Posts Tagged ‘Honduras’

Well, folks, it’s a new year.  Welcome to 2013!  The new year always brings with it the potential for excitement, for surprises, for new beginnings – the potential for anything to happen!  Well, almost anything.  In this time of flux, of chaos, of uncertainty, USMNT fans around the world can take solace in the one thing that’s for sure in 2013: Canada, who the USMNT will face in a friendly on January 29, will continue to suck at soccer.

People who are happy with Canada’s national soccer team are hard to come by these days.

OK, OK, maybe that’s a little harsh.  But there’s no question that Canada’s national team program is in a time of flux.  2012 had the potential to be an excellent year for our “Nanook of the North” neighbor, as Canada came into their final group-stage WCQ match against Honduras needing only a draw to assure advancement to the Hex.  A difficult task away to Honduras, to be sure, but by no means impossible.  The resulting bloodbath in San Pedro Sula saw Canada unceremoniously dumped out of qualifying via a lopsided 8-1 loss. Tears flowed from Canadian fans’ eyes like maple syrup from, uh, maple syrup trees. For you sadists out there, here’s the highlights – they ain’t pretty.

 

The loss to Honduras shook Canadian soccer to its core.  Head coach Stephan Hart handed in his resignation just two days later, despite a general consensus that coaching errors were not a factor in the loss, and despite that the fact that his win percentage with the team was the highest of any Canadian coach in history.  The coaching position still remains vacant today, though Colin Miller, the Scottish-born former Canadian international, was named interim boss early in 2013.

Canada comes into Tuesday’s friendly against the USA with a very young squad.  Ten of the 22 players Miller called in to camp have never previously featured for the senior national team, eight played for Canada’s U23’s in last summer’s CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying tournament, and only four participated in Canada’s ill-fated third round of World Cup Qualifying last year.  Colin Miller has stated that he hopes to use the camp to evaluate “the future” of Canadian soccer.

On January 26, this relatively inexperienced squad took the field against Denmark in a friendly in Tuscon, Arizona.  The result: a 4-0 loss to the Danes, and a forgettable game for Canadian fans.  I found a stream of the game and did a little scouting for Tuesday’s USMNT friendly.  While one 90-minute observation is hardly enough to make any conclusive evaluations, here’s the highlights, and a few things I saw while watching the game that may be relevant to the USAvCAN match later this week:


  • Overall, Canada looked every bit like a group of young, inexperienced players with very little time on the field together (as could be expected). Their defense was especially porous and uncoordinated, and Denmark was easily able to pick the defense apart with well-timed through balls and smart runs.  If the USA can play the pressing, probing style of soccer that Klinsi advocates, they should find ample gaps to exploit, and ample opportunities to put the ball in the back of the net.
  • Canada’s centerbacks in the Denmark fixture each had markedly different styles and abilities.  At RCB, Nana Attakora had heavy touches, loads of speed, and seemed anxious to get forward and help in the attack – sometimes leaving Canada exposed.  At LCB, veteran Nik Ledgerwood seemed to have good positioning instincts and excellent on-ball skills, with soft touches, good dribbling, and some nice passing vision.  He also seemed slow.  The USA should look to take advantage of Attakora’s ill-timed forward runs and/or Ledgerwood’s pace.
  • Midfielder Kyle Bekker, who garnered loads of attention at the recent MLS Combine and was subsequently taken as the number 3 overall pick by Toronto FC, had some errant passes and downright terrible corner-kick service.  But he also used his on-ball composure to hang on to the ball in sticky situations, and push Canada’s attack forward a bit in the second half.  With a little bit of space, Bekker looks like he could be dangerous, so the USA will want to close him down quickly.
  • Finally, veteran Tosaint Ricketts reminded me of Jozy Altidore on a bad day: heavy touches, zero vision, and constantly deciding to take defenders on 1v1 (unsuccessfully), rather than looking to hold the ball up or pass off to a teammate.  To be fair to Ricketts, Canada’s offense as a whole wasn’t giving him much help, and he did whip in a shot on goal from outside the box that was probably Canada’s best scoring chance of the second half.  The USA defense shouldn’t have problems with Ricketts provided he continues to play “bad Jozy” (as opposed to current “good Jozy”, tearing up the Eredivisie), and provided they can handle his physicality.

One match is hardly enough to judge a squad by, and it would be unfair to Canada to say that they don’t have a chance against the USMNT on Tuesday.  But I’m not really into fairness, so I’m going to say it anyways.  My prediction: 3-1 for the good guys, with Will Bruin bagging 2, Benny Feilhaber bursting back onto the national team scene with a long-range strike, and a Sean Johnson blunder leading to Canada’s lone goal.

Until next time – blame Canada, and GO USA!

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