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http://www.nationalpost.com/sports/story.html?id=877957

Men’s national soccer squad ‘playing for pride’

Published: Monday, October 13, 2008

EDMONTON -- Lars Hirschfeld doesn't regret playing for his country, but this time around hasn't been the happiest experience.

"No, not at all," Canada's No. 1 goalkeeper said after a national men's soccer team practice Monday afternoon.

"We're knocked out. We didn't want to be in this position. We're extremely disappointed at the moment, but it is what it is. We're out there playing for pride at the moment."

Canada is mathematically eliminated from advancing to the final round of qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup but must still play two more games in the CONCACAF Group B section. One will be Wednesday against Mexico at Commonwealth Stadium, the other Nov. 19 in Jamaica. Canada has achieved only a 1-1 draw against Jamaica while absorbing three defeats (2-1 and 3-1 to Honduras, 2-1 in Mexico).

Hirschfeld is projected to start Wednesday, as he did in the three defeats. The Mexico clash will be Hirschfeld's 26th cap for Canada, but the first in the city where he was born and raised.

"For me, it's just another game, but it's nice to be home as well," he says. "It's always nice to come home and play football."

Soon, though, he will return to CFR Cluj, the Romanian team that acquired him last January for a fee of 1.3 million euros (about $2 million Cdn). Despite that investment, and his success there and in recent seasons in Norway, he faces an uphill battle to maintain his employment.

Hirschfeld was performing well last winter when he suffered a chipped disc in his back. CFR, located in the Transylvanian city of Napoca, carried on to win the national league's championship double and is off to an excellent start not only in Romania but in the European Champions League.

"It was a serious injury, right at a crucial time, and it put me out for a couple of months," Hirschfeld says.

"I had just managed to start to get myself back in when I had to join the national team. It's a risk you take when you go away with the national team - you get frozen out of the club. Teams don't like it; they frown upon it. It conflicts with their agenda. When you return, you basically go back to square zero.

"But it was my choice to come here. All these guys (on the national squad) risk that, losing their positions on their club teams wherever they play. A lot of these guys, they're jeopardizing their club careers by doing this."

It took Hirschfeld, who turns 30 on Friday, the better part of a decade to establish himself as a world-class goalkeeper. His breakthrough came in the 2002 CONCACAF Gold Cup in Florida, where he was named the outstanding goalkeeper in the 12-team tournament, yielding four goals in five games, and was instrumental in Canada's third-place finish. That led to his signing with Tottenham Hotspur and several years of part-time duty with several English clubs.

A move to Norway in 2005 finally brought regular service, first with Tromso IL, then with Rosenburg BK, where he won a national league championship and several victories in the European Champions League.

Then came the transfer, the World Cup qualifying campaign, and his now uncertain status back in Romania.

Fortunately for the six-foot-three Hirschfeld, he is just entering what are considered to be a keeper's prime years, and has been making the progress that bodes well for an extended career.

"He's been excellent," Canadian goalkeepers coach Paul Dolan says of Hirschfeld's performance in CONCACAF. "I don't think he can be faulted on any of the goals he allowed, and he kept us in the game down in Mexico.

"He's a very powerful guy, very athletic and very focused as well. He's always been a good shot-stopper, but now he's really rounded out his game - his distribution, his kicking, his focus - to become a good all-around goalkeeper.

"He's got lots of good years left, so hopefully he'll be around for the next qualifying campaign."

Defender Adrian Serioux, who missed the game in Honduras while sitting out a suspension for card accumulation, will be available for Wednesday's contest. So will forward Charles Gbeke, who scored both goals Sunday in the Vancouver Whitecaps' 2-1 victory over the Puerto Rico Islanders in the United Soccer Leagues First Division championship game. They replace forward Rob Friend and midfielder Atiba Hutchinson on the 18-man roster.

Edmonton Journal

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Can somebody explain to me why playing for Canada is such a big deal for the clubs? Assuming we play most of our games on scheduled FIFA dates, how is it any different for Canadian players than it is for the rest? Does the whole thing just boil down to jet lag?

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quote:Originally posted by Lurker

Can somebody explain to me why playing for Canada is such a big deal for the clubs? Assuming we play most of our games on scheduled FIFA dates, how is it any different for Canadian players than it is for the rest? Does the whole thing just boil down to jet lag?

In the case of Lars I'm not sure it really made a difference. He was third string to start the season and his club had done pretty well in the CL so far, so I doubt they would give him some minutes at this point.

Also, reports from Romania indicates that he is set to leave the club during the winter.

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Here's one aspect in answer to Lurker's question.

A relative of mine used to work in the front office at Nottingham Forest, at the time Jim Brennan played for Forest as a stay-at-home full back. I used to hear complaints that every time Jim returned from playing for Canada, his game was "off", and why did Canada keep messing him up? The only explanation seemed to be that Jim was encouraged by the MNT coach to play up as an attacking left side midfielder/winger (which he does well), but the club was not amused that it took a couple of weeks for Jim to return to how they wanted him to play.

Just a thought.

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quote:Originally posted by MuirtonPark

Here's one aspect in answer to Lurker's question.

A relative of mine used to work in the front office at Nottingham Forest, at the time Jim Brennan played for Forest as a stay-at-home full back. I used to hear complaints that every time Jim returned from playing for Canada, his game was "off", and why did Canada keep messing him up? The only explanation seemed to be that Jim was encouraged by the MNT coach to play up as an attacking left side midfielder/winger (which he does well), but the club was not amused that it took a couple of weeks for Jim to return to how they wanted him to play.

Just a thought.

Thanks for sharing.

If that's true it just prove that Jim isn't a very smart player...not being able to adjust when your coach ask you to be a "stay at home full back"??? WTF???

He isn't the first player to be playing different position while on NT duties.

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Guest Jeffery S.
quote:Originally posted by loyola

Thanks for sharing.

If that's true it just prove that Jim isn't a very smart player...not being able to adjust when your coach ask you to be a "stay at home full back"??? WTF???

He isn't the first player to be playing different position while on NT duties.

Exactly. There are tons of cases. An example is Guardado, Julian's teammate, who plays left wing for Mexico, is really more an attacking mid in the middle for Depor. Though often what happens is there is a metamorphosis, a national team will begin to watch how a player excels in their club and adapt, usually that way, not vice versa (because club play is every week and more consistent, as it club success).

Our problem is that our coaches have not paid attention to how our players play. I am amazed that Dale has not gone to see guys at their clubs in Europe. As a courtesy, but also to understand a bit more. In fact no Canadian coach has ever come to Spain to see our supposed star player. I mean, they have no idea what he is doing off the ball and out of the camera frame.

So if Brennan could not adapt that is pretty poor. Though I don't really believe the story entirely.

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quote:Originally posted by Lurker

Can somebody explain to me why playing for Canada is such a big deal for the clubs? Assuming we play most of our games on scheduled FIFA dates, how is it any different for Canadian players than it is for the rest? Does the whole thing just boil down to jet lag?

What do the clubs stand to gain by it? Playing for Canada in a Gold Cup or a WCQ is not going to increase the tranfer value of their player (like Euro players who play for their countries do), plus why risk having a player getting injured palying on crap Concacaf pitches in coutries with suspect medical facilities?

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quote:Originally posted by mayorofeastyork

What do the clubs stand to gain by it? Playing for Canada in a Gold Cup or a WCQ is not going to increase the tranfer value of their player (like Euro players who play for their countries do), plus why risk having a player getting injured palying on crap Concacaf pitches in coutries with suspect medical facilities?

So far the crappiest pitch was in MTL....

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  • 9 years later...

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