Thursday, May 26, 2011

When fair isn't fair: Vancouver screwed in Canadian Championship second leg

I was at the game and I can tell you the game was unplayable after a while.

Wednesday May 25th, in the 29th minute, Vancouver Whitecaps forward Eric Hassli curled a low left footed shot into the bottom corner of Toronto FC's goal in the second leg of the Voyageurs Cup final, it seemed they were on the way to their first Canadian title....Then the skies over Toronto opened up.

The lightning struck closer and closer to BMO Field and the pitch became so badly water logged the match had to be abandoned after 62 minutes. The question on everyone's mind was "What now?"

Hassli's goal made the aggregate score 2-1 in favour of Vancouver, and with away goals counting double, it could have well won the match and the cup. The fair thing in most people's mind was a replay starting at 1-0; or call the leg completely and hand the cup to the Blue and Whites. The rules written by FIFA and the Canadian Soccer Association said something completely different in mind. Rule 27 subsection F stated:

27. f. If the match is interrupted before the completion of normal playing time or extra time (if required) because of extreme weather or for reasons outside the control of the host team, a repeat match lasting 90 minutes shall be arranged for the following day, thus avoiding the considerable extra expense for the visiting team. If it is still impossible to play the match the next day for the same reasons, the match may be postponed by another day, provided both teams agree. If the match can still not be played on the third day, the expenses thus incurred by the visiting team shall be split between the two teams

When reading the rule at first it seems a simple interpretation; that is until you understand that "repeat match" in this case meant the game would start at 0-0, making Hassli's potential winning goal irrelevant. Is it fair? According to the CSA and FIFA it is, to Vancouver it's a joke and it's hard to argue against them.

Toronto had the majority of possession and were creating chances, but it is the what ifs that strengthen the west coast team's case. If the game had not been stopped, and if Toronto had not scored, Vancouver are champions and heading to  CONCACAF Champions League. Therefore in true fairness the replay should start 1-0.

It is one thing to have a replay, but it is another to nullify the results of the previous unfinished game as if it never happened. The advantage is back in Toronto's court in which they can go back work on the things that didn't go well with a lead on aggregate as they scored the away goal in the 1st leg. It's a huge let off for the defending champions were we facing another poor result at home.

As for Vancouver they are left to stew over a game they were winning and a cup that (for now) has eluded them for a fourth straight year. Who must wonder what if at least until the replay on July 2nd.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Reppin' Support Local Soccer

I remember in 2006 when it was officially announced that Toronto was going to have a professional soccer team in the MLS. I was immediately excited and hoped that this would translate to long term success for the Canadian national team.  5 years later, and my excitement for both club and country has not ebbed. However it's a bit disappointing that we still have very poor attendance for Canada games. It also is extremely disappointing when you go to a Canada home game and there are 10,000 more fans of the away side then there are Canadian fans. 

No one could possibly ask you to forget your roots, your parents roots, however when Canada is playing your heart should be here pulling for the Red and White to win.

A few weeks ago Canadian soccer supporters met up at The Football Factory in Toronto to make their feelings heard, and to encourage others to support their country. The result was this video called Support Local Soccer. You may recognize some faces (like mine), you may not, but what's important is the message. Canada play Ecuador on June 1st at BMO Field in Toronto, I'll only have a half hour to get to the game after work but believe me I will be there and I will cheer for the Red and White....will you join me?

If you know anyone who loves soccer and loves Canada please pass this video along, rip it from my site if you have too, but let them know Canada supporters are out there and are waiting for them.

Thank you to creators Ben Rycroft and Duane Rollins for putting this together and giving us supporters and bloggers out there a chance to be heard. To see the site and the comments to the video click this link


Monday, May 23, 2011

United States Gold Cup roster

I know I'll mainly be focusing on Canadian soccer and the CMNT. However since the U.S will be going in as a top 3 favorite, and the CMNT plays them in the opener in June 7th I've posted the 23 man roster announced by head coach Bob Bradley.


GOALKEEPERS (3): Marcus Hahnemann (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Tim Howard (Everton), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

DEFENDERS (8): Carlos Bocanegra (Saint-Etienne), Jonathan Bornstein (UANL Tigres), Steve Cherundolo (Hannover), Clarence Goodson (Brondby), Eric Lichaj (Leeds), Oguchi Onyewu (FC Twente), Tim Ream (New York Red Bulls), Jonathan Spector (West Ham United)

MIDFIELDERS (9): Freddy Adu (Rizespor), Michael Bradley (Aston Villa), Clint Dempsey (Fulham), Landon Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy), Maurice Edu (Rangers), Benny Feilhaber (New England Revolution), Jermaine Jones (Blackburn Rovers), Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht), Robbie Rogers (Columbus Crew)

FORWARDS (3): Juan Agudelo (New York Red Bulls), Jozy Altidore (Bursaspor), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

*Notable omissions: Teal Bunbury, born Canadian, chose the U.S to play more big international games. Charlie Davies, recently returned from a serious car accident, but playing well for MLS side D.C United.


