They really should have put one in their own net just for the symbolism of it. I mean, 8-0 is nice – historic, even – but 8-1 would have been a delicious result in the first competitive game of John Herdman’s men’s coaching career.
If you’re reading this site, I don’t need to explain why.
Alas, the Red and White played it straight and find themselves solidly in second place of the CONCACAF Nations League qualification after most of match-day one is completed.
The plus 8 is the vital number here. As I wrote Friday, there are some games where the sports clichés don’t factor. This was one. The US Virgin Islands, as they currently stand, would never beat Canada. Never. It doesn’t matter that the ball is round. It was literally impossible that they could win. The talent gap was that great.
What they might have done, however, was hold Canada to a relatively small score – say 3-0 or 4-0. That doesn’t sound that bad, but in this format the big teams need to beat the minnows up. Otherwise they could easily find themselves on 10 points and out of group A (since the pot A teams play each other any team with 12 points will be guaranteed a spot in the top group once the full competition starts).
So, Canada needed to run the score and run the score they did.
Beating up USVI isn’t to be taken too seriously, but it is refreshing to have seen Canada so quickly get off the mark. That’s not always been this countries strong suit, after all.
There haven’t been a lot of surprises thus far in the Nations League, but it has proven to be a lot of fun. As previously stated, this is about getting consistent games for countries that have struggled to book friendlies in the past.
It’s also Gold Cup qualifying and although Canada would have to bomb in unimaginable ways to bring that into play, the expanded format of the 2019 tournament could make for some great drama towards the back end. A country like Saint Lucia, who won 3-0 this week, is suddenly in the mix and we should not dismiss how important it would be for a nation like that to make a Gold Cup.
All in all it was a good weekend for Canada and CONCACAF.
The controversy in Ottawa this week is distracting Canadian soccer fans from what will mark John Herdman’s competitive debut as manager of the men’s national team. That’s maybe for the best, as the first game is hardly a page turner. The US Virgin Islands haven’t played a game since 2016 and have been outscored 14-0 in the last two games they played.
USVI has won five games in its history, three of which have come against the British Virgin Islands in what I do hope is called the Virgin Derby.
They do not have a single professional on the roster. The highest level any of the players are at would be either Marshall University or the NPSL’s Dallas City.
This is arguably the weakest team Canada has ever faced in its history. It’s no hyperbole to suggest that you could field a stronger side by taking to top players from Toronto’s TSSL. Hell, you might not even need to take the top ones.
The weakness of the match-up is likely why John Herdman is lukewarm about the CONCACAF Nations League. It’s hard to see what Canada gains from playing this game. And, this is not time for the peanut gallery to chime in about how you can’t take anything for granted and any team can upset another, etc. That’s not actually true. The gap is that large. The only question will be how big the victory is.
However, it would be wrong to dismiss the Nations League’s importance based on this game. Even if Canada somehow completely bottles this classification period they still won’t be anywhere close to playing these types of teams again. This is the one and only match up they’ll get with the absolute bottom of CONCACAF. The worse shape Canada will realistically be in next year is in Group B, which will be against the Saint Kitts and Nevis and Guadeloupes of the world.
Best case is a home and home with the US or Mexico next year. That’s a realistic outcome as the top 12 nations will be in league A. Even after 8-1, Canada was still in the top 12.
Most people understand how important it will be to blood the young Canadian players in Central America and the Nations League provides the opportunity to do just that. San Pedro Sula? Bring it. Please.
Beyond Canada, the Nations League will also help countries like the US Virgin Islands by simply giving them games. Once they settle into the bottom group they’ll play competitive games against competition that is suited for them. The hope is that they’ll improve to the point where if there is a next time that Canada has to play them there might actually be a slight chance of the upset.
That’s probably a while away, but it’s nice to see CONCACAF addressing this issue, which has been around for a long time. The truth is they aren’t asking the bigger nations to sacrifice much. The US and Mexico will still have plenty of windows available to book glamor friendlies (and will probably get a competitive game against each other in the Nations League every year). Basically, everyone wins.
So, sit back and enjoy a rare stress free game involving Canada on Sunday. Bet the over.
Multiple sources in the CanPL and in Canadian soccer have confirmed that the Ottawa Fury will struggle to be sanctioned after 2019, if not sooner.
“Who is going to sanction them,” one source said? “They may get a ‘pity’ sanction for 2019, but beyond that?”
