Canada Archive

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Canada’s latest roster is proof that there is no room at the inn for NASL players

Benito Floro

Benito Floro

If you’re a supporter of either the Ottawa Fury or FC Edmonton, you might be feeling that your teams got snubbed.

The roster for Canada’s upcoming friendlies with Iceland was released on Friday. With the European soccer season in full swing, only four players who play their professional soccer on that continent were called in. Iain Hume (Kerala Blasters) and Dejan Jakovic (Shimuzu J-Pulse) will make the trip from Asia to join the national team, which begins training January 12 in Florida. Canada plays Iceland on Jan. 16 and 19.

And a lot of the “North-American-based” majority of the roster is made up of unattached players, players from MLS academies, even League1 Ontario. The top U-20 players are with Rob Gale’s squad, as they prepare for the CONCACAF Championships.

Even when Floro faced the crunch of not having first- or second- or third-choice players readily available, he opted to ignore players on FC Edmonton and Ottawa. And that’s on a roster that looks like one where the coach has decided to bring in some players he has yet to see.

So, FCE’s John Smits, who won the 2014 NASL Golden Glove award for having the best goals-against average in the league, isn’t worthy of a call. Nor is FCE right back Edson Edward, widely regarded as one of the best fullbacks in the NASL — and proved late last season that he could also play a central midfield role.
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Boakai the sole Eddie to make Canada’s U-20 roster

Hanson Boakai  PHOTO: TONY LEWIS/FC EDMONTON

Hanson Boakai
PHOTO: TONY LEWIS/FC EDMONTON

Hanson Boakai will be going to the CONCACAF Championship in Jamaica, but he’ll be the only FC Edmonton player making the trip.

The 18-year-old FC Edmonton midfielder was on coach Rob Gale’s final roster for the U-20 CONCACAF Championship, which is a qualifying tournament for the 2015 U-20 World Cup in New Zealand. Canada begins the tournament with a Jan. 10 match against Haiti; but its group-stage fortunes will likely hinge on the result of the Jan. 12 match against Mexico.

But two other FCE prospects, striker Sadi Jalali and defender Mark Aleksic, who had received long looks from Gale in previous U-20 camps, didn’t make the final cut. But, it needs to be noted that this generation of U-20 players is arguably the deepest this country has produced. It will feature the likes of Cyle Larin, who could be a top MLS SuperDraft pick if he chooses to go that route, and Toronto FC striker Jordan Hamilton. Whitecaps keeper Marco Carducci is already a member of his club’s senior roster. Luca Gasparotto is playing at Airdrie in Scotland, and midfielder Michael Petrasso is on loan to Notts County in England.
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Atiba Hutchinson can negotiate new deal in January: And he’s open to MLS move

15064416849_5a15726b3d_zAtiba Hutchinson, named Canada’s player of the year on Thursday, is nearing the end of his contract with Turkish giants, Besiktas. In January, he can start negotiating with other clubs unless his contract is extended before that time.

And, the Canadian says that he wants to stay, but he’s also open to moving on if the opportunity was right — and that would include Major League Soccer.

When asked if he’d consider talking to an MLS side in January, Hutchinson said “yes, especially if it was in Canada. I’m open to it if the interest comes, if things can work out and do what’s best for everybody.”

But, he said he’s really enjoyed his time with Besiktas. He said it’s the first time in three or four years that he’s regularly playing in his natural midfield position, and he feels that, at 31 years of age, he’s at his peak as a player. He said the fans in Turkey have treated him very well.
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Sinclair wins Player of the Year honour for 11th straight time; says she has become a more complete player

sincy2014She’s Canada’s all-time leading scorer, but she only scored once for the national team in 2014.

But the drop-off in goal production didn’t stop Christine Sinclair from being named the Women’s National Player for the 11th straight year. You’d have to go back to 2003 to find someone else other than Sinclair (Charmaine Hooper, for the trivia buffs) who has won the award.

Sinclair also scored seven times for the Portland Thorns of the NWSL.

While she said that the drop-off in scoring has weighed on her mind, Sinclair insisted that she’s become “a more complete soccer player” under the tutelage of coach John Herdman. She said that she’s become more of a leader on the team, and she’s also been asked to perform other tasks than simply go up top and score goals. She’s been asked to drop into a midfield role on occasion.
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5

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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5

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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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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