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  1. AFTN photographer Tom Ewasiuk was there to capture all the action before, during and after the game and here's his "Story In Pictures", with a full Flickr slideshow at the end. [Also check out Tom's website www.residualimagephotography.com for more of his photos and work]. The Voyageurs are out in force in BC And in amongst them is a familiar face in Karina LeBlanc Flag tifo in full force In Floro We Trust? Canada's starting XI The enemy lines up A moment of quiet reflection on the day's atrocities in Paris The pain of World Cup qualification is quick to appear! Not much to choose between the teams early, but Julian de Guzman unleashes a screamer from the edge of the box Which Noel Valladares does well to tip over In the 38th minute, Will Johnson heads the ball towards goal, hitting off Cyle Larin on the deck and into the Honduran net Okay, we'll forget the Timbers part of him for now Canada celebrate what proves to be the match winning goal Johnson nearly makes it two in the 63rd minute but his free kick crashes off the right hand post An impressive Honduran travelling support As Honduras push for the equaliser, Milan Borjan makes a crucial late save Then minutes later acts quickly to recover a spill and keep Canada's lead secure Another late scramble in Canada's box but the good guys survive for the crucial 1-0 win And you can see what it means to Borjan And his Canadian teammates Things you never thought you'd see at BC Place - Curva Collective's head honcho hugging Portland's Will Johnson! Will Canada be back at BC Place in March? Floro says "Yeeeeeessssss" You can see a Flickr slideshow of all of Tom's photos from the game below:
  2. Canada carried the majority of play through the first half but were unable to create any clear chances until after the half hour mark when after a nice combo by Junior Hoilett and Atiba Hutchinson, Julian de Guzman took a shot from distance that forced a big save from Noel Valladares. A few minutes later Canada would capitalise on their play, with Larin scoring the opener and his fourth for the national team. After completing a give and go with Hutchinson, Hoilett delivered a cross from the left sideline to the far post where Will Johnson headed it towards the net.On its way to the goal the ball came into contact with Larin, who had tumbled with the Honduran defender heading to the net, before going over the line giving the Canadians a much needed lead going into the half. The home side pressed for another goal as the second half started and came very close after the hour mark when Will Johnson’s free kick attempt from 35 yards out hit the right post. There were chances for Honduras to earn the draw late in the match as Milan Borjan came up big to stop a shot from distance by Mario Martinez. Another shot from distance came with less than ten minutes left. This time Borjan spilled, causing a scare, before the keeper was able to gather it. Ultimately Canada was able to finish the match with the victory and an important three points to kick off this round of 2018 World Cup Qualifying. There will be little time for the players and coaches to enjoy this win as they will travel to El Salvador for their next match on Tuesday. With Benito Floro and all of the Canadian players raving about the atmosphere at BC Place on Friday night, and buoyed by the win, fans in Vancouver won't have to wait another 11 years for the national team to return. Expect them back in March to take on Mexico. FINAL SCORE: Canada 1 - 0 Honduras ATT: 20,108 CANADA: Milan Borjan; Karl Ouimette, Adam Straith, Dejan Jakovic, Marcel de Jong; Julian de Guzman (Samuel Piette 78), Atiba Hutchinson, Will Johnson; Junior Hoilett (Tesho Akindele 81), Tosaint Ricketts, Cyle Larin (Marcus Haber 73) [subs Not Used: Simon Thomas, Kenny Stamatopoulos, Fraser Aird, Sam Adekugbe. Manjrekar James, David Edgar, Wandrille Lefevre, Russell Teibert, Kianz Froese] HONDURAS: Noel Valladares; Brayan Beckeles, Maynor Figueroa, Jhony Palacios, Ever Alvarado; Carlos Discua (Angel Tejeda 69), Boniek Garcia, Bryan Acosta (Mario Martinez 65); Luis Garrido, Erick Andino (Romell Quioto 55), Rubilio Castillo [subs Not Used: Donis Escober, Johnny Leveron, David Velasquez, Wilmer Crisanto, Emilio Iazguirre, Arnold Peralta, Olivier Morazan, Cesar Oseguera, Jerry Bengtson]
  3. Have a listen! You can listen to this, and all previous, episodes of the podcast on iTunes HERE. Or download it for your later listening delight HERE. We also have an iPhone app, so you can now add our podcast to your phone as an app. Visit the podcast's mobile site HERE and then at the bottom of the screen just click the "Quick Launch" icon and the podcast will be added to your home screen and appear as an app. And if that's not enough, we're on Stitcher Radio Network. Download the app and listen to the AFTN podcast on your device, along with over 20,000 other shows HERE. Or after all that, you could just listen on the player below!
