MAPLE LEAF REPORT – CANADIAN SOCCER NEWS
Next month, when Europe is beginning the long qualification process for Euro 2012, Canada will be taking advantage of the International window by playing two home matches.
Toronto’s BMO Field will play host to Peru on September 4th and CONCACAF rivals and 2010 World Cup Finalists Honduras will be the opponent September 7 at Saputo Stadium in Montreal. Both matches will air on Rogers Sportsnet in Canada.
Canada beat Peru 3-1 on Lima, in the only previous meeting between the two sides in 1988.
Honduras will be a more familiar foe, as the Central Americans beat Canada twice in 2010 World Cup qualifying and knocked the Maple Leaf’s out of the 2009 Gold Cup at the quarterfinal stage.
The matches will serve as a mixed blessing for Canadian supporters. No doubt, there is plenty top be excited for as Canada has made a concerted effort to schedule matches and build a better, more competitive team in the CONCACAF region, with the end goal being qualifying for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The friendlies, however, come at an awkward time for MLS clubs as well as European sides.
Manager Steven Hart will have to perform a bit of a dance, as he has been told by the clubs of his European based players to give them sparing minutes, this is significant as15 of the 20 players picked for the squad are European based players on international break.
32-year-old Canadian stalwart, Paul Stalteri will be in the side as will 19-year-old Adam Straith, both of whom play their club ball in Germany.
“It’s essential that we create some depth,” Hart stated in a press conference. “If you look at the Argentina game it was very hard to put a squad together and quite frankly in a lot of positions we simply didn’t have the necessary depth.”
Canada lost to Argentina 5-0 in the run-up to the World Cup, last May.
“Going into the qualifications for [the 2014 World Cup] I want to be sure in my mind, and all of the players are aware of positionally, what is required and what we’re trying to do and how they fit into the squad.”
The roster problem is compounded by the fact that the matches could not come at a more inopportune time for Canadian MLS side Toronto FC. The Reds are in a battle to qualify for their first-ever MLS post-season and are knee-deep in CONCACAF Champions League action.
Adrian Cann, who has been a standout on the TFC backline in his first season, was left off the squad for those very reasons, and Hart admitted as much in the press conference.
“I didn’t want to go in there in the middle of a season where MLS does not [take a break] for international games … and ask TFC for [another player],” Hart admitted.
Preki’s boys having been playing midweek matches since the season began with friendlies, Nutrilite Canadian Championship matches, and CONCACAF Champions League preliminary round and group stage matches all soaking up Tuesday and Wednesday nights.
The Reds are to play FC Dallas in Frisco the day of the Peru Friendly and play Chicago Fire, another team in a heated battle for playoff points, the day after the Honduras friendly.
Two very capable young players who have been on Steven Hart’s radar for an initial call-up to the national team have declined the opportunity for a first cap.
Teal Bunbury, who plays for MLS side Kansas City Wizards and David Hoilett who plays for Blackburn Rovers in the Premier League are both fighting to get regular time at their clubs, and didn’t want to sacrifice the possibility by playing internationally at this stage. Both players also have an opportunity to play for other countries. Bunbury can opt to play for the United States if he so desires, and the same applies to Hoilett for Jamaica.
1- GK- Lars Hirschfeld – Vålerenga Fotball
22- GK- Haidar Al-Shaïbani – Nîmes Olympique
2 – Nana Attakora-Gyan – Toronto FC
4 – Dejan Jakovic – DC United
7 – Paul Stalteri – Borussia Monchengladbach
18-Adam Straith – Energie Cottbus (GER)
3 – Marcel de Jong – FC Augsburg (GER)
11-Issey Nakajima-Farran – AC Horsens (DEN)
12-Jaime Peters – Ipswich Town FC
6 – Julian de Guzman – Toronto FC
8 – Will Johnson – Real Salt Lake
13-Atiba Hutchinson – PSV Eindhoven
15-Josh Simpson – Vestel Manisaspor (TUR)
20-Patrice Bernier – FC Nordsjælland (DEN)
16-Gianluca Zavarise – Iraklis FC (GRE)
9 – Rob Friend – Hertha Berlin
10-Simeon Jackson – Norwich City FC
5- F- Kevin McKenna – FC Köln
17-Iain Hume – Barnsley FC (ENG)
14-Dwayne De Rosario – Toronto FC
It has been a busy season at Toronto FC, a team that went into the 2010 season with a new manager and a tiny roster. More than this, the remaining players salaries had the Red’s in a position where roster additions would push the club beyond the salary cap.
Now, into the fourth full month of the Major League Soccer Season, Toronto’s has success, but that success has come from outside the league.
Toronto FC have already won the 2010 Nutrilite Canadian Championship, and progressed past the Preliminary Round of the CONCACAF Champions League. Both the NCC and the preliminary round were hard fought affairs and Preki constantly had to mix his line-ups to avoid losing ground in the MLS tables.
In addition to line-up juggling, Preki has made significant roster moves to bolster his squad for all it’s competitions. Adrian Caan and Nana Attakora have been a formidable pairing in the center of the Toronto defense, and the addition of designated player Mista, though significant, has yet to bear serious fruit.
