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Aggressive Aleksic moves up the FC Edmonton ranks

From L-R: Colin Miller, Marko Aleksic, FC Edmonton owner Tom Fath

From L-R: Colin Miller, Marko Aleksic, FC Edmonton owner Tom Fath

Control.

That’s what Marko Aleksic will have to embrace as he moves from the ranks of FC Edmonton’s academy to the first team.

The 17-year-old six-foot-four centre back was announced as the Eddies’ newest player Wednesday at St. Joseph’s High School, the team’s base of operations for its academy program. He’ll join a backline anchored by Mallan Roberts, the physical defender who is still waiting on his Canadian citizenship, the experienced Albert Watson and Kareem Moses, the Trinidad and Tobago international signed by the club earlier this season.

“He’s very aggressive,” said coach Colin Miller of Aleksic. “One thing we’ll work on is how to curb his enthusiasm, less of the jiu-jitsu type tackles.”

As a raw product, Aleksic’s bio doesn’t read too much differently than Roberts would have when he was promoted from the academy to the first team. Raw. Unafraid. Aggressive. Ability to win ball in the box. Sometimes doesn’t know when he needs to rein it in.
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Canada loses U-17 Women’s CONCACAF final in penalties

Marie Mychele Metivier

Marie Mychele Metivier

Because both Canada and Mexico had already qualified for the U-17 Women’s World Cup by winning their semifinal matches, the CONCACAF U-17 Women’s Championship final had the feel of a friendly.

After both teams played to a 0-0 draw in Jamaica Saturday, they went right to penalty kicks. No extra time (which is common practice at the U-17 level, as you don’t want teens playing 120 minutes). And the Mexicans triumphed in the shootout, 4-2 — as El Tri and the Canadian women shared in the schadenfreude of knowing that their American neighbours weren’t going to the World Cup.

“I’m really, really proud of the girls. If you look at what this team’s about, it’s about future national team players,” said Canadian Head Coach Bev Priestman on the Canada Soccer website. “I think losing on penalties it’s hard for the girls but ultimately, there have been some girls who stepped up in this tournament and are knocking on the door.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Canada announces roster for Czech Republic and Slovenia friendlies

Karl Ouimette

Karl Ouimette

Karl Ouimette will have the chance to earn his first national-team cap.

The inclusion of the Montreal Impact defender was the most notable item on national team coach Benito Floro’s roster for friendlies against the Czech Republic (Nov. 15) and Slovenia (Nov. 19).

The roster, announced Friday, also features three unattached players — all-time Canadian leading scorer Dwayne De Rosario, who had his contract option declined by D.C. United last week, Issey Nakajima-Farran and Stefan Cebara.

“From here to the first official games [qualifying matches], it’s important to focus on our level of play,” said Floro in a release issued by the Canadian Soccer Association. “It is necessary to pay attention in how we defend and attack so for me the best result is to take it step by step to improve our level.”
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Canada qualifies for the Women’s U-17 World Cup with win over host Jamaicans

Marie Mychele Metivier

Marie Mychele Metivier

Canada will join Mexico and Costa Rica as CONCACAF representatives at the U17 Women’s World Cup.

As winners of the CONCACAF semifinals, held Thursday in Jamaica, Canada and Mexico earned their World Cup invites. Costa Rica qualifies automatically as the host nation.

The Jamaican supporters packed the stadium in Montego Bay for the semifinal against Canada. To rally the home nation, there was no charge to watch the game.

But the Canadian scored within three minutes to give the hosts a sober reality check, and went on to a comfortable 5-0 win.

And, in the irony of ironies, the Americans, who beat Canada in their final-group stage game to earn the right to play lower-ranked Mexico in the other semifinal, suffered a major upset. Instead of taking advantage of Mexico, the Americans lost in penalties after a 1-1 draw.
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Canadian striker Gigolaj waiting on DFB clearance before he can play with Hertha Berlin’s reserves

Elvir Gigolaj in his Hertha BSC kit.

Elvir Gigolaj in his Hertha BSC kit.

It’s a familiar refrain for Canadian soccer players trying to make it abroad: “Waiting on paperwork.”

For London, Ont.’s Elvir Gigolaj, that’s the case. He’s currently training with a Hertha Berlin reserve team, Hertha BSC Amateure II, but the former FC Edmonton and St. Mary’s University striker is waiting for the chance to step onto the field.

“Things are well, currently training with Hertha Berlin,” Gigolaj said in a message to The 11. “Don’t have clearance from the DFB to play yet.”

Gigolaj was cut loose by FC Edmonton in the break between the NASL spring and fall schedules, after an injury-ravaged early part of the season.

In 2011, Gigolaj was the buzz player coming out of CIS. For the Huskies, he scored six times in three AUS conference playoff games. And even though his St. Mary’s squad lost to the University of Victoria in the CIS final, it was clear that Gigolaj was the player of the tournament to watch. He scored in a quarter-final win over McGill. He scored twice in the semifinal triumph over the University of Alberta. And, in a losing cause, he scored against UVic.
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Canadian loss to Americans made all the worse because of Richards injury

Mika Richards

Mika Richards

It’s one thing to see a professional player down on the turf for a long period of time, and then stretchered off the field. But at least you can say to yourself that hey, that’s a pro on the field, (s)he knows the risks of playing the game. That’s why that person gets a paycheque.

