. The Tejada chance came after Canada was caught defending too deep on a free kick into the box.

But, with 33 fouls called in the game — 20 of them called against the Panamanians — the game stuttered. Even though Godoy saw his second yellow in the 69th minute, the best Canada could do was an injury-time snatched shot from Tosaint Ricketts that went so far wide of goal, it’s a stretch to refer to it as a legitimate scoring chance.
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Canada-Panama sort-of preview: Talking about the players who aren’t there

A Canadian men’s national team press conference just wouldn’t be a men’s national team press conference if there weren’t questions about players who aren’t with the program.

A Canadian men’s national team press conference just wouldn’t be a men’s national team press conference if there weren’t questions about players who aren’t with the program.

So, in keeping with what’s become a Canadian soccer tradition, we start off our coverage of Benito Floro’s conference call with updates on forwards Ethan Finlay, Lucas Cavallini and Tesho Akindele, none of whom are with the national team ahead of its friendly on Tuesday in Panama.

Floro said he is tracking the progress of Finlay, the Columbus Crew forward who scored 11 times this season. Finlay was born in the United States, but his dad is Canadian. Floro said he would need to see what Finlay can do in a camp, but he has been paying attention to the player.

As for Akindele, the Calgary-born FC Dallas rookie who turned down an invitation to join Canada for the Panama game, Floro was diplomatic: “He has a tough decision to make (between the American and Canadian programs). And, playing in MLS puts him closer to the U.S. national team.” But Floro was clear that Akindele still has time to make that decision.
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Marcina’s Soccer Bowl win caps off a great season for Canadians in NASL

Now, Marcina can add “Soccer Bowl” to his coaching résumé. Two superb goals — a bicycle kick from Rafa Castillo and a great run and finish by Billy Forbes — gave the Scorpions a 2-1 win Saturday night in the NASL Championship game.

In the midst of the 2013 season, Surrey, B.C. native Alen Marcina was asked to take over the San Antonio Scorpions on an interim basis. The team was in the NASL basement at the time. But, Marcina did well enough with what he had to convince the Scorpions brass that he deserved to have the interim tag removed.

Now, Marcina can add “Soccer Bowl” to his coaching résumé. Two superb goals — a bicycle kick from Rafa Castillo and a great run and finish by Billy Forbes — gave the Scorpions a 2-1 win Saturday night in the NASL Championship game.

It caps off what has to be termed as a very good year for Canadians in the NASL.

Of the 10 NASL teams, three were coached by Canadians. One won a title. Another, Colin Miller, received a three-year extension from his club, FC Edmonton. A Canadian, John Smits, won the Golden Glove award, which goes to the keeper with the lowest goals-against average in the league — with enough minutes played to qualify. A Canadian team, the Ottawa Fury, set a modern-day NASL attendance record in its TD Place opener. FCE’s Hanson Boakai got an invite to a senior national-team — at the age of 17.
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Gloves of gold: NASL confirms FC Edmonton’s Smits as winner of top keeper honour

By finishing the NASL season with the lowest goals against average of any keeper in the league with enough minutes played to qualify, the University of Toronto grad has been awarded the league’s Golden Gloves award.

John Smits isn’t just the best Canadian keeper in NASL. He can now lay claim to the title of best keeper in the league. Period.

By finishing the NASL season with the lowest goals against average of any keeper in the league with enough minutes played to qualify, the University of Toronto grad has been awarded the league’s Golden Glove award. The league announced the award on Thursday.

Smits arrived in San Antonio on Thursday. At halftime of Saturday’s Soccer Bowl — where Canadian coach Alen Marcina hopes to lead his Scorpions to their first NASL title — Smits will be honoured alongside league-leading scorer Christian Ramirez.

Smits finished the season with a 0.90 GAA. Smits, who had been the understudy to former MLS keeper Lance Parker over the past two seasons, got the lion’s share of the time in goal for FC Edmonton in 2014. A series of finger and shoulder injuries kept Parker out of the goal — and Smits took the opportunity and proved that he was capable to not only be the Eddies’ full-time No. 1 keeper, but one of the elite keepers in the league.

