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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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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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PLASTIC PITCH 4 is out today!

10349900_1008071179208840_1372189140274955851_nIssue 4 of Plastic Pitch is out today!

What will you find inside?

• We profile Canadian keeper John Smits, winner of the NASL’s Golden Glove award;

• We sit down with Desiree Scott to talk about her decision to leave NWSL for England, and how she feels about Canada’s preparations for the Women’s World Cup

• Canadians in indoor soccer; a look at the Milwaukee Wave and its Canadian coach, Giuliano Oliviero, and its Canadian star player, Ian Bennett. And we look at how the new Major Arena Soccer League could finally stabilize the pro indoor game in North America

• We look at the birth, successes and trials of League1 Ontario.
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Without a CBA in place, there’s a “possibility” union action could see Montreal, DCU forfeit CCL matches

“The Collective Bargaining Agreement is scheduled to expire on January 31, 2015,” Foose wrote in an e-mail. “When it expires, the obligation not to engage in a work stoppage also expires. I do not want to comment on when or if there would be a work stoppage. All I can say is that unless there is a Collective Bargaining Agreement in place, there is always the possibility of a work stoppage.”

The Montreal Impact is scheduled to be in Mexico on Feb. 24, as the team is scheduled to open its two-match CONCACAF Champions League quarter-final with Pachuca. Two days later, D.C. United is scheduled to meet Alajuelense in Costa Rica.

But what if those games are forfeited by the MLS sides — because the players are in a work-stoppage situation?

Unless a new deal is reached quickly, there’s a good chance that there will be no Collective Bargaining Agreement in place between MLS and its players union in February. The current deal expires in January and the sides are only in the first stages of negotiations.

Now, it needs to be stated that in 2010, when the union and the MLS only came to a deal just days before the start of the league’s regular season, the CCL matches went on unaffected.

But that don’t-play option is open to the players if there is no CBA in place.
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State of the MLS roundtable: Since there’s no movement on roster equality, now is the time for Canada to get tough

Well, at Tuesday’s roundtable, Garber confirmed that there isn’t going to be a new approach. When pressed by Leduc, Garber retreated back to the argument that U.S. labour law prevents Canadians from being domestics on American soil. He said a Canadians can’t be treated any differently than a Mexican, a Honduran or a Brit. So, Garber made it clear that the status quo will remain — and that roster equality will not become reality in MLS.

Don Garber began his roundtable with a group of five selected journalists with an overture intended for Canadian ears. He said that if Canada doesn’t qualify for a World Cup in his time as MLS commissioner, “It will be a mark I truly regret.”

He said he wanted to work with the Canadian Soccer Association, and that the United States, Canada and Mexico together could be soccer powerhouse.

The feel-good vibes lasted until it was time for RDS’s Patrick Leduc to ask his question. He asked the commissioner about the league’s stance on roster rules as they pertained to Canadians. In MLS, Canadians are recognized as domestics on Canadian teams, but as imports on American teams. But Americans are domestics in both countries. In July, Garber said “We are working on a new approach to our international player rules as they relate to Canada. Stay tuned.”

Well, at Tuesday’s roundtable, Garber confirmed that there isn’t going to be a new approach. When pressed by Leduc, Garber retreated back to the argument that U.S. labour law prevents Canadians from being domestics on American soil. He said a Canadians can’t be treated any differently than a Mexican, a Honduran or a Brit. So, Garber made it clear that the status quo will remain — and that roster equality will not become reality in MLS.
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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-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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Dear MLS, please kill the No. 4 vs No. 5 playoff game dead

MLSlogoplayoffsFor a guy who writes about soccer as much as I do, loves the game as much as I do, I surprise myself about how many times I wonder if there are too many matches being played.

The world would be a better place without the League Cup (we get to see who the big clubs put on the bench today!), meaningless friendlies, North American summer tours by European clubs… They are like the cheapest of Scotch; too much exposure to these things, and you might get so turned off that you forsake the good stuff, too.

And, if Major League Soccer cared about the integrity of its playoff system, it would do the world a favour and jettison the No. 4 vs. No. 5 conference playoff games.

Wednesday’s match, which saw FC Dallas end the Whitecaps season with a 2-1 win, was another example of why the No. 4 vs. No. 5 playoff game is a massive issue. The announced attendance was 10,279. Almost Chivas bad. But, as anyone in Sports Marketing 101 would tell you, what do you expect when a team is expected to sell playoff tickets for a game that happens on a midweek evening, just three days after the regular season ends?
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How Leiweke’s successor can deal with TFC’s culture of failure

new-toronto-fc-jersey-2014
“I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again”

— The Who, “Won’t Get Fooled Again”

It’s becoming part of the club’s not-so-wonderful lore; that when Toronto FC does have a reason for hope, the dreams will die in New Jersey.

Heck, TFC has been buried in Jersey so often, that Jimmy Hoffa FC might be an appropriate rebrand for the franchise.

In 2009, TFC went to Giants Stadium needing a win to get to the promised land — and gave up five goals to a hapless Red Bulls team. The Red Bulls are a much better team in 2014 than 2009; that still doesn’t mitigate how poor TFC was in the first half of the 3-1 loss to the Red Bulls on Saturday. Now, TFC’s playoff hopes hang by a thread and, psychologically, the fan base has given up on the team.

With Tim Leiweke set to leave his post as Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment’s head, it gives food for thought; what to do now with TFC? What would you do if you were president of the club?
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