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Canada avoids Haiti slip-up in tournament opener

Kadin Chung

Kadin Chung

Maybe it’s the new format — which makes it much more difficult for Canada to qualify for the U-17 World Cup than in he past. Maybe it’s the fact that the national U-20 team flamed out so spectacularly in its recent attempt to qualify for its age group’s World Cup. But there’s no denying that the Canadian sentiment towards this crop of U-17s is more muted than past years. There’s no chatter of who’s going to be the next Great Canadian Hope.

But, on Saturday night in Honduras, this group survived its first challenge of the CONCACAF U-17 Championships, with a 3-1 win over Haiti. Duwayne Ewart, Matthew Baldisimo and Kadin Chung got the goals.

For Canada, with the new format, there is no margin for error in matches against the so-called minnows. In years past, the round-robin would often see one ranked CONCACAF nation paired up with two lesser lights. Win the group, and you were well on your way to a U-17 World Cup berth or at least a playoff for a U-17 World Cup spot.

But, wisely, CONCACAF changed the format. For the smaller nations, sending a team to play just two games made little financial or developmental sense. You arrived and were eliminated in the blink of an eye. So, the new format sees the field split into two groups of six. Each team is guaranteed five matches in a compressed amount of time; so coaches are forced to utilize most of their squads — and, so, more players will get minutes of international action.
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Canada no match for Lozano’s class

Hirving Lozano

Hirving Lozano

You would have to forgive Canadian fullback Sam Adekugbe if he has a few nightmares on Monday night.

Adekugbe was given the thankless task of trying to mark Mexican forward Hirving Lozano, who loves to lurk on the right wing. And Lozano burned the Canadian time and time again as the Mexicans triumphed 2-0 in group stage play at the CONCACAF U-20 Championships in Jamaica.

The loss drops Canada to 1-1-0 and the goal difference is even.

But, make no mistake, even though Canada had a few scattered chances on counterattacks, the 2-0 scoreline flattered our boys. Had the Mexicans wore their shooting boots — and if goalkeeper Nolan Wirth hadn’t put on a Canadian man-of-the-match performance — the scoreline would have been (deservedly) more severe.

Let’s get back to Lozano. If you were a neutral, his performance was something to see. Lozano shows how far we still have to go in Canada to develop players. Before the tournament began, Canadian coach Rob Gale lamented how few of his players had played meaningful first-team minutes at a professional level. And, on Monday, the Canadians had to try and stare down Lozano, who already has played 17 Liga MX matches this season for Pachuca.

While many of Canada’s players are in MLS academies, Lozano is playing senior matches in a league that’s much tougher than MLS.
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Coach Gale tries to ease the pressure on his U-20 players

14275595105_50b10f9dc2_mYou couldn’t shake the feeling that Rob Gale, the coach of the Canadian U-20 men’s team, was trying to keep the focus off the high-profile players on his roster.

After all, Cyle Larin is expected to go No. 1 in the MLS SuperDraft. In Hanson Boakai, he has an attacking midfielder who made a national splash when he outplayed guys 10 years his senior in the 2014 Amway Canadian Championship.

But, when Gale spoke the media Friday, ahead of the CONCACAF U-20 Championship, he talked about rotating and managing his squad. He talked about all of his individual players as parts of the greater whole. And he warned off the media when it came to putting too much onto the shoulders of players like Larin and Boakai.

Gale said that, with the games coming fast and furious in Jamaica — beginning Jan. 10 when Canada faces Haiti — plans have been made to rotate the squad. He said plans have been made two or three games ahead of time to ensure that the players are as fresh as they can be.

“The players won’t be able to last that many games.”
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FCE’s Boakai and Jalali to join national U-20 side for the Milk Cup

Dale-Farm-Milk-Cup-logoFC Edmonton teenagers Hanson Boakai and Sadi Jalali will be leaving the team on Wednesday.

Why? So they can join the Canadian U-20 squad for the Milk Cup, a tournament to be held in Northern Ireland from July 27-August 1. Canada will face Mexico, China and the Irish hosts.

And, for Boakai and Jalali, it’s a chance to audition for Canadian squad going into the cycle for the 2015 U-20 World Cup qualification process. For Jalali, who scored his first career NASL goal on a penalty at the end of the spring season, it’s not a surprise to be named to the team. Much of the U-20 squad will be made up of the players who played at the U-17 World Cup in 2012 — and Jalali was a part of that team. A concussion forced him to miss the most recent U-20 national-team camp, but he was always a player you’d have thought would be in the rotation.

But, Boakai was part of the U-17 World Cup team in 2014; so he’s moving up in terms of age group. But, as arguably the best player of the 2014 Amway Canadian Championship, and a player who has already earned a trial stint at Fortuna Dusseldorf, his stock may be higher at this moment than any other youth player in this country’s system.

