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Why we love the Canadian national team


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Below I've written down a few thoughts on why I'm a fan of our national team. Writing this down has helped me feel a little better about the loss to Guatemala the other night (after two nights of very little sleep and actual nightmares about the match) and get my spirits back up for the upcoming "must win" match against Honduras at Commonwealth. I invite anybody else who wants to say why they love the team to do so in this thread as well. We've got to get back behind the lads.


I've been a Canadian soccer fan for quite a few years and, in most of the matches I've seen us play, we've been the lesser team in terms of skill. We always had trouble beating supposedly "lesser" teams (those brutal 0-0 draws with Bermuda in qualifying for USA '94 come to mind) but we'd often surprise supposedly superior teams with a combination of great teamwork, organization and pure Canadian grit (no better example of this than the 2-1 golden goal win over Mexico in the 2000 Gold Cup.)

Part of the reason I think I became such a die-hard fan of the Canadian team was the way we so often overcame great odds stacked against us through hard work and teamwork. It appealed to me as a fan of the "poor old Maple Leafs" in the '80s and because, as a rec player (a defender), I fancied myself to be a bit of a hard-working team player who overcame my lack of skill (I only took up soccer late in my teens) with grit, team play and determination. I saw myself reflected in the likes of Mark Watson playing on against Australia (USA '94 qualifying) with a so much blood coming out of his head he looked like he'd just come from wrestling King Kong Bundy and good old Eddie Berdusco, who had a thimble-full of talent but always ran like he was being chased by a pit bull and often seemed to stumble into his goals and then seemed more surprised than anybody that he'd actually scored.

I admit that I took this loss against Guatemala harder than any other loss by the national team since I became a fan. I took it harder because my expectations were so much higher. Never before can I remember a Canadian team with so much talent and so much potential - not just to be a gritty team that guts its way to the odd upset but a great team that could truly dominate most of our CONCACAF rivals.

We're on the edge of a brand new era in Canadian soccer. We're developing more great players than I ever thought possible a few years ago. I'm truly stunned to think back on how many more Canadians are playing at high levels in Europe now than even a few years ago, when a guy playing anywhere in Europe was virtually guaranteed to be an automatic pick for our national team. (This time, Yallop voluntarily left off a guy playing for a freakin' Premiership team!) I'm also thrilled to see Adrian Serioux on fire the way he has been - it's given me new respect and confidence in the ability of Canadians who don't make it abroad in their teens or early twenties to persevere and be great players.

For me, this World Cup qualifying campaign is the first competition of this new era for our national team. In terms of skill, this team is light years ahead of the team that crashed out to T&T four years ago, but we're bound to hit some bumps on the road as we go through this transformation. We've got learn to play up to our potential. It's actually harder to fire on all cylinders as a team when you're trying to play attacking football than when you're playing with ten men behind the ball and just punting it up to Alex Bunbury/Carlo Corazzin/whoever. Our coaching staff and the CSA need to figure out how to get the best out of our guys when more of them than before are going to be jet lagged (because almost all of them are in Europe now) and have less time to train together because of high-level club commitments. It’s all new, because this is just the beginning of the new “high-skill” era of Canadian soccer, but we’ll adjust and we’ll learn. Once we figure out how to combine the grit and teamwork of the “old Canada” with the skill and flair of the new Canada, we’ll be a CONCACAF powerhouse. We got a brief glimpse of what’s possible last year when our U-20s in UAE pioneered the new “Canuck style” (not to mention consistently beating the US in the run up to that tournament). Best of all, every two years we have a new cohort of U-20s looking better and better than the one before it.

Last Wednesday, Guatemala did to us what the old Canada did so often to other teams. They overcame an obvious skill deficit and beat us with superior teamwork, organization and guts. The better we get, the more likely this is going to happen to us from time to time. I now understand why, every time the old Canada would gut out a big win over a superior team, their fans never respected us. They couldn’t believe their superior players lost to our bunch of pluggers. I still don’t really respect Guatemala’s players – most of them sucked – though I have some grudging respect for their coach and their heart. I know, however, that we could destroy those guys if we were firing on all cylinders. I have no doubt that the low we’re feeling now will, sooner or later, be replaced by an amazing high when Canada finally gets it all together.

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That was great Mike... we've played some pretty crappy games before, but this loss was the worst I've ever experienced. Even the GC match against Cuba and that 2-0 loss to T&T in 2002WCQ we were all going more or less in the same direction. This time we didn't look like we could run in a straight line.. let alone pass the ball or shoot.

After some reflection last night, and pulling myself together enough to watch the tape of the game without the gut-wrenching feeling while watching it live a few things came to mind...

1) Like so many have said.. Pizzolito looked a little out of his depth in the back four. I'd say though, that has a lot more to do with the leadership at the back end than anything else. Pizzolito looked a little lost, like he wasn't sure if he should be covering for Jazic or what. We're so thin at defense right now, I'd still consider putting Pizzolito in as a sub in a deVos marhsalled defence. I've still got some rosy happy warm feelings about Menezes as a right back.

2) We simply HAVE to find substitutes for Onstad and Watson... those two especially were playing a whole different gameplan than the rest of the team. Neither of them would take a second to see if they had time to distribute the ball. The slightest bit of pressure and they'd hoof it to "anywhere but here". Onstad can't kick a rolling ball. By shanking the ball out everytime, these two were doing nothing to relieve the pressure.. just postponing it. Instead of turning the tables and setting up a counter with most of the rest of the team moving forward, they kick it out, hand possession over to Guatemala... and then force everyone back into a defensive shell - something not on the Yallop gameplan.

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Thanks Mike. I was expecting a whining tirade, but instead

we get a common affirmation as to why we follow such a frustrating

team. The round is not over, with five games to go. Bet you

Jason De Vos wouldn't stand for this humiliation either.

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I figure we need a minimum of four out of six points in the next two games to stay in contention. Anything less than that would be digging a deeper hole for ourselves.

I had completely forgotten that I had taped wednesdays game. I had set the VCR a few weeks ago knowing that I would problably be watching the game away from home.

Many of my initial views haven't changed. However, i did see more bright spots than before. Occean for example, showed some terrific flashes of skill and was one of the few who occasionally beat a man one on one. he was the only forward to get scoring chances for canada and I also noted that terrific flick he made to a wide open Pesch who ended butchering a good opportunity. Jazic, I thjought, was the other bright spot on the night. Pizzolitto could be faulted for his pace on the second goal, but on the first goal, look again at who abandoned his man. Most everyone else played at the same level

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regarding Mike's point about our expectations going into this match, true this is a very hard one to swallow for the reasons that we do have more talent than at any other time.

But my expectations were also high going into that Match versus T&T in edmonton for WCQ 2000. We had just won the gold cup, had defeated T&T in two recent encounters, had an coach whom we all thought had the magic touch, & were playing at home. To make matter worst, we controlled that game to a much wider extent than we did on Wednesday.

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