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Goalie enjoying team's spirit


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Goalie enjoying team's spirit

By Doug Graham

Wednesday, June 16, 2004 - 07:00

Local Sports - Goalkeeper Pat Onstad is in his 16th year with the national soccer team but this tour is presenting him with a whole new experience.

He credits the atmosphere created by head coach Frank Yallop for making it appealing for Canadian players to play for Canada.

“It has to be fun, it has to be relaxing,” said Onstad. “It’s important the players are enjoying it. Frank has come in and done that. He has lightened the atmosphere.”

In past years, not all the players eligible to play for Canada made themselves available for World Cup competition. Yallop, who took over the coaching duties last December, made clearing up the atmosphere around the team his first project and the athletes responded. All the top Canadian players are in Kingston this week for the qualifying series with Belize that concludes tonight at Richardson Stadium.

For players on European clubs, the series coincides with vacation time from their teams overseas. Some, such as Daniel Imhof, who plays in the Swiss First Division, have used their holiday time to prepare and to play in the World Cup series.

“After this, Daniel has three days off and then he is back starting again with his club team,” Onstad said.

“This is their holiday time but they are willing to sacrifice that for playing for their country, under the right conditions. I’m not trying to knock anyone, but we’re all professionals. We know how to prepare. We know how to train. Frank has been in the same boat, playing for his country. He wants the players to enjoy this.”

Onstad, 36, has played under various national-team coaches and he played for Yallop when he coached the San Jose Earthquakes to the Major League Soccer championship in 2003.

He said Canada has a limited number of elite players and it’s vital no one is put off by the prospect of playing for the national team.

“We have a pool of 24 or 25 players,” he said. “If we have to go outside of that, it makes a big difference,” Onstad said, adding that Yallop has also tried to put players in positions similar to those they play with their professional teams, a practice not always followed in the past.

“He tries to get as close as he can to the best position which suits them,” Onstad said.

Yallop has declared that he would like his team to hold Belize scoreless tonight. After beating Belize 4-0 Sunday, Onstad said it’s “a little trickier” to sell defence ahead of scoring.

“It’s tough to buy into a clean sheet when goals are available,” he said. “We have good professionals, though. They take pride in a clean sheet. It’s not a goalkeeper’s stat, it’s a team stat. It always has been in soccer.”

Onstad has allowed 35 goals in 35 international games and has posted 15 shutouts, the third highest all-time. He also showed he knows a thing or two about commitment to the program. He played his first World Cup qualifier against Cuba in June 2000, two days after getting married.

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