“I’m one of the youngest ones, it will be a new family.”
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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 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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Banner day for women’s soccer: Herdman extension, Calgary women’s program unveiled

Erin McLeod

Erin McLeod

This has been an absolute banner day for women’s soccer in Canada.

The Canadian Soccer Association announced that coach John Herdman extended his contract. He is now set until 2020, taking him through not only the upcoming Women’s World Cup in Canada, but the 2019 tournament as well. As well, a friendly was announced for Vancouver on Nov. 24, with Mexico providing the opposition — giving the fans in British Columbia to once again show the amazing level of support they provided during the Olympic qualifying tournament.

And, FC Edmonton finalized details of its elite youth women’s program that it will run in Calgary, following up on the women’s program that has been launched in Edmonton.

As for Herdman’s signing, the deal ends speculation that he might jump for the vacant England job.

“I was talking to my mom last week, and she told me that John might not be coming back,” said national-team keeper Erin McLeod, who was in Calgary Thursday for the launch of the elite women’s team. “I almost had a heart attack. He’s been so phenomenal for this group. For me, especially, I can’t imagine playing for anyone else.”

And she said that Herdman’s extension will bring some stability to the program.

“We don’t want to be known as that team that won the bronze medal once upon a time,” McLeod said.
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Canada improves its performance, but still falls short of Mexico

Colin Miller PHOTO: MEXSPORT/CANADA SOCCER

Colin Miller PHOTO: MEXSPORT/CANADA SOCCER

The last time Colin Miller saw someone dive to win a penalty in a high-profile game, he was kicked out of the match (and later fined) when Edmonton FC lost 3-2 in an Amway Canadian Championship semifinal game against the Vancouver Whitecaps.

This time, however, Miller was a bit more diplomatic as he saw Marco Fabian con his way to earn Mexico a penalty in their 2-0 win over Canada at Seattle’s CenturyLink Field.

“It’s not a penalty. I’m biting my lips here as hard as I possibly can,” Miller said, sporting a wry smile. “What I’m saying and what I’m feeling are two totally different things, I can assure you.”

Fabian’s penalty win that he then converted himself in the 57th minute, doubled the Mexicans’ advantage after they had taken the lead in the 41st minute on Raul Jimenez’s header off a corner kick.
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Departures, illnesses could leave Canada depleted for Mexico test

Russell Teibert: "Fever and the shakes"

Russell Teibert: “Fever and the shakes”

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Striker Simeon Jackson has left camp to pursue a club opportunity with Germany’s Eintracht Braunschweig. Speedster Randy Edwini-Bonsu is out with a knee injury. Defender Nana Attakora was never able to get past his post-concussion symptoms. And, two more key Canadian players are question marks for Thursday’s Gold Cup match against Mexico.

Coach Colin Miller said that captain Will Johnson, who had to leave after playing just a half in the 1-0 Gold Cup opening loss to Martinique, is being evaluated Wednesday. He is still battling the illness that took him out of that game. And Miller said Wednesday that Russell Teibert was with the doctor, as the Whitecaps’ winger had “fever and the shakes.”

There’s a possibility that up to five members of the 23-man roster would be out for the Mexico game — and Canada has only called up one replacement, D.C. United forward Kyle Porter. (UPDATE: The Canadian Soccer Association has confirmed that Johnson’s illness will keep him out of the Mexico game; he’s been allowed to go home to Portland to recover, but hasn’t been dropped from the squad)

“(Goalkeeping coach) Paul Dolan and I are getting warmed up and getting ready to go,” Miller joked Wednesday. You can’t blame Miller for the crack — after all, it’s got to the point where you’ve got to laugh, right?

But, despite the departures, illness and swarm of locusts that must surely be ready to engulf the Canadian camp in Seattle, Miller said his players are still in good spirits — even though they are coming off the loss to Martinique.
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Gold Cup schedule: Convenient sort-of “home” matches for Western Canadians

gold-cup2013BASTwitter and the Internet have been ablaze with news of the Gold Cup schedule.

Canada will open the tournament with a match against Martinique July 7 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. Then, July 11, Canada will get awfully close to the border when it faces Mexico in Seattle. The group stage will wrap when Canada will face Panama, the team that knocked it out of the last Gold Cup, in Denver on July 14.

Luckily for Canada, the game against Mexico takes place in Seattle, which offers Canadian fans the best chance to cross the border and see the match, as it’s a nice short jaunt from Vancouver. As well, Canada avoids playing Mexico in Los Angeles, a venue which basically gives El Tri a home game. As well, no team would want to face Mexico in the altitude in Denver, which would again be a major advantage for the team in green — as most of its players are accustomed to playing in the thinner air.

The Denver match is good for Canada as it will see our team facing a side that doesn’t normally play at altitude.
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