Saturday, September 3, 2011

Ooh Ah Canada! A 4-1 win over St.Luca to help calm the nerves

For those for those of you who live in Toronto and did not attend the Canadian Men's National Team's (CMNT) 4-1 victory last night against St.Lucia, you missed a special evening. The stadium was not at capacity, but if you were standing outside BMO you would have thought it was ram packed. The atmosphere from the Canadian supporters in the south end was absolutely amazing. Last night was my first opportunity to watch a Canada match from that end of the stadium and I must admit it was an incredible experience. A major factor in that made the experience so memorable was the fact that the majority of the fans were Canadian supporters.

It has been well documented in the past that matches played in Toronto lack home support. Aside from the Voyageurs and the TFC supporters groups who always turn out in their numbers for CMNT games, the crowd tends to be tilted in favour of the away side. A case in point would be Canada's Pre Gold Cup friendly against Ecuador in early June. I was at that game stuck in a section that was 99% Ecuador supporters. Out of the announced attendance of just over 10,000, 90% of those were supporting the away side. What made last night so special was the fact that people of all races and ethnic backgrounds were in the supporters end legitimately supporting Canada. It is a reflection of the current Canadian urban landscape and a refreshing site to see in a city that at times can be quite divided.

Josh Simpson (Centre) celebrating the opening goal.

As for the match itself, Canada dominated with large amount of the game spent in the attacking end. It was clear that they were playing a side in St.Lucia that had a large amount of Semi-Pro players who did not have the conditioning to sustain the pace Canada set. Although Canada eventually put four behind the St.Luca keeper, head coach Stephen Hart will have some concerns heading into Tuesday's match at Puerto Rico. After winger Josh Simpson opened the scoring in the 6th minute, the Canadian back line when to sleep and immediately gave up the tying goal on a wonderfully struck 30 yard shot. The Canadian defenders did a poor job of closing down the St.Lucian midfielder, and keeper Lars Hirschfeld did not cover the proper angles on the shot. However that would have been the only real defensive complaint, the left and right backs for Canada were so far up the pitch they should have considered proper wingers.

Going forward Canada looked sharp, although they at times lacked wide play. Especially down the right in the first half in which there was a lot of space to create chances. The attacking trio of  Simeon Jackson, Dwayne DeRosario and Josh Simpson worked very well along side central midfielder Julian De Guzman. Granted St.Luca were abject at the back, but these are the type of games Canada must to assert its dominance in order to progress to the next round of World Cup qualifying. The road to the next stage is clear, they must win this group to advance. With remaining home and away games against the aforementioned  Puerto Rico and St Kits, plus one more away game at St.Luca this is a group Canada should win.

And a opening match 4-1 thrashing goes a long way to establishing that claim.


Thursday, September 1, 2011

5 really good transfers that flew under the radar

It's always interesting to step back and look at the business clubs made at the end of the busy summer transfer window. The high priced, star laden transfers always get the attention, however it's always good to look further down the transfer list and find those potential diamonds in the rough. Who knew that after his low cost 6 million pound move, Javier Hernandez would turn out the way he did in his first season at Old Trafford? Who knew that Seamus Coleman and not Marouane Fellaini would be Everton's best buy in 2009?

So here they are my 5 best low key buys of the 2011 summer transfer window:

5) Joel Campbell - ST - Deportivo Sapressa (Costa Rica)  to Arsenal (ENG) - Loaned to FC Lorient (FRA)
The Young 19 year old shone at both the CONCACAF Gold Cup and Copa America in his first major senior team tournaments for Costa Rica. However it was his play at the U-20 level that had scouts after the 5'10 striker. 10 goals in 13 games at that level helped propel him to a 5 year deal at Arsenal. Manager Arsene Wenger knowing Campbell needed game time to grow used his French connections and loaned Campbell to FC Lorient, who will have space to play him with the loss of France international Kevin Gamero. If Campbell can adapt to European football his finishing ability could help the Brittany club move up the Ligue 1 table.

4) Ireneusz Jelen - ST - AJ Auxerre (FRA) to Lille (FRA)
While most of the news for the French champions on transfer deadline day was surrounding the loan signing of former England international Joe Cole, a less talked about move was the free transfer for the Polish international Jelen. Coming off the back of a disappointing 2010-11 season with only 5 goals, Jelen will be eager to prove he can get back to the form that saw him score 14 goals for an over achieving Auxerre side in two straight seasons before 2010-11. If Jelen is back to full fitness he has the track record of scoring goals in Ligue 1, and could prove to be the man that can replace the Arsenal bound Gervinho.

