Archive for the ‘Gold Cup’ Category

An instant classic at the Gold Cup

It would be hard to blame anyone if they went into tonight’s Group B opener with low expectations. El Salvador (93rd in the world) vs. Trinidad and Tobago (87th) was a matchup of also-rans in a tournament with three to four legitimate contenders.

Instead, we were treated to an incredibly entertaining affair at Red Bull Arena. Rodolfo Zelaya and Kenwyne Jones put on a show while Soca Warriors goaltender Jan Jan Williams made a game saving stop on Zelaya at the death. The game finished with the teams tied 2-2. Honduras takes on Haiti in the second Group B game later tonight.  Here are some of the best plays from a great game. Low expectations rule.

Zelaya’s first goal


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FBL-MEXICO-CONCACAF-TROPHY

I honestly don’t know. I promise this is not going to be a classic troll job in which I get high and mighty about which tournaments are legit and which are not because I somehow know better than you, but seriously: what is this thing for?

Yesterday on the Counter Attack Podcast, Sean Keay made a very good case for why winning the Gold Cup would be the worst possible scenario for Canada. I know, I know.

But you can instantly see why: here’s a team with a bunch of Unattached FC stars, some fairly significant absences, and an interim national team coach who is now about an hour away from transforming in front our eyes into a lame duck (Watch it happen LIVE on Sprotsnet 1080). If Canada wins the damn thing (don’t worry, ain’t going to happen), then suddenly the nation convinces itself that all is well, and efforts to reform the national program are ignored and the pressure is off for a while.

If instead they do as expected and do okayish before going out in ignoble fashion, then Canada are further derided as a national embarrassment and the classic, familiar, soul-crushing apathy kicks in. Maybe we go back to the days when the nats play “away games” at BMO Field.

And then there’s the Klassik Kanada option: a spirited, if sloppy, team performance. Some incredible bright lights shine. Will Johnson becomes the tournament’s goal-scoring leader (somehow). Then the team goes out to, oh, I don’t know, the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA in the semifinal on the back of some incredibly dodgy calls. Conspiracy theories ensue. Self-loathing comes after that. Annnnd: scene.

And then the final, as it is already engineered, will be a glorified friendly between the US and Mexico. The US will lose, there will be some tepid comparisons to the fall of Bob Bradley and the questionable pedigree of Juergen Klinsmann, and then no one will speak of the 2013 Gold Cup ever again.

I am willing to put money down on ZERO available Getty images on the tournament prior to the final, always the canary in the coal mine for relevance. I’m not saying they should scrap the Gold Cup, but dignity please. We’re in the midst of an MLS summer season, there are, as ever, bigger fish to fry. Something needs to be done.

FBL-JPN-CAN-FRIENDLY

It’s hard to imagine a time when there has been less interest in the men’s national team in Canada than today.

It will take a long time for the stain of 8-1 to wear off the Nats and even the most loyal of fans is struggling to get up for games as they go through the motions following the end of the county’s (naive) Brazilian dream.

This is the environment in which interim manager Colin Miller is operating in as he put the final touches on a makeshift and exceptionally untested Gold Cup line-up, which was released yesterday.

Eight of the players named to Canada’s 22-man (there is still time to add one additional player) will be making their Gold Cup debut. Additionally, four of those called-up play for that long-standing provider of Canadian talent, Unattached FC.

The Canadian men’s reigning player of the year, Atiba Hutchinson, and the all-time scoring leader, Dwayne DeRosario, will be watching from home.

Combine that with what is likely the toughest group in tournament (hello Mexico and Panama – along with trickier than many imagine Martinique) and, well, it could get ugly.

The question is, then, does it matter?

Considering that the general level of interest is so low and that this Gold Cup features mostly second choice line-ups and factoring in that we are still two years away from the games that really matter (and three from when CONCACAF qualifying gets tricky for Canada), maybe a weak three matches and out should be expected and accepted for Canada.

It’s defeatist thinking, but one can appreciate how someone might entertain the idea.

Except the truth is Canada cannot afford to embarrass itself again. That 8-1 loss is too fresh and the punch lines cut too close to the bone.

The Canadian national team risks becoming irrelevant to fans if it goes down to the tournament and bombs out. All of the gains that were made over the last four years in terms of home support will be go away. The new fans that came to the program will likely abandon it, their suspicions about this country’s place in world football confirmed. And, besides, this is our confederation championship. That alone should be enough to motivate both players and fans alike.

It will not be easy, but most understand that the challenge is great. In announcing the roster, Miller suggested that a quarterfinal appearance would be an acceptable building block for the program.

He’s right, with one caveat. Regardless of the final standing, one would hope that this group of young Canadians will win or lose with a bit of pride.

Pride was something that was desperately needed in Honduras and Panama when the heat, fans and pressure caused players that were supposed to represent this country’s best chance at a World Cup birth in a generation to wilt.