Canada's 2011 Gold Cup roster

Canadian Men's national team head coach Stephen Hart named his 23 man squad for the upcoming CONCACAF Gold Cup. The tournament is CONCACAF's championship and names the top team in the region.

Canada's tournament begins June 7th in Detroit against the hosts United States.

I'll have my reactions to the team a bit later, but here's the full roster with club teams in brackets.

Goalkeepers: Lars Hirschfeld (Valerenga), Haidar Al-Shaibani (Olympique Nimes), Milan Borjan (Rad)

Defenders: Nik Ledgerwood (SV Wehen Wiesbaden), Mike Klukowski, Kevin McKenna (Cologne), Andre Hainault (Houston Dynamo), Jaime Peters (Ipswich Town), Dejan Jakovic (DC United).

Midfielders: Marcel de Jong (Augsburg), Simeon Jackson (Norwich City), Tosaint Ricketts, (Politehnica Timisoara), Pedro Pacheco (Santa Clara), Julian de Guzman (Toronto), Terry Dunfield (Vancouver Whitecaps), Will Johnson (Real Salt Lake), Josh Simpson (Vestel Manisaspor), Atiba Hutchinson (PSV Eindhoven), Jonathan Beaulieu-Bourgault (Preussen Muenster), Issey Nakajima-Farran (Horsens)

Forwards: Rob Friend (Hertha Berlin), Ali Gerba (Montreal Impact), Dwayne De Rosario (New York Red Bulls)


Read more:

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

EPL Goal of the Year

I enjoyed coming up with my favorites at the end of 2010. Now that the EPL season is ending this weekend, I figured I'd present you with some of my end of year favorites and awards.

Today...Goal of the year.

I've already devoted a blog post on this goal but when watching it again, it brings it all home. My EPL goal of the year is the Wayne Rooney over head kick to win the 2nd round of the Manchester derby. Yes as I admitted then I'm a Manchester United supporter and I clearly have personal stakes in this choice...but really if you look at it and the other candidates, it's simply the best.

The key is the technique, especially because the ball from Nani is played behind him. However he adjusts ever so well before leaping up and hitting the ball as perfectly as you possibly can. The fact was Joe Hart has no chance.

(Please click on the link below the player) Video provided by Wat.TV.

A close second was Arsenal's Samir Nasri and his magic in the box, Third Carlos Tevez's free kick goal form Tuesday night.



Monday, May 16, 2011

Penarol show you how to do a Tifo!

Just as I complete my Tifo post yesterday and think I've seen some awesome work, I check my twitter and get this...

Uruguayan power club Penarol create a massive Tifo flag that celebrates the club's 120th birthday. It's 1017 feet by 157 feet and weighs just over two tons. It took over 300 people to carry it!!!!

Click here to read the great post by Andrew Das of the New York Times.

If you don't love this I don't know if you could really love football!


Sunday, May 15, 2011

Manchester United clinch title 19...Wayne Rooney shaves his chest hair.

You can put this  under the What the F!@$k file. Manchester United got the draw they needed to secure their record breaking 19th English league title. It will put them one up on bitter rivals Liverpool and will serve to be one of manager Alex Ferguson's greatest achievements.

It'll also be a massive achievement for one Wayne Rooney. Considering how poorly the the last half of 2010 went for him, this is a god send. So what does a footballer who makes £200,000 a week do when he helps his side clinch another domestic title?

Shave his chest hair into the number of titles they club has won of course!

It should be noted that Rooney grew up in Liverpool, and grew up an Everton supporter so he has no love loss for Pool's tumble from the England summit. But this is....well I have no words for this. Make of this what you want, but this is half funny and half plain weird.

Wazza strikes again!


The Art of the Tifo

An excellent example of a North American Tifo from Seattle.

Among being an avid Football fan and club supporter, I am a massive art fan. However since you will not see me hitting up the next big thing's art exhibit in downtown Toronto anytime soon, I needed a way to meld two of my passions into one. Then I watched a Milan derby game and everything changed.

The game ended up being a fairly comfortable win for AC Milan but what really caught my attention was something that took place even before a single ball was kicked. Up in the Curva Sud, the south end of the San Siro stadium reserved for home supporters (in this case AC Milan) was a large almost canvas like object. The television camera missed it on the first go around; clearly focused on the upcoming match, but when it panned back to the section I could see it as clear as day. What the supporters of Milan had created was a replica of the famous Last Supper painting by Da Vinci, with a twist. Instead of depicting Judas in his place at the table, they replaced him with the likeness of Inter Milan manager Leonardo.

Leonardo probably wasn't expecting this!