3) Davide Santon - DEF - Internazionale (ITA) to Newcastle (ENG)
This move originally looked like a loan deal, but became a full buy the day before the window shut. Santon showed a lot of promise under Jose Mourhino's reign at Inter, however he has since lost his way a little. What we have to remember about Santon is that he's only 20 and he will make mistakes. Aside from a goalkeeper, learning how to be a top notch defender takes time. Santon has an abundance of skill and talent, and if he can adjust to the rigours of the Premier League should be a very good left back.

2) Jonathan De Guzman - MID - Mallorca (ESP) to Villareal (ESP)
Putting aside my "He should be playing for Canada not the Dutch" hat for a second. This is a wonderful pick up for Villareal. De Guzman has excellent vision, creative fair and an eye for goal. The 23 year old was a constant highlight for a Mallorca team that fell short of it's high spending expectations last season. Helping to fill the creative boots for the departed Sani Carzola will be difficult, however Jonathan has all the skill to succeed at El Madrigal. He will be expected to help feed goal machine Giuseppe Rossi as well as add a few goals of his own. De Guzman will also get the opportunity to showcase his skills in Champions League this season which will serve as extra motivation.

1) Shane Long - ST - Reading (ENG) to West Bromwich Albion (ENG)

Surprise! I know this won't be the sexiest choice as number 1, but I was looking at which player will walk into the club and make a difference right away. After watching Long in the championship last year and his first 3 Premier League games this season I believe he's a player. Considering most of the West Brom news this summer focused on the contact saga of star striker Peter Odermwingie, Shane Long's signing was seen as a  scenario in which he backed up Odermwingie. The qualities he has that a lot of new signings into the Premier League do not is the pace, strength and conditioning required to compete at that level. He also has a great strike rate, and has already scored in two of the Baggies three games this season. No one including I are fancying him for the English Golden Boot...yet, but he could become a future contender.

As always these lists are of my own choosing and feeling. Feel free to rip it apart and come up with your own 5 under the radar transfers.


Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Full Transfer Lists

Owen Hargreaves
Hargreaves to Man city...Will he be able to show his fitness as the 7th best midfielder?

I'll have some reactions to transfer deadline day, as I like a few moves but not others.

I've added a full transfer list courtesy of You can filter by league. Enjoy!


Monday, August 29, 2011

The plight of the TFC supporter

In the 75th minute you could feel the anxiety in the air, the sense of ininevitability that 1-0 just wasn't enough. 

At the 85th minute Saturday night you could have come up with about 100 different cliches to describe TFC's capitulation of its slender one goal lead. Granted TFC were robbed of a goal as Joao Plata was clearly onside when he seemingly put the Reds two up.

By the 90th minute you could see the frustration on both supporter and player faces alike.

Another defensive collapse, another performance that went begging, another lead squandered. This has been the 5 year story of a Toronto FC supporter. For those who are not up to speed on the events of the last four years, watching one match can give you glimpse into the disarray of the club. From the consistent movement players in and out of the club, to the ineffective management on and off the pitch, all the way to the shockingly bad scouting of player talent. It is been clear for sometime that something fundamentally is, and has been from day one wrong with the club. There is no one thing that you can point your finger at, no single smoking gun that explains the poor results on the pitch. There are several things mainly behind the scenes that have caused this. However this blog post is not dedicated to those reasons, this is dedicated the the loyal almost to a fault TFC supporter.

This blogger does not sit in the south end (Still on the waiting list...and will probably will be there for awhile) however he's watched just about very TFC game there has been either live when it was still nearly impossible to get tickets, and now when you can walk up to the box office. On T.V when it was carried, online through at times terrible feeds with massive lag times. I've skipped work for games, brushed off dates with ex-girlfriends to be home to catch a game (Hence the ex). I've even hung outside BMO on days I could get match tickets just so I could hear the game and the crowd and feel a part of things. I've watched the team get completely thrashed 5-0, I've watched heartbreaking 1-0 defeats in which the losing goal was scored in the 92nd minute....and I came back for more. But after 5 years for losing football and no chance of the playoff come August, as the reality is TFC will not make the playoffs again this year, you have to much more of this can one take?