But, when a teenage amateur player — on the field because of national pride and the chance to develop her young career — lays on the ground, it’s a lot harder to watch.

Canadian defender Mika Richards was on the turf for several minutes. And it put Canada’s 2-0 loss to the United States in a different light. Yes, Canadian keeper Rylee Foster made an outstanding double save on the ensuing American penalty kick but, with the game already lost, and Canada down to 10 players, it didn’t feel all that glorious. After all, these two teams’ final U-17 Women’s CONCACAF Championship group-stage game wasn’t a do-or-die affair; both had already qualified to move on.

Late in the match, after losing the ball to U.S. forward Mallory Pugh, Richards chased down her quarry from behind and tugged on the American’s jersey. Pugh went down, and in the process of going to the turf, her elbow looked to inadvertently crash against Richards’ face. But, replays showed that Richards was actually going down in pain before the contact was made. After the incident, Richards was motionless on the pitch for several minutes, being attended to by medical teams. Meanwhile, the referee placed the ball on the spot — after all, Richards did foul Pugh in the penalty area — and waited for the Jamaican hosts’ volunteer crews to take the injured player off the pitch. And, as Richards was strapped to the stretcher, she was sheepishly shown a yellow card for that initial shirt-tug.
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CIS WRAP: Conference soccer champions crowned

The University of Montreal Carabins celebrate the Quebec women's title. PHOTO: JAMES HAJJAR

The University of Montreal Carabins celebrate the Quebec women’s title. PHOTO: JAMES HAJJAR

This was the weekend when the four CIS athletic conferences crowned their soccer champs. We saw some upsets; will some of the darkhorses that emerged continue to surprise at the upcoming national men’s and women’s championships?

We have summaries of all the finals.

CANADA WEST MEN: UBC 6, Saskatchewan 1
Wow, did the University of British Columbia make an emphatic statement in the Canada West final.

Last season, the T-Birds needed extra time to beat Alberta in snowy Edmonton. It was Gagan Dosanjh who got the deciding goal. And, in this year’s Canada West final, it was the man who replaced Dosanjh who had a game to remember. Niall Cousens, who took the attacking role after Dosanjh turned pro with FC Edmonton, scored four times as the Thunderbirds smashed Saskatchewan 6-1.
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Canadians demolish T&T at U-17 Women’s Championship

Jessie Fleming

Jessie Fleming

Sure, there’s a sort of euphoria that comes with a Canadian national team winning their first two games of a major tournament by an aggregate score of 19-0.

First, there was the 8-0 win over Guatemala. And, on Saturday, an 11-0 thrashing of Trinidad and Tobago. And, so, Canada has clinched a spot in the semifinals of the CONCACAF U-17 Women’s Championship with two blowout triumphs in the group stage. A final group stage match against the United States will be all about group positioning.

Only the top two teams make it to the U-17 Women’s World Cup in Costa Rica. And Canada knows it will avoid the U.S. in the semis — so these two nations are the two favourites to get the qualifying spots.

But these matches do ask some deeper questions. Not about women’s soccer in Canada, but in CONCACAF as a whole. Today, we watched Canadian forwards go through Trinidadian defenders like they weren’t there. We saw Canadians push and swarm forward with no fear of counterattack.
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Canadian U-17 women open CONCACAF tournament with rout of Guatemala

10597790115_f0d58fa767Canada gave us an indication of just how much of a walk in the park its CONCACAF U-17 Women’s Championship opener against Guatemala was going to be just 10 minutes into the match.

Already up 1-0, Marie Levasseur broke past the Guatemalan defensive line. And, instead of taking on the keeper one-on-one, she decided to try and pass to a trailing teammate instead. It had all the feel of a hockey empty-net attempt, when the lead forward sheepishly passes the puck to a teammate, as if it’s dirty to score such an easy goal.

The chance went all wrong.

But it didn’t matter, as Canada piled on the offence in an 8-0 win that had the feel of a team being on cruise control.
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Yallop’s return to MLS boosts Canadian content: We now have two coaches in MLS, three in NASL

Frank Yallop

Frank Yallop

Of course, a lot of the talk in Canadian soccer circles will go along the lines of “what will the Vancouver Whitecaps do now?” Until news broke Wednesday that Frank Yallop was taking the Chicago Fire job, there was an MLS-wide assumption that the former Canadian national teamer was going to come home and take over the Whitecaps.

Of course, we all know how the word “assume” breaks down, don’t we?

But, lets put aside the question of what will the Whitecaps do, and see what Yallop’s return to the MLS coaching fraternity means for Canadian soccer. We’re going to put country over club, here.

Now that Yallop is back in the realm of the employed (confirmed Thursday), he join San Jose coach Mark Watson (and Yallop’s former assistant) as Canadian coaches in MLS.

Now add to that the fact there are three Canadian coaches currently employed in NASL: FC Edmonton’s Colin Miller, San Antonio Scorpions interim boss Alen Marcina and Ottawa Fury head man Marc Dos Santos. Yes, we include Dos Santos because, even though the Fury won’t begin NASL play till 2014, Dos Santos is already working to identify players and hire his staff.

That’s five Canadian coaches in North America’s top two leagues.
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