On the other side of the salary scale, TFC this week have signed their first-ever Academy player in the form of 17-year-old Doneil Henry. Far from a new addition to the roster, Henry played for TFC in the NCC and The Champions League already. A defender with raw potential, the Toronto native of Jamaican descent, will take his place in a TFC side that will need depth down the stretch.
With 20 matches of 30 played in the league, TFC sit 2 points out of their coveted first playoff appearance. The schedule, however, does not get any lighter.
CONCACAF Champions League fixtures dominate the midweeks, and after playing two matches, the Reds sit tied for first place (and last place) on 3 points, along with the three other teams in Group A; fellow MLS side Real Salt Lake, Ariabe Unido and Mexican power Cruz Azul.
TFC beat Cruz Azul at BMO Field last week to secure a crucial three points, but lost in Panama to Ariabe Unido.
Three more midweek matches in September, will make it difficult for Toronto to gain significant ground in the MLS playoff chase.
VANCOUVER AND MONTREAL
Vancouver Whitecaps sit atop the NASL Conference of the USSF D-2, 5-points clear of Carolina with Montreal in third three-points behind the Railhawks, going into the weekend.
The ‘Caps have played one more match than Carolina, but if they can hang on to the top spot, Vancouver will win the automatic 2 seed that comes with winning the NASL conference.
The Impact sit 6th overall in the playoff positioning but have two games in hand on Vancouver.
Vancouver has 6 games remaining in league play and Montreal has 5.
NASL CANADIAN EXPANSION UPDATE
Hamilton has officially petitioned the North American Soccer League for entry into the league for the 2013 season.
Bob Young, owner of the Canadian Football League’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats and the NASL’s Carolina Railhawks has submitted a formal application to the league.
A requirement for entry into the NASL is a soccer specific stadium, and Hamilton is scheduled to build one that will host as many as 30 soccer matches for the 2015 Pan-Am Games, scheduled for Toronto. BMO Field and Varsity Field in Toronto will not be able to meet the need for so many soccer matches and the overflow is expected to be played at the new stadium.
The problem all along has been the site of the new stadium. The city prefers West Harbour area, where they have waterfront property ready to house the new stadium. Young and the Tiger-Cats prefer the East Mountain site which is closer in proximity to the airport and the Red Hill Expressway.
The Hamilton bid also comes complete with it’s own soccer academy, which will offer coaching and instructional clinics to all levels of participants, from the beginner to the elite level player.
Regardless of the stadium battle, Young was all smiles when he made the announcement at the end of July.
“This is a tremendous day for the hundreds of thousands of men, women and children in the City of Hamilton and our great southwestern Ontario region who are directly involved in amateur soccer and the millions more who passionately enjoy the world’s game as a spectator. The legacy of professional soccer and an academy to train amateur and recreational players as well as Hamilton’s professionals of the future will have a measurable impact in our community for generations.”
In Ottawa, two different ownership groups have submitted bids to be accepted into the NASL. John Pugh, owner of the USL Premier Development League’s Ottawa Fury has tabled a bid as has local developer Neil Malhotra.
It is uncertain whether either of the Ottawa bids are associated with the split opinion about what location in the city should house a new stadium. This issue was a key element in the failure of Ottawa’s MLS expansion bid.
Also uncertain is where the Hamilton bid or either of the Ottawa bids fall in under the new USSF D-2 requirements for entry and there statements that the Division 2 sanction should be targeted at teams based in the United States.
Next year’s North American Soccer league Expansion team FC Edmonton will complete their exhibition season tonight with a match against NASL cellar-dwellers Miami FC at Foote Field.
All told, the exhibition season was a resounding success for the Alberta newcomers. Losing only to Chilean club Colo-Colo (4-3) and English side Portsmouth (2-1).
The wins will far outweigh the losses, as FCE beat fellow Canadian NASL side Montreal Impact 3-0 to start pout their campaign. The new boys clobbered their PDL rivals 22-1 over three matches.
One thing that is sure is the team has a solid base of players and technical staff, they may not compete for the NASL Championship in 2011 but they will be competitive.
Is it a coincidence that both losses for the team came at Commonwealth stadium? Is there some kind of higher power telling the side to avoid the venue? Possibly, but tiny Foote Field may not be a long term answer either.
“We have to have a new stadium,” FC Edmonton owner Tom Fath told the Edmonton Sun. “Once the season is finished we’re going to begin to do a lot of work toward making that happen.”
“We’re probably going to play all our games at Foote Field (in 2011). We’re going to find a way to put in more seating for next year. It’s not the facility we need but it has a nice environment and I think we can improve that environment. We’re better off to be there.
“But we need a soccer specific stadium. We knew that when we started this but we were thinking three to five years. I thought three to five years would be no big deal. But now I know that sooner is far better than later.
“The city needs a stadium between the size of Commonwealth and Foote Field and Clarke Park. We’ve got a lot of things to figure out. But we’re starting to look at different options. For the long run we can’t continue playing at any one of those locations.”