The club now seems to be on the right path towards building a winner. A strong emphasis on youth and the academy has always been the key to strong long lasting sides. The senior squad under manager Aron Winter are playing, at least offensively a more attractive style of football. However this style of rebuilding takes time, a long time and do TFC supporters have the patience to wait? This town is craving for a winner, and the first team that does it will win the hearts of the people, TFC had the chance right away. Duane Rollins made a good point in his post today on, those who were 27 when the club started are now 32 with kids. Renewing TFC season tickets will not be on the top list of priorities, nor should it, and frankly my age group (I'm 28) may not have money to afford to spend on a losing football club. I personally will be there, along with many of the die hard supporters, but that may only fill one end of BMO field, what about the rest of the stadium? Will people care enough if the rest of this season is a dud?

The crowds this year have been falling short of previous years, it was evident at the home opener something was different. Even for the notoriously late arriving Toronto crowd you could see the games was not a clear sellout. The trend has continued through out the year, with some Canadian Championship games only drawing 10-12,000 people. After the end of last season it was clear that some casual fans had enough, for them the side show was over. Depending on how this season ends a lot more casual fans may just say forget it when they get the season's tickets call from their sales rep. Contrary to what is shown on the televised games or the ticket packages, the casual fan is the key to TFC's success. The die hard soccer fans in Toronto were always going to come out in numbers, but those numbers are small compared to the amount of so called "part-time supporters" who fill out the rest of the stadium. It seems that MLSE and TFC believe that the good times would always role at BMO as long as they could keep the ticket prices reasonable and the Carsburg flowing. However this part-time supporter is smarter than that, pints are fun but winning along with those pints make the experience worth coming back for.

So what now...what will make BMO continue to rock like it has these past 5 year come 2012? Winning for one will help but the question is how and will the club take the steps to do that? It seems that Director of Player Development Paul Mariner along with Winter and the rest of the player staff are up for the task. But TFC supporters have heard all this before. All the promises, all the changes all the fancy ads and new kits. However there is only one thing that will matter, the signing of quality players who want to be here and the successful implementation of Aron Winter's vision on the pitch.

This is the plight of the TFC supporter, this is when you find out who'll stand up and who'll fade away.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Is Jose losing the plot?

When football supporters think about the El Classico many envision football being played at its highest level. Wonderful passing, excellent tactics, and intense play. Last season the age long Barcelona v Real Madrid derby had a new dimension added to it with the appointment of the "special one" José Mourinho as Madrid manager. His tactical ability having beaten Barca in the previous year's Champions League semi final on the way to the trophy, was the key selling point on Madrid's decision to hire him. His goals were clear, Win the Champions League, and just as important if not more, beat Barcelona. 7 games later and the plans is now going so well.

What was Jose thinking?...And who is that freaky dude in the backgroud?

His actions over these past 7 games has been puzzling at times and down right crazy at others. From not speaking to the media, to berating refs, to calling Barca's victories over his team a part of a conspiracy involving, UEFA, the Spanish football federation and even UNICEF....yes that UNICEF. It's become clear Mr. Mourinho does not handling losing very well. However the scene at the Camp Nou last Tuesday of Jose eye gouging Barcelona assistant coach Tito Villanova was a step too far even for a manager of his stature.  I'm not going to pretend to know what exactly happened to make Mourinho want to pop his thumb in another man's eye, but regardless of the "series of provocations and insults from the Barca bench" as Madrid's higher ups are calling it, he must do better.

I don't truly believe he's cracking up under the pressure of managing the Real Madrid, but I do believe he has a serious problem handling defeat. And not just a 1-0 shock loss kind of defeat, but the kind in which his tactics are well beaten by another manager.

Today he released an open letter on the Madrid site apologizing to Los Blancos fans, but funny enough not to the guy who's eye he thumbed. In fact he went on to mention the  "hypocrisy in football" and those who "hide their faces and speak in whispers deep inside tunnels". Your guess is as good as mine in regards to what whispers and tunnels he speaks of or which hypocrisy is out there to get him and the club this time. Yes, he faces a 12 match ban... but he poke a man in the eye...Jose that's not hypocrisy, that's punishment that fits your crime. 

He may not be losing it, but he's on the verge of damaging a reputation as a solid manager and a master tactician. Keeping these two components in tact will be key if he wishes to return to England as he has mentioned in the past.