Another person working in the game suggested that the CSA will be reluctant to directly challenge the Fury, but that they are working behind closed doors to challenge the legitimacy of the club playing in the US-based USL.
“They won’t say anything publicly, but they are hoping CONCACAF steps in.”
The suggestion is that CONCACAF may ban teams outside the top flight from participating in leagues outside their country. This would be in reaction to not just the Canadian situation, but also in the Caribbean where several teams have attached themselves to US leagues now and in the past. There is a movement within CONCACAF to create a D1 pan-Caribbean league and having clubs play in the US makes that more challenging. This could offer an opportunity to stop the practice moving forward.
It’s also difficult to justify the three Canadian MLS teams, if you ban teams from below the top flight. Especially if, as the CSA has suggested, the CanPL is launched as a Division 1 league. It would seem that at the very least you would need to acknowledge that CanPL is a D2 league, if you were to allow TFC, the Whitecaps and Impact to remain in the American league, while barring Ottawa entry into USL.
Not everyone believes the CSA is ready to take the so-called “nuclear option” of denying sanctioning. There is a significant amount of people that are hoping that the Fury can be convinced to join the league, although everyone I spoke to today agrees that the likelihood of that happening for 2019 is close to zero.
Regardless, it is clear that the idea that the CSA and CanPL are supportive of the Fury’s choice, as has been reported in Ottawa, is completely false. It is possible that the Fury will be allowed to play 2019 in USL, but it will not be with the blessing of the governing body. The best the Fury can hope for is the CSA’s silence.
The Ottawa Fury are bailing on the Canadian Premier League. The longest standing Canadian D2 team said today that although they wished the CanPL well, they wanted to remain in the USL for the foreseeable future.
In essence, they wanted to let others do the heavy lifting of growing the league while they play it ultra conservative and absurdly safe.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, this isn’t going to be a balanced article.
This was a short-sighted and selfish decision that in no way helps Canadian soccer or, in my opinion, the Ottawa Fury. Instead of getting into an exciting new project at the ground floor and playing in a league against markets that resonate with their fan base (and potentially having the possibility of qualifying into the CCL preliminary league) the Fury are going to stick with exciting and intense rivalry match-ups with the likes of Penn FC and New York Red Bulls II.
Oh, and remain the Montreal Impact’s farm team, likely. Ottawa, after all, likes to be subservient to other Canadian cities. But, hey! The RedBlacks are good. OSEG has got that going for them, right?!
The true shame here is at the player level. Ottawa has done a great job bringing in Canadian talent this year. The thinking was that they were setting themselves up for entry into the league*. Now, those players will either leave Ottawa or play in a league that will be at a lower standard than what the CanPL intends to be at.
Let me repeat that. CanPL will be at a higher standard than USL. Quickly, if not immediately.
*There is some rumblings that the biggest roadblock Ottawa had with CanPL is a gulf in opinion over how many contracts could be grandfathered into the league. We’ll discuss this more on this week’s Two Solitudes.
The biggest question from here is what the CSA is going to do. In the past, the CSA has suggested that they would not sanction teams below the MLS level if there is a Canadian equivalent. However, that was when Victor Montagliani was running the show and since he’s left the power seems to have shifted back to the board from the president’s office. And the board isn’t as hardcore about things as Victor was.
Also at question is whether Ottawa will be invited into the Voyageurs Cup next year. Denying enter into the competition could prove to be a middle ground punishment to encourage teams to leave America leagues. It would also be a good way to justify excluding the PDL teams, if the CSA still wishes to exclude them.
The full nuclear option the CSA has is to completely deny sanctioning. That would effectively kill the team. Chances are they’d like to avoid that, but do not ignore the possibility.
It’s going to be interesting…
Toronto FC lost the game, but won the battle last night in Monterrey. Despite losing 3-2 on the night, the Reds advanced to the CONCACAF Champions League semi-finals for the second time in its history, drawing 4-4 and advancing on the away goals rule.
For a more analytic/tactical breakdown of the game, you can listen to the Sober Second Thoughts podcast, which was recorded minutes after the final whistle, or to Kevin Laramee and my thoughts on today's SoccerToday. But, this article is going to attempt to put the game and tie in perspective. Where does it rank in terms of TFC's greatest nights?
In this week's The Big List we rank to top 17* TFC results:
(*The Big List doesn't restrict itself to 10...)