As a former AC Milan player now managing "the great enemy within" the parallel was obvious and a bit humorous. However it got me thinking about displays of club support around the world, what kind of time and effort had to go into creating such works of art. I also had to wonder, was this type of art making its way to North American football? What examples were out there? So I began my Internet search and soon found some amazing works of art and passion.

Before I share my favorites I should explain a bit of where this phenomenon came from. From everything I could gather the practice began in Italy, the works were, and still are called Tifo's. The Wiki/dictionary explanation reads:
"Tifo's are mostly used as a name for any spectacular choreography displayed by supporters on the terraces of an arena or stadium in connection with a sport event, Tifos are primarily arranged by Ultras or a supporters group to show their love to the club, but are sometimes sponsored or arranged by the club itself."

From what I've witnessed they are dominant displays of affection and pride towards the home club, or an expression of intimidation or dislike of the opposing club.  Tifo's can be as small as one guy with a simple banner, to massive displays which cost thousands of dollars and take weeks, and in some cases months to prepare. Some have come in the form of large banners with the club logo or crest, others are dependent on supporter participation. In many of these case the supporters are not even affiliated with the supporters group, they just show up that day with a ticket and receive cardboard or paper cut out with instructions.

These types of displays are starting to become more prevalent in the North American game. Seattle and Los Angeles are some of the top clubs in the MLS when it comes to Tifo's. D.C United recently did a touching one for the return of U.S international Charlie Davies from serious injury after a devastating car crash. Toronto FC now have a "Play as we dream" Tifo in the south end of BMO Field. As the game grows and the fan base for these supporters groups grow, you will see the size of tifo's grow in both size and complexity.

And now I present my favorite tifo's:


AC Milan- Best Tifo's going!

Inter are a close second

Tifo for the opening of the 2010 World Cup

At Barcelona they get they whole crowd into it!

French style in Marseille!

The most famous Everton defender Jonny Heitinga will ever be.
Saved the best for last, AC Milan at it again....with flares!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Is Toronto FC the worst team in the MLS?

Saturday was a disaster.

A 3-0 loss is always a better pill to swallow for any team, but for one trying to re-built both on a off the pitch it is extremely harsh. While most Toronto sports fans had their eyes glued to the blood and glory at Rogers Centre Saturday night, a small dedicated group of football supporters gather at bars or around t.v's to watch their ever evolving Reds take on the Sounders in Seattle. What they saw might have sent them to even heaver drinking than when the team plays at home. 

I could go into all the tactical issues that occurred in the game and what exactly went wrong, but the only thing one needs to know is that the fight was not there. Head coach Aron Winter, his coaches and some players described the loss in three words; Embarrassing. Shameful and Frustrating. In all sports; especially in Toronto, the effort is as important as the win. Obviously this town wants a winner, but this town has been without a winner for so long now we can settle for second place until then. This town can even forgive a lack of quality if you give it your all. However what we can't forgive is a poor, spineless effort. Or in the words of Columbus defender Chad Masrshall after last week's 1-1 draw at BMO " This team is not very good". On evidence of the first 8 games of the season, this is the worst team in the league.*

Yes I am aware that Toronto currently does not have the worst points total in the league, that belongs to Sporting Kansas City. However I've watched a few SKC games, and although they lack quality in the midfield... they fight. When I watch TFC go down in a game, I have no sense or feeling that they could mount a come back. Most teams in a situation like that can pour on the pressure and create chances to tie the game. In both Saturday's game and the 3-0 home loss to D.C United a few weekends ago, you had no belief that this team could mount any kind of challenge. The passing was poor, there was no creative spark anywhere on the pitch. Players were afraid to play the ball, which has become a recurring theme for the coaching staff. The defence caved in easily and  maybe the most startling thing, Aron Winter seemed to have no answer.

Granted the team is only 8 games into a 36 game season, so there is a lot of football left to played, and at times they have shown that the system Winter is trying to bring in is starting to sink in. But glaring questions still remain; where are the goals going to come from? who is going to be that creative force in the midfield? (Lets face it De Guzman is not the answer here) Can they strengthen the defence? And  maybe the most important question, when things get really tough; and they will before they get better, Can Aron Winter keep this team motivated?

3 of those 4 questions won't be answered until the European transfer window opens in July.

The fourth maybe answered in the next few weeks, if the recent results continue. I'm not trying to suggest that Winter will be fired anytime soon; but it could potentially derail the continuing installation of the "Dutch" style of play.

*I left an asterisk beside my statement of TFC being the worst club because all of this is still a work in progress. If the club can add two or three quality players to the fold they have the potential of being a very explosive team. They also have have on of the best goal keepers in the MLS in Stefan Frei, so if they can upgrade their defence they could become a much more solid team at the back. But for now these are all ifs, and ifs for a fan base starving for success may not be good enough.