So, maybe it isn’t such a bad thing that so few of that crew is part of this Gold Cup roster. It’s a fresh start and it can’t possibly be worse than if was the last time they played a meaningful game.

In Europe, teams play in front of empty stadiums as punishment. In the United States, they do it every other game in the Gold Cup.

CONCACAF just announced its venues for the Confederation tournament forever hosted by the United States, and they should be fairly familiar to fans of all field sports:

The region’s premier National Team tournament will again expand its footprint by visiting eight new world-class venues in this year’s edition: Georgia Dome in Atlanta, GA; M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, MD; Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver, CO; Rentschler Field in East Hartford, CT; BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston, TX; Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, FL; JELD-WEN Field in Portland, OR and Rio Tinto Stadium in Salt Lake City, UT. Six new Gold Cup cities are featured in this group of newcomers, including Atlanta, Baltimore, Denver, Hartford, Portland and Salt Lake City. Houston and Miami return to host the tournament, for the 5th and 9th time consecutive time, respectively.

The event will also return to five venues from its previous editions including Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, TX (2009, 2011); Soldier Field in Chicago, IL (2007, 2009, 2011); Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA (1991, 2002, 2011); Red Bull Arena in Harrison, NJ (2011) and CenturyLink Field in Seattle, WA (2005, 2009). Years in parenthesis denote Gold Cups at each venue.

As someone on the Twitter quickly surmised:

And, additionally, a few matches in cavernous stadiums at one-third capacity.

Despite the boosterism offered by CONCACAF about 600,000 in attendance and 9 sellout games, there were more than a few games in the Gold Cup two years ago played in NFL stadia that were two-thirds empty. They can’t all be Mexico/USA games. I always try to be polite to the Gold Cup, dutifully watching at inconvenient hours online in anticipation of some incredible refereeing blunder that destroys Canada’s chances. But the reliance on NFL venues—a big money-maker for the games which exceed 45,000 capacity—really sucks the life out a tournament that no one really cares about except the nations that rarely win it.


The 19th century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche is often credited with reviving the idea of “eternal recurrence,” the hypothetical notion that events, choices, decisions, are destined to endlessly repeat for all time, to infinity. He called the idea “horrifying and paralyzing,” concepts no doubt well-known to supporters of the Canadian mens national soccer team, who watched in (very) familiar horror as Canada drew Panama 1-1, effectively eliminating them from the Gold Cup (the USA took care of the rest by beating Guadeloupe 1-0).

Having studied Canadian soccer history since its inception in the 1870s, I can safely say Canada has been content to repeat the same footballing mistakes, over and over and over again, since our last achievement of any historical note: winning the gold medal in association football at the St. Louis olympics in 1904. These mistakes include attempting to compete internationally with no coherent national player development plan, no stable domestic professional league, inept or structurally and financially hampered administrative bodies, and a lack of fan support and paucity of domestic media coverage.

Even Canada’s World Cup qualification in 1986 felt like the exception that proved the rule, a historical mistake which only underlined the breadth of skill between Canada and the rest of the world, despite a heroic group stage performance. So what do we as Canadian soccer fans do in light of this latest international embarrassment?

Call for Stephen Hart to be fired? No. The CSA has barely been able to keep up with official business while securing Carolina Morace’s commitment to the women’s team over the past several months; the idea of kicking off a managerial search with the WCQs around the corner because of an early Gold Cup exit is ludicrous.

Reform the Canadian Soccer Association? Well, there are signs the CSA is taking small steps in that direction, but relying on suits to do the right thing in Ottawa over the next several AGMs seems overly passive.

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Canada 1-1 Panama

Game in a sentence

  • Canada failed to create enough scoring opportunities despite dominating possession and it caught up with them in the dying moments as Panama scored in injury time to earn a 1-1 draw.