No 17 - July 27, 2013 -- Weids in the rain -- Toronto 2, Columbus 1
The game didn't mean anything. At all. Unless you were there and stuck it out in the rain. When Andrew Wiedeman, the greatest finisher of the modern era, slid that goal in to end the misery of a 12 game winless streak in MLS and an oh-for-life streak against the Crew...man, it was the medicine many of us needed in that otherwise terrible 2013 season.
No 16 -- March 28, 2012 -- The Rumble at BMO -- Toronto FC 1, Santos Laguna 1
It was only the first leg and they didn't even win, but this was a game that had everything -- JDG's best game as a Red, a villain in Herc Gomez, false hope and, of course, a brawl at the final whistle. Maybe the funnest game ever played at BMO Field.
No 15 -- Oct. 20, 2007 - PITCH INVASION! - Toronto 2, New England 2
2007 was special. For many of us it's remembered as fondly as a first summer love -- it wasn't perfect and there were as many lows as highs, but the highs were so amazing. And it ended on a magical fall day when a club hero scored a stoppage time goal to cap off a two goal come back draw and a love affair that remains to this day. And a pitch invasion for a draw!
No 14 -- March 14, 2012 -- The worst champions in the world -- Toronto 2, Galaxy 1
Everyone remembers the Dome game -- and understandably so, it was the game that probably kept TFC relevant in the market through a lot of bad years -- but they didn't win the tie with the 2-2 home draw. They did that -- unexpectedly -- in LA a week later.
No 13 -- July 11, 2012 - Tassels Revenge -- Toronto 3, Vancouver 2
Another game that meant nothing much in he grad scheme of things, but man was it fun. A virtual Greek tragedy, it looked like TFC had blown it again when Darren Mattocks jumped over the CN Tower to score a stoppage goal equalizer. But then Terry Dunfield -- known lovingly as Tassels by many TFC fans -- ensured he'd never have to buy a drink in Toronto a gain with one of the most fondly remembered game winners of all time.
No 12 -- March 13, 2018 -- Wait, we won? -- Toronto 2, Tigres 3
Yesterday's game was an epic, no doubt, that featured an all world free kick, bizarre own goal and one very CONCACAF penalty call. Ultimately the collective 4-4 aggregate series would probably rank in the top 5 all-time, but in isolation this game falls outside top 10 because they did ultimately lose it.
No 11 -- June 29, 2016 -- Poor, poor Vancouver -- Toronto 1, Whitecaps 2
Will Johnson broke his leg while scoring a goal that won the Voyageurs Cup (on away goals) over snakebitten Vancouver on the last kick of the game. It was the start of a magically 18 month run of winning for TFC.
No 10 -- Oct 14, 2015 -- PLAYOFFS! YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT PLAYOFFS?! -- Toronto 2, Red Bulls 1
After nine frustrating, infuriating, bizarre and impossibly bad seasons TFC clinched its first playoff appearance. Good thing nothing else was happening in Toronto sports that night.
No 9 -- October 18, 2011 -- Where did that come from??? -- Toronto 3, Dallas 0
Completely out of nowhere a truly terrible TFC team that was having an awful season went to Dallas -- a stadium they never win in -- and smoked FC Dallas 3-0 to advance the CCL quarterfinals. Those CCL runs were what kept interest in the team alive through the dark years. This win is underappreciated in TFC history.
No 8 -- Nov 22, 2016 -- Gagner la Bataille; Perdre la Guerre -- Toronto 2, Montreal 3
The Montreal Impact had scored six straight playoff goals against Toronto. 50,000 Montreal fans were having a laugh at the clowns. Then Michael Bradley decided that enough was enough and the dark clouds faded away. The Impact have feared clowns ever since.
No 7 -- May 12, 2007 -- The 24th Minute -- Toronto 3, Chicago 1
The team's first goal, first win and first cult hero born all on the same day.
No 6 -- June 27, 2017 -- The forgotten trophy -- Toronto 2, Montreal 1
Lost in the excitement of TFC winning MLS Cup and Supporters Shield last year was the V-Cup win, which arguably was the most exciting game of the season. The stadium was as loud when Giovinco scored the late winner than at any time in the playoffs.
