Canada posted an impressive looking 4-0 result over former bogey side Martinique to open their Gold Cup campaign. In truth it was John Herdman’s first real test as manager of the men’s national team, and Canada was pushed in the first half before out classing the Caribbean side in the second. There is a danger in over-extrapolating from one match, especially against a side nowhere near the levels of Mexico, the U.S.A, Costa Rica, or Jamaica, but there were some interesting tid bits from the match.
Historically, the Cameroon women’s national team is bad at soccer. They have qualified for one Olympics and two World Cups despite only having to get out of Africa, which some of my readers could do if they found ten equivalent friends. In 2015 they won two games in the group stage, somehow, over Switzerland and worst-team-alive Ecuador, but those were their first and only points in major competition. That aside, on the rare occasion they play non-African competition they lose heavily including a 2018 6-0 friendly loss to France. Their FIFA ranking is 46th, which is well into the disgraces.
Yet, in their opening game of the 2019 World Cup, Cameroon held Canada, who have an outside chance at winning this thing, to only a 1-0 win. Worse, that seemed fair: Chris Henderson had Canada leading the expected goals 1.31 to 0.68. This is impossible to look up but I doubt any team outside Africa has ever generated as few as 1.31 expected goals against the Cameroonians.
Read more at Maple Leaf Forever!
The 2019 Canadian women’s national team is being called, by serious players who have even watched the games that aren’t on TSN, our best ever. The only serious argument would come from the circa 2003 team, which was mostly too young but featured apex Andrea Neil and was the only major tournament where both 20-year-old Christine Sinclair and 35-year-old Charmaine Hooper were within reasonable range of their primes. That team didn’t beat anybody they weren’t supposed to beat, but they beat everybody they had to and got us our best-ever fourth-place finish at a World Cup. You could argue for our 2016 Olympic team, but since that’s this team with some young players replaced by inferior old ones, it sort of concedes the argument.
Naturally, the rest of the world has not sat still. As we know this is also the best Dutch team ever, the best Australian, probably the best English, and overall maybe the best American, which is a thought to chill the blood. Even last year, at home, this Canadian team was distinctly outplayed by Germany.
Yet sit down, plan Canada’s path to victory, and it is the right side of insane. If we win our group, which is difficult but realistic, we get a round-of-16 match against most likely England or Japan. That’s rough for a round-of-16 game, but Canada winning would arguably not even be a surprise. England is good, but maybe a bit overrated; certainly not off Canada’s tier. Japan seems to be on the way down. We’ve also beaten both teams recently after some long cold streaks. The last World Cup aside, and we absolutely could have won that game, Canada’s had England’s number since 2014 or so. Get through that and the probable quarter-final is against Australia, an easier opponent, or a pupu platter of South Korea/Brazil/Norway-type outfits who could upset the Aussies but aren’t really in our weight class. Then you’re in the money, and the rest of the way every team is either good or on a roll, but the most probable semi-final opponent is Germany and even though it didn’t really count we’ve beaten them too…
Read more at Maple Leaf Forever!
The 2015 Women’s World Cup had some teams that really didn’t belong. How well we remember results like Germany 10-0 Ivory Coast, or Switzerland 10-1 Ecuador, or Cameroon 6-0 Ecuador. Ecuador was really bad. But it’s 2019, women’s soccer has developed for four years, and Ecuador didn’t qualify. Instead we have Chile, and Jamaica, and Thailand and Cameroon are back!
Fans in France will get to enjoy some hilarious blowouts, making all those Ligue 1 Féminin fans feel at home.
Usefully previewing a whole 24-team women’s soccer tournament is impossible. How’s Thailand’s depth at fullback? Any writer not actually Thai will neither know nor care. In the men’s World Cup even bad teams have a few guys playing in the Eredivisie or something so you’ll know a guy who’s seen him on DAZN or at least have a good, instinctive feel for the level? The Women’s World Cup does not play that way.