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Round one to the CSA: Human Rights Tribunal co-chair won’t rush the turfgate case

fwwc2015_oe_4ct_lThe Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario has rejected a plea to expedite its hearing of the grass vs. turf case.

A group of women’s players, including Americans Alex Morgan and Abby Wambach, Germany’s Nadine Angerer and Japan’s Yuki Ogimi had petitioned the HRTO to hear their plea against the use of artificial turf fields at the 2015 Women’s World Cup. The Canadian Soccer Association and FIFA have defended the use of the artificial-turf fields, while the women’s players named in the suit (a total of 15 on the document) wanted to speed the case forward in hopes of getting a ruling in favour of grass in time for it to have an impact on the WWC.

The CSA’s lawyers have stated that they doesn’t feel the HRTO has the jurisdiction to rule on a Women’s World Cup, as five of the six venues being used in the tournament are located outside of the province of Ontario.

On Friday, HRTO co-chair Jo-Anne Pickel rejected the players’ plea to expedite the case, basically killing any chance to have it heard in time to have a meaningful impact on the WWC.

She wrote that, as expedited cases put all other matters before the HRTO on the back burner, it would be unfair to all the other applicants. It would be unfair of the HRTO to delay other cases of racial, workplace and/or gender discrimination to accommodate the players.
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Turfgate: FIFA’s Valcke affirms that a men’s World Cup could be staged on turf

fifa-logoIn an interview/press release posted on FIFA.com, FIFA Secretary-General Jerome Valcke said that a men’s World Cup played on artificial turf could be organized sooner rather than later.

More of Valcke’s statement:

“By the way, for many years now, any organizer of a FIFA event — irrespective of whether it be a men’s or women’s competition, including the men’s World Cup – has had the right to propose for the tournament to be played on artificial turf, provided that it is of the highest quality and the same playing surface is used for all venues and training sites. It could well be that sooner rather than later the men’s World Cup will also be played on artificial pitches. The Canadian Soccer Association proposed for the tournament to be played on artificial turf based on the fact that most sporting infrastructure in Canada is on artificial turf, primarily due to the extreme climate in the host country. It would be very difficult to ensure solid natural-grass pitches at all venues. As has already been explained, this is not a question of money, or of differences between men’s and women’s events, but it is a matter of the natural conditions in Canada: We want to guarantee consistent top-level playing conditions for all 24 teams during the event, both in the official stadiums and at the training sites. This has been the sole reason behind the decision to play on artificial turf from day one.”

This statement is an important one. While no doubt many will scoff at the notion of a men’s World Cup being played on turf — and will say that Valcke is simply playing politics — this statement from a top FIFA official carries weight. Why? The legal team representing the women’s players who are taking the CSA to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario claim that their clients are being asked to play their World Cup on turf, when it’s something FIFA would never ask of the men. But FIFA and the Canadian Soccer Association can now say, “if it’s good enough for women, it’s good enough for men.”
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Canada’s blunders gift win to Japan at BC Place

Emily Zurrer

Emily Zurrer

“Yeah, if you don’t beat these tier-one teams going into the tournament, you go into it with the ‘what if?’ factor. And we don’t want that. We want to go in there confident, that we can beat these teams, that we can compete with the best teams in the world. We need to do that in the build-up over the next eight months. So, Japan is a big test for us, and we’re not going out there to tie. We are going out there to win the game(s).”

The quote comes from a one-on-one interview I did with Canadian midfielder Desiree Scott late last week, before Canada played its two-games series of friendlies with Japan in Edmonton and Vancouver. (The full interview will appear in the winter issue of Plastic Pitch.)

After a 3-0 loss to the World Cup champs in Edmonton on Saturday, the Canadians really needed some kind of result Tuesday in Vancouver. Canada has played the so-called “tier-one” teams through the year, and it hadn’t yet claimed a win against the likes of Germany, the Americans or Japan. More losses and that “what if?” factor Scott spoke about just grows and grows — and you’d begin to wonder if coach John Herdman’s plan to play the world’s top dogs in the lead-up to the Women’s World Cup was going to do more psychological damage than good.