No 5. -- Nov 29, 2017 -- When Toronto Needed a Hero -- Toronto 1, Columbus 0
Maybe Luke Wilman's greatest call of his career -- "When Toronto FC needed a hero, Jozy Altidore delivers." Also, you can't win the MLS Cup if you don't make it there.
No 4 -- June 18, 2009 -- The Miracle in Montreal -- Toronto 6, Montreal 1
The undisputed No 1 on the list for most of TFC's history, the day TFC needed to score five goals to win and did (while adding another for good measure) will forever remain part of the club's lore. Also, TFC's first trophy was won that night.
No 3 -- March 6, 2018 -- To be the best you've gotta beat the best -- Toronto 2, Tigres 1
The first leg win -- and especially the way it happened, coming from behind and with a local player scoring the winner -- is going to be high on this list forever. It was the best team TFC has ever beaten and one of the best night's in BMO Field's history.
No 2 -- Nov 30, 2017 -- &^$&#&$!!11!1!! -- Toronto 5, Montreal 2
Without a doubt the most exciting, emotionally draining, insane night that any of us will likely ever experience at BMO Field. The memories of that night will last a lifetime. But, it can't be No 1 because...
No 1 -- Dec 9, 2017 -- Campioni! -- Toronto 2, Seattle 0
Let's not be cute. It's going to be hard to ever displace this one from top spot.
What is the only country in the world to have hosted ever FIFA event in both the men's and women's game?
It's just a trivia question, but one that the Canadian Soccer Association badly wants to be the answer to. As of right now that answer is no one. If the United Bid of 2026 wins the day, Canada will lay claim to winning a race that no one else realized they were running (if we conveniently consider the 2002 Women's u19 event the current FIFA Women's U17 World Cup that is, but let's not get bogged down in literal facts right now).
The idea that this frozen land of ice hockey loving hosers that call the game soccer could possibly be the first to host every potential event is a compelling one and one that will get trotted out a lot in the build up to the bid vote and (hopefully for the CSA) over the eight year preparation for hosting.
The dream of landing the big prize of the men's World Cup has been openly talked about in Canadian soccer circles for at least a decade and work on a bid has been ongoing for far longer than most people realize. However, it was only in recent years that the CSA was convinced to drop their solo bid and instead attach their hopes to the United States where they are very much a minor partner along with Mexico.
It was really a path of least resistance for Canada. The US obviously has some incredible infrastructure advantages that neither Canada or Mexico can match, without building new stadiums themselves. Although Canada could build the stadiums -- We're rich. We could -- in today's political climate getting stadiums built with public funds is an exceptionally difficult thing to do.
But, also in today's political climate the United States has elected a man who is...let's call him divisive. That shouldn't offend any of his supporters that might read this, as they value that divisiveness.
That's their choice, but what matters here is that those who did not chose, or have a choice, to elect Donald Trump President do have a vote in the election to chose the 2026 World Cup host.
And, many of those people do not appreciate Trump calling their country a shithole, as he was perceived to have done last month.
There's no sense being coy about this. Trump is an obstacle to the bid winning. Canadian soccer has attached itself to the Trump Train, whether it wanted to or not.
And the train could throw the bid straight off the tracks.
When Morocco launched its bid to upset the United 2026 bid few gave it any chance. Now, however, many people are starting to do the math and are getting very nervous. As much as the ExCo voting structure was a mess that gave us Qatar and Russia, it was a little more predictable. The new one country, one vote system is a bit of a mystery.
That said, some math:
United Bid --
Nearly sure thing: CONCACAF 38 (Canada, USA, Mexico and Nicaragua) not eligible) votes, Western Europe 31, Oceania 14 + Japan and Australia = 84 votes
Nearly sure thing: Africa 55 votes (Morocco not eligible), Middle East 12, Central Asia 6 votes + North Korea = 74 votes
That leaves the rest of Asia (26 votes), South America (10 votes) and Eastern Europe (24 votes) as your decider. Can the United Bid find 20 votes from that 60?
Probably isn't that reassuring, especially since much of Canada's rebuilding plan on the men's side is dependent on getting this bid. And it's increasing becoming harder to argue that a Canada only bid would have been any worse off than tying ourselves to the political anchor that is the current state of US politics.
We are living in the time of selfishness. It’s been moving that way since about 1980, so this isn’t a new thing, but in 2017 the I-don’t-give-a-****-about-what-you-think/want/feel attitude has gained widespread acceptance and power. Selfishness is so prevalent that simply labeling it as such is going to get you accused of being political and shouted down by those who view empathy as a weakness.
