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  • The benefits of turd soup (or, "how I stopped agonizing and learned to love the scoreless draw")


    ccs-54-140264010642_thumb.jpgWhen Canada found out that they were required to play in this round of World Cup qualification, the reaction from fans was largely positive.

    The over-riding narrative among the most ardent supporters, who have seen an under-prepared, over-matched Canadian team get schooled far too often when the games mattered, was that Canada needed these extra games against minnows to gel.

    The thinking went that Stephen Hart's ragtag bunch would benefit from some games against lesser competition -- an easier-paced extended practice session before the "real" games next year. If anything, Canada needed to play more competitive matches, just to iron out the kinks and assess what we truly have in our ranks.

    Why, then, has the narrative changed so quickly after last night -- Canada's first stumble in a race that they are destined to win?


    No doubt, the game was awful. The Puerto Ricans came in determined to kill off any notion of an actual soccer game taking place at BMO Field, instead resorting to "parking the bus" and employing maddening time-wasting tactics to preserve the scoreless draw. This despite the fact that the islanders needed a win to keep their slim hopes alive.

    Canada did not respond to the negative tactics well, of course. They held the lion's share of possession -- one report has the Canadians with nearly 70 per cent of the ball throughout the match -- and yet they could not find the final pass that would unlock the Puerto Rican fortress set up along the 18-yard box.

    That is concerning, of course, as Canada are far and away a more talented side, and should be finding ways around such cynical tactics, just like they did in Puerto Rico a month ago.

    But here's the thing -- sometimes football doesn't go the way you plan it to. On one hand, it's easy to say that Canada must win every match against such deplorable opposition if they even want to have a sniff of the Hex (or more), and there is a large element of truth to that. But given the widely-held opinion that the Canadian team needed these games to figure out how to win in such conditions, doesn't that warrant a bit of leeway?

    The fact is that Canada likely wins that same match nine times out of ten. A single goal would have opened the islanders up, and that would have meant nothing but good news for the stagnant Canadian attack. But the entire purpose of these games is to advance; and perhaps more importantly, to learn how to deal with various game conditions and come out on top.

    So if Canada had just continued to waltz through Group D without so much as a fight being put up from their opposition, would you, the diehard Canadian supporter, have been happy with that? Wouldn't you rather see some adversity and hope that Canada learn something from it?

    Rudi Schuller contributes Toronto FC and Canadian national team content to the 24th Minute. He is MLSsoccer.com's beat writer for all things concerning Canada's men's national teams, and has contributed to Goal.com and other soccer media. Follow Rudi on Twitter, @RudiSchuller.

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