On Saturday in Edmonton, the Canadians could only claim the sort-of moral victory of playing Japan pretty even for 40 minutes in a 3-0 loss.

On Tuesday at BC Place, the Japanese ran out a decidedly B squad, making nine changes to the starting lineup. Canada did very well to be tied 1-1, but, at about the 65-minute mark, the Japanese began bringing on the big guns, including midfield superstar Aya Miyama.

And the Japanese ended up with a 3-2 win, thanks to two terrible defensive mistakes by the Canadian centre backs. Right after Sophie Schmidt had brought Canada level at 2-2 in time added on, Emily Zurrer allowed her pocket to be picked by Japanese fullback Aya Saweshima, who then went in on keeper Stephanie Labbe and picked the corner for the winning goal.
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It’s oh so quiet: Japan trounces Canada in front of disappointing crowd

A photo of the, ahem, announced crowd of 9,654.

A photo of the, ahem, announced crowd of 9,654.

I hate writing soccer-attendance stories. They remind me of the times I used to have to lobby and lobby editors to give a soccer story a little more space, or any space at all.

So, just the writing this column is making me owly and growly.

On Saturday, the Women’s World Cup champions from Japan came to Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium to play the Canadian women’s national team. The friendly was announced months ago — and, outside of the rivalry with the Americans, is probably about as “tier one” a matchup as the Canadian Soccer Association could arrange.

The Japanese and Canadian players came out to see a heck of a lot of yellow and green empty seats. In a city that is hosting more Women’s World Cup games in 2015 than any other, a visit from the reigning champions of the world was greeted with indifference. A stadium that holds a little less than 60,000 welcomed an announced crowd of 9,654 who watched the Japanese march to a convincing 3-0 win. But, to the naked eye, it looked like the actual number of bums in seats was much lower than the announced attendance. Half of the stadium was closed to fans. Only 10 sections had fans in them, and they were maybe two-thirds full. Each of those sections has 45 rows, with 16 seats per row. That’s 10 X 45 X 16 = 7,200. And those sections were two-thirds full — so maybe, at best, 5,000 fans in the stadium.

Goalkeeper Erin McLeod, who hails from the area, saw the glass as being half full.

“I heard (before the game) that we had 8,000 sold,” she said. “So at first I was like, ‘huh,’ but, you know, looking at the stadium today, it looked pretty full on the west side. Of course, we always want more but a part of it is us putting on a good game. There were lots of exciting parts to this match. So, hopefully, they were happy and they will come back for the World Cup.”
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Desiree Scott is open to Notts County return after Women’s World Cup (PLASTIC PITCH preview)

Desiree Scott in Notts County colours

Desiree Scott in Notts County colours

(Look for the full Q and A with the Destroyer, Desiree Scott, in the winter issue of Plastic Pitch. Issue 4 should be out in December. For info on how to get Plastic Pitch, go to the end of this post).

Canadian midfielder Desiree Scott won’t be returning to pro soccer until after next year’s Women’s World Cup.

She’s committed to Canada’s eight-month training camp ahead of the Women’s World Cup, and she’s devoting her time to the national-team cause. That includes Saturday’s friendly against Japan at Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium and the Oct. 28 rematch against the World Cup champs at Vancouver’s BC Place.

But, once the tournament ends, Scott says she will give a Notts County return some serious consideration. In 2014, Scott, who was one of the Canadian players in NWSL who had her salary paid by the Canadoan Soccer Association, decided to leave the U.S.-based league for England. She started 20 games for Notts County in England’s WSL — and certainly caused some waves by making the decision to leave NWSL for an English league that mixes part- and full-time players.

Still, if Notts County wants her back after the Women’s World Cup, chances are that she’ll listen.

“I really enjoyed it,” she said Friday. “Right now, my focus is on the World Cup. I will be full-time with the national-team leading up to that. But, after the World Cup, the options are open. But I did really enjoy it in England and, yes, I would go back. Right now, the plan is to be with the national team, full-time. We are devoted to World Cup prep; and hopefully to raise that trophy on July 5th. I will decide what to do (professionally) after that.”
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