This could easily be the opening paragraph about any number of politically charged debates that are currently raging the world over, but instead we’re going to take the advice of the sports-loving snowflakes of the world and actually Stick To Sports here. Specifically, the story of the Columbus Crew potentially moving to Austin, Texas for the 2019 season.
There are many ways to take this story – we could talk about the business struggles in Columbus, or the history of the club, the potential of Austin as a market, or, even, about the ramifications of this potential move on the current MLS expansion process.
All would be potentially interesting conversations, and conversations that will probably happen if this move does go ahead. But, they would miss the core factor that underlines everything here.
This is about a selfish owner in a selfish league trying to move a team to a selfish city with selfish fans only too happy to hurt others (in this case Crew fans) so long as it fulfils their needs.
It’s telling that so many people just blindly accept this as being OK. Even if an individual has rejected the culture of selfishness on an individual level, most still accept that that’s just how the world works. No sense fighting it, right?
In the past, I have talked about the idea of a Social Contract and how it relates to professional sports. Very simply put, fans enter into a Social Contract with the teams they support to place value on something (the results of said team) that logically has no intrinsic value.
I’ll never forget the feeling of confusion and understanding that came over me as a young person back in 1992 when my beloved Toronto Blue Jays won the World Series. As I was putting my jacket on to go join the celebration outside it occurred to me that I shouldn’t stay out too late as I had an exam the next day that I had yet to study for. “Damn,” I thought, “the Jays won and it really didn’t change my life. I still have to get up in the morning and slug my way through it.”
Despite that realization, I still hit the streets (and my ceiling, literally) the next season when Joltin’ Joe touched ‘em all. I was right back there caring because I chose to care – I chose to make myself part of a larger community of like-minded people united behind a case that had no real impact on their lives beyond the emotional release they chose to give it.
This is where sports differs from other businesses and what those who subscribe to the culture of selfishness fail to understand about sports. When they strip a sports team down to its most basic business element they expose it to public for what it is – a frivolous, meaningless exercise that no logical person should care about.
Eventually everyone – even sports fans – has a limit on how far they suspend reality. Eventually, we’ll stop caring as it becomes clearer that the teams/owners/players don’t.
Eventually, we’ll get selfish too and pull our support.
It didn’t take long for the anti-MLS forces on Social Media to sharpen their knives following the United States failure to qualify for Russia 2018. In fairness, it doesn’t take much for those knives to get sharpened by that bunch, as MLS is seen as an enemy to the game by those with short memories.
This is not to suggest that MLS is perfect, but the idea that the league – a league that is commanding massive expansion fees across the USA and exposing the joys of following club soccer week in and week out to hundreds of thousands of new Americans every day—is the reason the US failed to qualify is, to be diplomatic, simplistic.
To be less diplomatic, it’s absurd.
A few key points:
First, and this is key, IT’S NOT THE JOB OF A PROFESSIONAL LEAGUE TO BUILD A NATIONAL TEAM. It’s the job of a professional team to grow professional soccer culture in its markets (the clubs) and to entertain its customers (its fans). By doing that it can help national teams, but it cannot be its primary focus.
Second, if MLS is the problem how do you wrap your head around idea that MLS players played significant roles for countries that did qualify. Hell, Roman Torres and Alberth Elis scored the goals that sent their country’s to the World Cup. If you’re willing to look beyond the moment, you’ll also see that MLS has helped drive an increase in the American talent pool, which, in turn, has allowed the US to go to seven straight World Cups.
Third, there is no evidence that the structure of the league – i.e. the lack of promotion and relegation – has anything to do with anything. The argument that not having the threat of relegation somehow makes players soft ignores how few players on relegation teams play significant roles on more successful national teams. In fact, what would likely happen is that players would become less likely to commit to international football if they were consistently needing to fight to keep their team up. Fans romanticise the idea that players are going to prioritize playing for the flag, but the reality is fans aren’t paying the player’s mortgages. The clubs they play for are and those clubs are – and should be – the player’s No 1 concern. This is an idea that Canadian readers will be familiar with as it’s something players here have long battled with.
As said above, this is not to say that MLS can’t make some changes – changes that could benefit the league, as well as, indirectly, the national teams.