Read more at Maple Leaf Forever!
The Women’s World Cup happens every four years, and soccer teams change a lot in that time. Comparing one World Cup team to the previous World Cup team is just the sort of lazy, valueless sportswriting that is typical of women’s soccer but informs nobody about anything.
So comparing Canada’s group in 2015 to that in 2019 is obviously insane, but in fairness, the soccer gods really really want me to.
In 2015 Canada, who were not really one of the best six teams in world women’s soccer, were seeded A1 for the World Cup draw because we were the host country. As a result we got a softball group of us, New Zealand, the Netherlands, and China; no minnows but three teams we should beat most of the time. We won one, drew two, didn’t concede, won the thing; not fun, but effective. In the round of 16 we beat Switzerland in a really good game, then lost in the quarter-final when our depleted defensive depth finally caught up to us and the odd break didn’t go our way.
In 2019 Canada might be one of the best six teams in world women’s soccer and the FIFA gods smiled upon us, placing us in Pot 1 for the draw on merit1. As a result Canada was placed in a group with New Zealand, the Netherlands, and, um, Cameroon.
Read more on Maple Leaf Forever!
Yet again, HFX Wanderers will go to work at Wanderers Grounds tomorrow evening. This time, it is Valour FC making the trip from Winnipeg to the East Coast for the first leg of a Canadian Championship second round clash.
Wanderers reached this stage by overcoming Vaughan Azzuri on away goals, after a nervy second leg at Wanderers Grounds saw the tie finish 3-3. This will be the first ever appearance in this competition for Valour, as they were gifted a first round bye.
The only time these sides have met previously came almost a month ago, with Valour running out 1-0 victors in Winnipeg. That match probably holds up as Wanderers best away performance to date, but a lack of cutting edge (and, perhaps synonymously, Luis Alberto Perea) saw them fall to defeat.
Wanderers will come into this match feeling good, as two solid performances have seen them earn 4 points out of 6 at home in the last week. A hard-fought 1-1 draw with York last Wednesday was followed by a 2-1 victory over Pacific, with Akeem Garcia and the aforementioned Perea seeing off the B.C. side.
Valour come into this game fresh off of a 1-0 away victory over Edmonton, having previously been on an extended rest. Ali Musse played the role of super-sub in that victory, popping up off the bench to score the winner in the second half.
“And it’s like stars have aligned all in Alliance
Heart of a lion, balls of Goliath”
Ok….. I know, I know. I’ve been away and missed the first month of the season, my bad. But as the saying goes, semi informational and questionably entertaining things come to those who wait.
Well, what hasn’t changed? Sanjaxx are gone, which sucks for me as both the downtown clubs (Nitros), have quit the league in the last two years meaning travelling to every ground is now a hassle. But the ying to that yang is that Durham are back after taking a couple of years out. TFC3 also left but that happened mid last season, so all this means that there are 16 teams in the men’s league this year and they all play each other once before the top 8 go into the playoffs.
The playoffs were fun last year, with the best teams going up against each other, there were shocks and disappointments so I expect more of the same this year as well.
Plenty of players have left to ply their trade in the CPL, a lot of which have started out very well, so lineups for specifically Sigma and Vaughan have changed drastically. Aurora have signed up half of the Humber college alumni, including Oakville stalwart Filipe Vilela, and N. Mississauga have also had a lot of change in their squad.
As for this column, it won’t be coming weekly as in the past but once or twice a month rounding up the action, then with additional insights and interviews sporadically to try to add more value and exposure. So to the action on the field, what are the highlights of the season so far….
HFX Wanderers begin their first real run of home games this year with a test against York 9 FC. Both teams have struggled to pick up points early in the spring season, which lends added impetus to a match that both sides will hope to use to kick-start their campaign.
Each side comes into this one off the back of a 2-0 loss, with Wanderers falling to Cavalry in Calgary and York dropping their home opener to Forge in a clash marred by brutal weather conditions.