  4. "We're at approximately 15 [thousand] right now," Montagliani said of tickets sales for the Honduras match. "We've got two weeks left pretty much. We have a big Whitecaps game obviously inbetween. We're confident with the build up. "The team will be here pretty soon, this weekend. A lot of them will be at the Whitecaps game. So I think we'll be able to sort of push into the 20's." So the numbers are promising but at the same time a little disappointing. When the match announcement was made in Vancouver on September 14th, the general feeling from the Canadian Soccer Association side was that the game wasn't going to be a tough sell and if Vancouver struggled to fill the lower bowl at BC Place then it couldn't really call itself a "soccer city". I tended to agree. It is the national team after all and it's a World Cup qualifier. With eight days before the game, expectations have been adjusted a little. "A lower bowl sell out was always our goal," Montagliani admits. "But if we get north of 21, between 21 and 26, that's good. If you look in comparison at the same round last time around, we played them all in Toronto and the highest attendance was 18. That's 2012 when we played Honduras again, and Panama and Cuba. "So our goal was to surpass what we did in Toronto back in the last round of round four. We're confident that we can surpass that and if we can get as close as we can to a lower bowl sell out, that will be great." Looking back to that miserable failed campaign for Brazil 2014, the attendances in Toronto for the three, then third round, matches were pretty steady. Canada drew 16,132 for the 0-0 draw with Honduras in June 2012 and 17,586 for the 1-0 win over Panama in September, before topping out with 17,712 for the 3-0 win over Cuba in October. If the CSA are targeting beating those attendance figures this time around, then they certainly seem well on their way in Vancouver to kick things off. But were the attendances in 2012 relatively poor and disappointing? You can argue both ways but personally I believe a national team in a football loving country should sell out a stadium the side of BMO Field in Toronto for all World Cup qualifiers. Maybe I live in a fantasy world where football is king, but I truly believe this should be the realistic expectation. Which brings us back around to whether Canada cares about it's national men's soccer team. We're always saying here at AFTN that Canada is a footballing nation. But is it? Montagliani firmly believes it is and feels the crowds the national team draws and the interest in the team is more than comparable with elsewhere in the world. "It's funny. because I know our results have always been mediocre at best," Montagliani honestly admitted. "But we're always so hard on ourselves that we're not a soccer country. But if you actually compare us to most countries in the world, we actually are a soccer country because a lot of professional leagues in the world do not get this kind of attendance. A lot of national teams don't get this kind of attendance. "So yeah, if you're comparing it to the big five in the world, of course, but I don't think that's a fair comparison. But I think if you look at it from a global perspective, Canada is a soccer country and I think the numbers and the proliferation of the game over the last ten years I'd say, or more, has shown that." The biggest factor in increasing support, interest and awareness in the Canadian national team is success on the pitch. That's the hard part, but the signs are there that this current squad of talent Canadians has the ability to go far. On the pitch success aside, to grow the game, you also need to promote the game and frankly the promotion of the Canada v Honduras match in Vancouver has been dreadful. I've seen online ads, but little else. Online ads targeting the likes of me do nothing. We're already the ones that know about the game. Promotion elsewhere has been lacking, making the 15,000 ticket sales all the more impressive. How many of the Whitecaps crowd know, or care, that the game is on? How many of the general football loving fans in the city and the province? Montagliani admits that the initial promotion has been slow, and perhaps a little understated, but with just over a week to go he fully expects the CSA promotional machine to go into overdrive. "I heard a little bit about that," Montagliani told us when we asked about the criticism around the lack of promotion for the match. "I think you're going to see a lot of that ramped up. We have to be cognisant too that there's another big game in town too and we're working together with the club [Whitecaps]. They've been excellent