The one area that the MLS-bashers may have a point on is the lack of competition that currently exists for playing time among the national team players. There is also an argument to be made about MLS coaches not giving young domestic players an opportunity to break through into the first team. The solution to these issues might be counterintuitive and, on the surface, contradicting.
There is no doubt that older, American players are a premium in MLS. Because of international roster restrictions, an American (or Canadian in Canada) that can do a job is incredibly value. That leads to them likely being overvalued in salary and, in turn, more likely to get playing time.
So, get rid of international restrictions altogether. By removing the artificial restraints you will force domestic players to step up their game and earn their spot. That would address the complacency complaint that anti-MLS voices have. As an aside, it would also address Canadians complaints about the domestic status of Canadian players on American teams. The law MLS cites when it refuses to acknowledge Canadians as domestics league-wide only requires that all internationals be treated equally. Eliminating international restrictions accomplishes that.
Such a measure would likely cost a few domestic players their jobs, but the majority of roster spots would remain American (and maybe a more reasonable amount would become Canadian). It’s just easier and a better fit for domestic players to play domestically the world over.
Now, it’s more likely MLS goes the other way and becomes more protectionist, but that would be a mistake.
The issue of getting more chances for younger players is difficult without getting into quotas again. As outlined above, quotas could have a detrimental impact on development, so MLS would need to think long and hard before taking that step.
The solution here could be cap relief. Since the salary cap isn’t going anywhere, why not make any academy produced player cap exempt for the duration of his contract? Yes, that would potentially give an advantage to clubs with big academies, but there comes a point where protecting parity becomes, well, parody. If Salt Lake City can have one of the best academies in MLS, which it does, there is no excuse for any club that doesn’t follow suit. Incentivy them to make it so.
Make no mistake, MLS is largely a strawman in this discussion. But, there are a few small things that could be done that would benefit both the league and the national teams attached to the league.
For those with a sense of history, the bookending of the start and finish of the United States’ consecutive men’s World Cup appearance streak was fitting.
It started from Trinidad. It ended there too.
However, in the time between Paul Caligiuri’s “goal heard round the world (or at least in very specific parts of a largely indifferent at the time America)” and last night’s capitulation to a clearly inferior T&T side, so much has changed that the two events may as well have happened in different worlds.
Then the USA was a scrappy group of underdogs that hadn’t been to a World Cup in the modern era. They had no pro league and the 1994 World Cup had not yet been awarded to the USA. Hell, Canada was better than the US back then.
But that started to change that day. Over the next two decades the US established itself as a consistent World Cup maker and solid middle power. Famous wins came – Spain in the Confederations Cup, Mexico in the Round of 16 in 2002 – and what was largely a niche sports product became decidedly mainstream, at least when talking about every four years.
If you had been around prior to 1990, that rise was remarkable. If you came after, it was still impressive, but also frustrating. The United States is not used to being a middle power in sport. It’s not something that sits well with Americans, who want to be at the top of the world in everything that they do.
And they have reason to want that and to believe it possible. The USA is rich – spectacularly rich – both literally and in human resources. The country has amazing infrastructure that is the envy of more established football cultures. Those factors really should be enough to overcome the fact that the sport was not part of the country’s soul, like it is in much of the world.
But, it didn’t. After a solid upward trajectory that ended with a missed Torsten Frings handball that, if called, would have sent the US to a World Cup semi-final, things just kind of stagnated at a men’s national team level. There had been positive changes – MLS improved greatly, attendance at games massively increased and the women’s side of the game boomed – but there were still issues that were clear to anyone who was paying attention.
There was fractures in the youth systems, professional teams were sacrificing young domestic talent to bring in big, foreign names, too much of development was left to an inadequate NCAA system and, it appeared that profits – especially as it relates to pat-to-play -- were being prioritized over true technical work.
As with anything, the solution to those issues is not simple, but it starts with recognizing that there is a problem.
After a slip back to the pack in 2006, people were starting to have those hard conversations. It may not have reached a critical mass, but influential voices were starting to make themselves heard towards the latter part of the last decade.
And then Landon scored.
The last minute Landon Donovan winning goal over Algeria became the true “goal heard around the world” of US soccer. It happened not with a few football geeks watching, but with a nation of soccer bros cheering it on from packed pubs around the United States.
Donovan’s goal is, without a doubt, the single most memorable moment in modern American soccer history. It also might have been a little bit of unfortunate glory. It changed the narrative from “what are we doing wrong” to “we believe that we will win.”