Observations

  • It appeared Canada were going to win another 1-0 game through a questionable penalty but in the end the talk will now be about their wasted chances rather than the one chance they took.
  • It was a crushing way to concede a goal but Canada simply should never have been in a position where they were able to concede one goal and get knocked out. They had the majority of the ball throughout, but once again their passing and lack of creativity in the final third was very poor.
  • As the clock ticked towards 90:00 they still led 1-0 but that’s when it all went wrong.
  • 89:35 – Armando Cooper easily got by substitiute Pedro Pacheco and Terry Dunfield has to come over and give away a corner.
  • 90:05 – Milan Borjan unneccessarily came off his line for the corner which was headed away by Kevin McKenna but was immediately sent back into the box.
  • 90:08 Borjan was now out of position and the defending from Canada was poor as a shot hit the bar and fell out to Anibal Godoy whose tame shot towards goal went underneath Borjan and into the back of the net. It was the second major error by a ‘keeper for Canada and led to pandemonium everywhere- Canada couldn’t believe it, Borjan rolled on the floor in pain, Panama celebrated a goal that gave them top spot in Group C and the public address announcer and television director thought Blas Perez had scored when he was nowhere near the ball.
  • The confusion summed up Canada’s night. It wasn’t pretty or by any means impressive yet Canada found a way to be three minutes away from the quarter finals of the Gold Cup courtesy of Dwayne De Rosario’s penalty in the second half.
  • You could say that it was again a dubious call but quite honestly I am not even sure what is a legitimate penalty in this game anymore. What I do know is I have never seen so many given across the world and although the foul called in this game looked generous, you wouldn’t be surprised to see it called in the Premier League, for example.
  • Fifteen seconds prior to the decision, Canada’s best player Julian De Guzman sent a good cross into the box that found Will Johnson’s head and the Real Salt Lake man smartly guided it into the direction of Dwayne De Rosario, who suddenly fell under a collision by Eybir Bonaga.
  • It was a pity that Canada could only find the back of the net through a penalty and ultimately the fact that they couldn’t score from open play (or from anything other than a spot kick) in three matches cost them.
  • Canada should have been ahead inside five minutes when De Guzman intercepted a Panama attack and immediately countered with a through ball to Simeon Jackson that put the Norwich striker clean through, but unfortunately he blasted the ball high and wide.
  • It was one of many good moments early from De Guzman who won three crucial tackles inside 15 minutes and connected the midfield well with his team-mates in the final third.
  • Unfortunately, as the game wore on the midfield central three of De Guzman, Terry Dunfield and Will Johnson all sat too deep and didn’t create enough. Just like against Guadeloupe, this put the emphasis on the two wide players, Josh Simpson and Dwayne De Rosario, to create and feed Simeon Jackson, but neither of them played very well.
  • And so now the diagnosis of this team’s performance at this tournament will start and the results will not be good. Is the 4-5-1 too defensive? How can they get spark in the middle of the park? Should De Rosario play for Canada again? Can they find a right back with a Canadian passport anywhere?
  • It is one thing to start slow in a tournament and do enough to get through but margins are fine in sports and Canada ultimately fell short of their goal, which was to at least reach the knock out stages of the Gold Cup. Against the USA they were outplayed by a better team but their performances against Guadeloupe and Panama were quite simply not good enough. It is true that the team didn’t have Atiba Hutchinson for those games but it is also true that they had a Premier League striker, an MLS DP and someone who thinks himself as an MLS DP. This team simply underperformed at this tournament and Head Coach Stephen Hart now needs to watch all three games over and over again before September.
  • Hart always said he would have one eye on World Cup qualifying throughout this competition and now he will have both eyes on it. It is time to learn from the mistakes of these past three games and move forward. Canada simply has to find a way of creating more. Their movement improved as the tournament went on but they were still too predictable with the ball and didn’t bring opponents out of position enough, and therefore the space wasn’t found that can lead to goals. Nothing is more difficult in this game than scoring goals but that’s a challenge that Canada must overcome quickly if they want to make a reasonable run at qualifying for Brazil 2014.

Three Stars

  1. Julian De Guzman
  2. Felipe Baloy
  3. Will Johnson

Kristian Jack

The group stage at the Gold Cup comes to an end tonight with Canada and the USA facing must win scenarios. Expected for the Canadians yes, but definitely not for Bob Bradley’s boys. But after that uncharacteristic 2-1 loss to Panama on Saturday, the Americans again find themselves in that high pressure win or go home situation.

The 2009 Confederations Cup was a real coming out party for the Stars & Stripes. Then last summer at the World Cup they outlasted Algeria thanks to Landon Donovan’s goal in the dying seconds to send the U.S. into the last 16 before they eventually lost to Ghana in extra time. Donovan could really help his country and his own legacy by potting one tonight against Guadeloupe in Kansas City. The LA Galaxy captain is tied with Club América legend Luis Roberto Alves as the Gold Cup’s all-time leading scorer with 12.

The hosts again enjoy the late kickoff and are fully expected to run the French Y squad all over Livestrong Sporting Park. In fact, the bookies expect you to throw down $1,200 for the chance of winning $100 with the USA tonight. Those are some big odds, but obviously for good reason.

Guadeloupe is far more entertaining for their French connections than their football. As one of the 27 regions of France, they can’t qualify for a World Cup because they are not an independent nation. They use Euros on the islands. Their soccer fame is reserved as being the birthplace of the parents of Thierry Henry, Louis Saha and the club-less Pascal Chimbonda.

But the U.S. would be reckless to head into this expecting to walk away with all three points. In Detroit we saw a slow starting side rally with two goals against high octane Panama before holding their own with just 10 men in a well played 1-0 loss to an underperforming CMNT. And as Grant Wahl pointed out in his Sports Illustrated column today comparing the USMNT’s performances under former skipper Bruce Arena to current boss Bradley’s, the U.S. routinely play from behind.

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