with us. "I think you're going to see a lot of this ramp up over the next two weeks. What we have found too, and I think a lot of professional sports [have], is that if you do your advertising too far in advance, it gets lost. It gets lost with too many other things. "You want to hit it hard and often, as close as you get to the event. In fact I know a lot of sponsors are like that. A lot of sponsors like to get in at the right time because there's too much of a lag and they don't see a build up. I think you're going to see a bit of a build up over the next two weeks, I guess, leading up to the game." Slightly worrying that the President thinks that there is still two weeks left to promote the game. There's eight days. But Vancouver is, annoyingly, known as a walk up market, so I do expect a late flurry of sales once the promotion is increased. If the final crowd next Friday isn't over 20,000 it would be a major disappointment. But as Montagliani said, there's another big game in town before then. The Whitecaps have now sold out the full lower bowl for their MLS Western Conference semi-final second leg against Portland. That's 27,500 fans. Will they be targeted to head back to the stadium five days later to watch Canada? Hopefully yes. There's a big buzz in the city right now around the Whitecaps and football, and that can surely only get people to the Canada v Honduras game. Right? "Listen, at the end of the day, the Whitecaps have to win," Montagliani said. "Not if, they have to! Would it help us? Absolutely it would help us, but I think it's more I look at it in a bit of isolation. You want our club, our home team to do well. Nothing would make me happier to see a Montreal - Vancouver final." You can almost here the alarm in MLS headquarters at such a prospect! But back to the World Cup qualifiers. Canada have six matches ahead of them in this round before the Hex. It's the semi-final stage in the CONCACAF qualifying and every point is crucial. Any advantage Canada can give themselves, they have to take it. Which brings us back to Vancouver. That turf pitch could be a big advantage. Canada's two remaining home games at this stage are against Mexico on March 25th and El Salvador on September 6th. Could we see either of those matches in Vancouver as well or has it already been decided that Toronto will get their team back? Montagliani said there's been no decision made as of yet. "That won't happen until after we have this home and away here," Montagliani told us. "We'll sit down in December, January, then we'll decide, probably before the end of January, where the March 25th Mexico game is." It's been 11 years since the national team played in Vancouver. Will it be another 11? Unlikely, but how much does bringing Canada back to BC Place depend on ticket sales for this Honduras match? Not at all, according to Montagliani. "We've never seen it as a referendum," Montagliani added. "We've always seen it as British Columbia and Vancouver has always been a hotbed for soccer. I'm from here, so I know that intimately. It was just the right decision to make. Not only for the team, but for a lot of reasons. Technical, tactical reasons. "Listen, at the end of the day, it's about three points. Do want a full stadium? Absolutely. Do we want the fans to go home happy? Absolutely. Our primary goal is three points." One thing has at least been finalised and that is the TV deal for the national team. After bouncing around Telelatino, online streams and legendary Mad Dog and Maestro commentaries, Canada's national team has a new home for now - TSN. At least for the home qualifiers. Who knows the fun we'll have in store for the away ones! "TSN is our TV provider for this round," Montagliani confirmed. "All three [home] Canada games, between now and next September, will be shown on TSN. Going forward, it's a one year deal because we don't know what's going to happen after this round. I'm not at liberty to say what the actual contract is but obviously there's options there. "In terms of away games, it's a little bit more complicated because we have to negotiate those rights away from those countries. So we're in the middle of doing that and hopefully we'll be showing all the away games as well. It's not as easy to say you can shoe them all. You can't go and plant your cameras in somebody's stadium without their permission." But forget TSN next Friday. If you're free and in the Vancouver area and you're not heading along to BC Place to cheer on your national team, shame on you! If we want to see Canada back in our city, we need to "Pack The Bowl" and show the CSA that Vancouver really is Canada's "soccer city".