The evidence didn’t back up the latter belief.
In hindsight, the USA’s 2010 World Cup is completely uninspiring. A point was saved against England because of a bizarre keeping error, two goals were allowed against unfancied Slovenia and it took 91 minutes to find a goal against an Algerian team that finished bottom of the group.
The US was two minutes from going home. As it was, they were home a few days after the exhilaration of Donovan’s goal, with Ghana finishing off a mediocre 1-1-2 World Cup for the USA.
But, the thousands of new fans that came into the fold that day don’t remember the fits and starts versus Slovenia and didn’t care about the systemic issues were there to see if you looked hard enough. They just saw the goal. And they were ready to see more.
So, seven more years have passed and the same issues that were there in the 89th minute versus Algeria remain. They’re just seven years deeper and more difficult to address. As many have pointed out those seven years are black hole in US development, with very few players developed during that time having a significant role in the current side.
Again, this take, like any, is overly simple. However, the narrative matters and American fans, observers and influencers are operating under a much different narrative today.
This time Landon wasn’t there to save the day and the next Landon won’t have an opportunity to do it on the biggest stage for another five years.
Believing that they will win is no longer going to cut it. It’s time for USA soccer to start working towards that.
What if you are being tested without knowing that you are being tested? It happens all the time, of course -- secret shoppers, Tinder profiles, your judgy Aunt at Christmas -- but is it fair. More importantly, is it accurate?
This is an important question for proponents of the Canadian Premier League to ask themselves because it's happening right now.
You see, Rangers are playing Benfica in Hamilton on October 6 at Tim Hortons Field in the 2017 Eusebio Cup. That's the basic story, anyway. The more complicated story is that this game is a test of the very business model that the CanPL hopes to use to entice more reluctant ownership groups into the fold. If you follow MLS, or have followed CSN's reporting of the CanPL, you'll recognize this model as the "SUM Canada" approach.
The idea behind "SUM Canada" is that, like MLS and Soccer United Marketing, owning a franchise in CanPL will also include an ownership stake in a separate soccer marketing company. The primary role of that company will be to bring big name clubs and countries into CanPL stadiums to play "high" profile friendlies. The profits from those friendlies would then be distributed among the CanPL owners to off-set losses from the main product.
It's worked wonderfully in the US. In fact, it's why claims of MLS owners that they are losing money still (and thus can't increase salaries) are a tad disingenuous. They are losing money on one very specific part of their ownership stake, but earning quite a bit on another.
So, make no mistake, this game in Hamilton is a test of the viability of the business model.
In general, it's a good model and one that most CanPL fans should be supportive of. However, it's fair to also have some questions about the execution of the model in this circumstance.
In the US they are bringing in truly huge clubs and countries. We're talking the Barcelonas, Real Madrids, Brazils and Argentinas of the world. You truly can't put a cap on how much people* will pay to see these teams.
*Even if it's not the same people that pay to see MLS games, as it often isn't
This is Rangers v Benfica, and probably not really a great representation of either as the game will take place during an international break.
Yet, they are charging prices that would barely be tolerated -- actually, they probably wouldn't be -- if the game was actually a competitive fixture. The low end price to get intro the stadium is $50 -- for standing tickets -- with the average price well over $100 and the high end price a mind-blowing $350. Put charitably, this is ambitious pricing. There are a significant amount of Benfica and Rangers fans in the region and even more Scottish and Portuguese ex-pats, but these are A) sophisticated fans that understand what the true value of a mid-season friendly is and B ) often working class folks that can't throw hundreds of dollars into 90 minutes of entertainment.
Compounding this is that the game is being sold in short order, in an unpredictable climate, smack dab in the middle of the busiest sports time of the year (with the local-ish MLS team playing out of their head, thus taking away attention.
And, this is without touching on the fact that the operators of Tim Hortons Field -- the Hamilton Tiger-Cats -- are not having a good PR month in the local community. Any general fans that might have been inclined to buy in a month ago are less so now.
As stated, ambitious.
Here's where it gets worrisome for CanPL fans. What if this is a bust? What if they've out priced their audience? What does it mean about the people that are running the league and their knowledge of the market.
I can't in good faith encourage anyone to spend money they don't have on this kind of game. I can, however, worry about what it might mean if people don't.