Off to a rousing start

My adventure/Quixotic quest to get Canada into the 2010 World Cup is off to a far better start that I’d planned. As mentioned before, I decided to take a defensive/counter-attacking approach in the hope of minimizing the damage. The whole plan hinged on two things: 1) not giving up a lot of goals and 2) being able to make my chances count. Since I went into my first game with 1 point from the previous 6 matches (under the previous manager, who was canned after a horrible Gold Cup showing), I realized that I needed about 9 points from my next 6 matches to be in contention for the 4th spot (which is a playoff with the South American 5th place team).

I figured my first match would be an experimental match, in which I’d try the tactics and see how they worked. I didn’t know this would happen:

Canada 2-1 Mexico

Canada 2-1 Mexico

Yeah, you read that correctly. Two goals from Olivier Occean sealed the deal for me. I still don’t know how I did it, even after looking at the stats. I took my victory and moved on, though, to the next two World Cup Qualifiers, against Honduras and the US.

The first match was, once again, at BMO Field. The pundits, in their pre-match analysis, decided this would be a close game. Most predicted a draw. I decided to go for the win. And win I did, except it was a sloppy game. Errors abounded and I was on the edge of my seat the entire time.

Canada 2-1 Honduras

Canada 2-1 Honduras

The third match was the toughest. It was agaisnt the USA, which have already qualified for the World Cup with 17 points from CONCACAF play. I took a decidedly different tone in the press conference, trying to encourage my squad, to give them confidence. Of course, the press miscontrued my remarks. Curse you, MSM!

Pre-match press conference v. USA

Pre-match press conference v. USA

Nevertheless, we didn’t change any tactics though I had to put some different players in, owing to injuries. One of the things about running the national team is that I can’t get players match fit, like I can when I’m running a club. Thus, some of the players I called up were still not in game shape so there were two injuries to deal with. So, I plugged those players in and hoped for the best. And the best happened:

USA 0-1 Canada

USA 0-1 Canada

It was a Josh Simpson goal on 43 minutes that put me up. To be fair, the US played a few players that hadn’t played a lot since they have their World Cup spot locked up. But still, with a squad featuring Altidore, Donovan, and Bradley, it was hardly a U-17 team I was playing. This was, by far, the biggest win during my tenure, even bigger than the Mexico win.

As of right now, Canada is in 4th place, with 10 points. I think I can catch Jamaica for 3rd place, especially since we play Jamaica in our final qualifying game. The next match is against Costa Rica in Costa Rica. It will likely be a very tough game but the Canada squad will have renewed confidence going into the final 2 matches.

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