  5. Gold Cup the immediate concern For Canada, qualifying to the 2016 Copa America Centanario probably just got slightly harder. If Pinto proves even partially as effective with Honduras as he was with Costa Rica it means los Catrachos will improve from the state they’re currently floundering in. Honduras had a shitty World Cup and its media was filled with stories about players and coaches arguing over money during the tournament. The appointment of Hernan Medford as manager was meant to fix this. In fact things grew worse. He argued with fans and local press about everything, including the fact he chose to wear a solitary earring. He also froze out first-team regulars and guided Honduras through a disastrous Copa Centroamericana that has left them awaiting a playoff with French Guiana just to qualify for the Gold Cup. Whether the move to dump him after four months is knee-jerk, it's hard to argue Pinto isn't an immediate upgrade. Assuming Honduras kicks on to the Gold Cup, this theoretically re-ordered squad will be one of those Canada battles for the last two Copa America Centanario spots, along with Guatemala, Panama, El Salvador, Trinidad, Haiti and Cuba. And if Canada suffers the poor fortune to get lumped yet again with Honduras in World Cup qualifying, a Jorge Luis Pinto-managed squad is certainly less preferable than a chaotic, demoralized one. Conversely, is there a chance Pinto could fail? Of course! Like any manager Pinto doesn't come with a 100% money-back guarantee. His management resume runs long and chequered. Prior to his magical World Cup run he won club titles in Colombia, Peru and Costa Rica but also captained lackluster stints at the helm of both the Costa Rican and Colombian national teams. (Yes, he also managed Costa Rica over 2004 and 2005 and it didn't go so well.) In the buildup to Brazil he spoke constantly about tactical order and defensive fortitude, and his team's stingy performances backed up those words with action. Given Honduras' longstanding problem with scoring it's hard to see him veering from this proven regimen. The boring approach works when you're winning, but he'll require immediate success. There's also the matter of a potentially disastrous marriage between Pinto and the Honduran federation. Two volatile parties prone to rash decisions entering into agreement around something as precarious as international football management. What could go wrong? The British press dubbed Pinto the "Jose Mourinho of South America" and that was before he engineered a spectacular public blowout with his Costa Rican bosses following the World Cup. In terms of player management he's known for being at best a strict disciplinarian and at worst a bit of a dick. It could all yet end badly. Details, details The hiring of a new manager in any Central American nation tends to yield juicy tidbits in the local press around salary and conditions of employment. Comparing these countries to Canada involves apples and oranges but inasmuch as there's any kind of 'market' for mid-level Concacaf managers we now know a bit more about it. For example, Honduran federation president Rafael Callejas told reporters that the budget for any new national team coaching staff would be in the range of $40,000 per month. Anything above and beyond that would require special sponsorship from local companies. (The same article says Pinto demanded $50K/month for himself alone.) However the agreed upon amount is ultimately divvied up, it points to a manager salary at the high end approaching half a million dollars annually. The sports portal Diez also reported Pinto arrived in Honduras with a set of demands that would be the conditions of his signature. He wanted renovations to the player and coach areas of the Estadio Olimpico, he wanted to oversee all youth programs as well as the senior men's side and he wanted freedom to choose team hotels and training areas on the road. There's nothing completely outrageous there but given the scope of control Pinto allegedly desires it's clear who he sees as wearing the pants in this new adventure. In sum, Jorge Luis Pinto just gummed up the competitive logjam in Concacaf's middle class, making it marginally more difficult for all those aspiring to represent the region on the world stage.
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