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NEIL DAVIDSON : Pat Onstad gets starting...


George

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...nod in goal for soccer friendly against Wales

http://www.canada.com/sports/soccer/story.html?id=34D17998-B5D1-4B43-A666-6F8E459CBD82

(CP) - Pat Onstad will start in goal for Canada in Wrexham on Sunday in an exhibition soccer game against Wales and coach Frank Yallop will look to the veteran 'keeper for the start of World Cup qualifying in mid-June.

Yallop plans to have Onstad play the whole game Sunday, before splitting the June 5 friendly in San Jose against the MLS Earthquakes between Onstad and Lars Hirschfeld.

"Pat's going to start the (World Cup qualifying) games against Belize so I want to give him a full game here," Yallop said, referring to the Wales friendly.

Canada opens World Cup qualifying with a pair of games against minnow Belize - No. 179 in the world rankings compared to No. 93 for Canada - on June 13 and 16 in Kingston, Ont.

The choice of Onstad as No. 1 make sense. He has had a fine start to the season with the Earthquakes, winning player of the week honours twice in the first eight weeks of the MLS campaign.

Hirschfeld, in contrast, has left Tottenham of the English Premier League, where he saw no first team action, in search of a club where he might get some playing time.

"Even if he was (playing), Pat Onstad's in such good form. He's doing really well," said Yallop. "And I know Pat inside out too."

He should. Yallop, then coach of San Jose, brought Onstad to the Earthquakes last season and was rewarded with a goalkeeper-of-the-year performance en route to the MLS title.

While Yallop acknowledged Hirschfeld has looked "nice and sharp" in training, it is clear Onstad is his man.

"He needs to get a club and get himself sorted out as quick as he can," the coach said of Hirschfeld.

Onstad, 36, has 15 shutouts in 38 appearances for Canada.

Hirschfeld was nine when Onstad made his debut for the national team in 1988. Now 25, the Edmonton 'keeper has 16 caps and four shutouts for Canada.

While Onstad is a no-flash Mr. Dependable, Hirschfeld is an athletic shot-stopper who essentially won the Canadian starting job under then-manager Holger Osieck at the 2002 Gold Cup, when Onstad was injured and Craig Forrest recovering from cancer and about to retire.

Hirschfeld came into the CONCACAF championship with just 90 minutes experience at the senior level. He left as goalkeeper of the tournament after giving up just four goals (one an own goal) in five outings.

Yallop has 17 players for the Wales game and - with six substitutes allowed for the friendly - plans to give all but Hirschfeld a run-out. He said he hadn't made his mind yet on who will captain Canada.

Yallop will announce the rest of Canada's starting lineup Saturday.

Wales, meanwhile, is ravaged by injury and is expected to field the same kind of experimental lineup as the one that tied Norway 0-0 in Oslo on Thursday.

Frontline players missing included Ryan Giggs, John Hartson, Gary Speed, Simon Davies, Paul Jones, Robert Page, Andy Melville and Jason Koumas.

Manager Mark Hughes' starting 11 contained just three players from the English Premier League: Newcastle striker Craig Bellamy, Portsmouth midfielder Carl Robinson and Aston Villa defender Mark Delaney.

A report in Wales' Western Mail called Thursday's team, which had a combined 99 caps, the "most inexperienced in Welsh football history."

Hughes, who estimates his team has missed a combined 29 players for its last three outings, hailed his young squad's performance in Oslo.

"They had a good young side that played well," added Yallop, who watched the game on TV from his English hotel.

The speedy Bellamy limped off with a leg cramp but said he should be OK to play Canada. He was partnered up front with Robert Earnshaw, the Cardiff forward who has played well for Wales.

"Two very good players up front," Yallop said. "You're talking real quality there."

And Wales could be bolstered by the return of Giggs, the Manchester United star who picked up a knock in the FA Cup final.

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quote:Originally posted by Gian-Luca

I guess Tam wasn't called up as we had hoped in vain.

Anyway, good luck to Pat. Not surprised at all by Yallop's decision.

No surprise, but I sense that Yallop wants Lars to find a club and start playing FAST.

If Lars isn't soon playing first team football, I'm betting that Yallop will soon explore other options (as he should) for Canada's goal.

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quote:Originally posted by Winnipeg Fury

Yes, he may have seen his best days, but he is the best we have right now.

No question he is our number one.

Exactly, meaning we lack some depth in goal at the moment. Hirschfeld needs to be playing first team soccer come September.

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quote:Yallop has 17 players for the Wales game and - with six substitutes allowed for the friendly - plans to give all but Hirschfeld a run-out.

I guess this means that Otto's definitely going to see the pitch. That's good news. Except now I'm even</u> more bummed about it not being televised.

Jordan.

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quote:Originally posted by Winnipeg Fury

Yes, he may have seen his best days, but he is the best we have right now.

No question he is our number one.

Yallop probably saw something in the Manchester training camp that

solidified his choices for the Wales and Belize matches. Pat is

steady under Yallop and we have a pretty good 1-2 with both goalkeepers.

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There's no question that Canada has never been weaker in goal, as long as I can remember. Onstad can still do the job, but his best days are behind him, and he doesn't have a great track record at the international level.

Lars is out of the question. He has hardly played in the last two years and no longer has a club. His lack of playing time really showed in Canada's last couple of internationals. When speaking of Lars, there's a sense of urgency in Yallop's tone ("He needs to get a club and get himself sorted out as quick as he can").

We may be alright for Belize, but against the CONCACAF heavies, Yallop may need to look at other options (particularly for Onstad's back-up).

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Some of you seem to be forgetting that Yallop has acknowledged that Lars looks fine and sharp in training and also that Yallop states in the article that he would be going with Onstad as the #1 even if Lars was playing regularly.

And while I've liked what I've seen so far from Yallop for the most part, the above admissions & the philosophy they suggest do concern me somewhat.

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Guest Jeffery S.

I am not a great fan of Onstad, but I do have a bit of faith here in Yallop. He saw that giving Pat his confidence at San José paid off, in spite of a wild blunder early last season that could have justified him being benched. In the end the team won the league, though there were games they did it by outscoring the opponent rather than playing hard knocks defence.

I don't think we can qualify out of Concacaf by outscoring opposition, we need to be a team to get a goal up and know how to hang on for the win. So I think we need a tough defence again, something we really have not seen since we won the Gold Cup. And if we have that Onstad will have less work and I'll be more comfortable with him starting.

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Pat Onstads 38 year old body is one little knock (a knock that Lars would laugh off) from putting an unfamiliar keep in behind our defense.

He also has a NA travel schedule to add to what is already going to a wicked WCQ travel regiment. Throw that in with all the other aches and pains which come from many years of playing and I have my doughts.

I don't think he has the endurance for this. I don't think we'll see him at his best.

And I don't suscribe to the shared goalkeeper duties practice. Pick a #1 and let someone else play him out of it.

Not saying Lars is the answer. Hard to justify that. But there are other options, and I'm hoping in vain that Onstad standing in as #1 is just until one of these other options distinguish themselves.

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