With the finish line somehow already in sight in this abbreviated spring season, this is a crucial match for both sides as they look to start moving up the table.
Read more on the NSXI Network.
Heading into her third season of play in United Women’s Soccer (UWS), 21-year-old Emily Burns is as excited to start the season as she’s ever been.
Fresh off her experience with Calgary Foothills WFC’s run to the semifinals of the 2018 UWS National Playoffs, the goalkeeper is ready to backstop her team to the championship.
“I definitely want to see us come out of our conference and make it to the final four championships again like last year,” Burns said. “I want to see us get a better result than we did last year because we came up a bit short when we had such a great season and it kind of ended bitterly. I’d like to see us go all the way and try to win it this year.”
Coming off her fourth year as the goalkeeper of the MacEwan University Griffins, where she was named a second-team Canada West all-star, Burns looks set to help bring Foothills WFC to success and this year she has the starting position all to herself.
Despite being named the 2017 UWS West Conference Goalkeeper of the Year and earning a clean sheet while making four saves in Foothills’ first game of 2018, when Canadian national team goalkeeper and 2016 Olympic bronze medalist Stephanie Labbe joined the team, Burns’ workload for the season was cut down.
“I played in the first game last year against Salt Lake and [Labbe] ended up coming after that,” Burns said.
Labbe was infamously banned from playing in PDL action with Calgary Foothills FC in 2018, so she joined Foothills’ women’s team instead.
Read more on the NSXI Network.
*** Important. Due to the wide range of times these games are shown at and unfortunate collisions with local professional teams you MUST check to ensure the bar is open and the game is on.
Victoria - Yates Taphouse
Vancouver - Library Square
Calgary - Home & Away
Edmonton - Urban Tavern
Saskatoon - Finn's Pub
Regina - The Lobby
Winnipeg - Nicolina's
Toronto - Duke of Gloucester.
Ottawa - Senate Tavern on Bank
Hamilton - End Zone Pub
Montreal - Frappe
Halifax - Niche Lounge
Waterloo - RIM Park
Kitchener - Budd Park
At the very least the contrasting fortunes of Halifax and Y9 should guide future expansion decisions. The main emphasis in Quebec should probably be on Quebec City rather than Laval, there are more reasons to be upbeat about Saskatoon rather than Surrey at the moment out west, other outer GTA markets like Durham and Mississauga should probably be asked to demonstrate the interest is genuinely there with a season ticket deposit drive, etc.
I know we have made progress in attacking (and probably regressed in defending), but we have so far proved nothing results-wise. Our highest quality result under Herdman was maybe a 1-0 win against New Zealand, and looking impressive beating up minnows.
Until we prove we can get results against actually decent teams, we shouldn't be assuming we can beat any of Mex/USA/CR.
Ignoring the obvious where Y9 is concerned, there were few obvious gaps in the stands in the highlights so Halifax shows that midweek games don't have to be a problem if the fan interest is there in the market concerned. Think we'll see something similar with the Valour as well this week. There are definite reasons to believe this can work overall.
They seem to be using the old number for Valour's home opener, rather than the updated one which was over 10k.
Still, if those numbers are mostly accurate, I am definitely happy. Do we have crowd pictures to confirm?
DIY stats: not courtesy of CPL.
Valour Attendances (CPL matches only):
HOME: 20,650 / 3 = 6,883 avg.
Thu 16 May 2019 vs. Forge: 4,731
Sat 11 May 2019 vs. HFX Wanderers: 5,763
Sat 4 May 2019 vs. FC Edmonton: 10,156
AWAY: 15,329 / 4 = 3,832 avg.
Sat 15 Jun 2019 vs. Forge: 7,152
Sun 2 Jun 2019 vs. Edmonton: 3,762
Wed 8 May 2019 vs. Cavalry: 2,055
Wed 1 May 2019 vs. Pacific: 2,360