For about 70 of the 90 minutes, Canada kept its shape and maintained its defensive discipline. For an underdog, discipline is the key to success: an underdog can’t take stupid penalties nor can it be carded. It must stay in front of the opposing attackers and it must capitalize on its opportunities. In its first two games, Canada did exactly that and it won both games, assuring itself of a place in the quarter-finals.
For the other 20 minutes of tonight’s game against Costa Rica, Canada played alternately beautiful and brutal soccer. In those 20 minutes, 4 goals were scored and the end result was a 2-2 draw. Which is fine, because Canada won the group. But it’s not fine because it will, in all likelihood, have to play a rather good Honduas team in the next round.
I realize that Canada played mostly second-stringers tonight in an effort to get them playing time. I also understand that they played pretty well against a reasonably decent team. I was, however, confused when coach Stephen Hart brought Ali Gerba on in the 75th minute. That seemed to signal, to me, that he was going for the win. Why else bring on your first choice striker? That move was countered by Hart himself in the 81st minute when he brought on Adrian Cann, a defender.
Though I don’t know what’s going on in Stephen Hart’s head, I do know that Canada plays somebody on July 28. Even with the long time off, they should go in to the game well-rested and confident.
Ali Gerba scores v. El Salvador
Team Canada had it’s Glengarry Glen Ross moment today against El Salvador. In striking first, once again off the foot of Ali Gerba, Canada had to hold its 1-0 lead against a really quite good Salvadoran side. It must be noted that the El Salvador side that showed up tonight was clearly not the side that gave the United States a run for its money only a couple of months ago. That said, Canada played very well and, after taking the lead, shut El Salvador down with very good ball possession and very good defense.
I was really impressed with Gerba. He was a constant threat against the Salvadoran defenders. I was also impressed by Will Johnson, except when he made an exceptionally poor decision to shoot rather than pass to a streaking Julian de Guzman. In reality, the final score should have been 3-0 or 4-0 but for Canada having the inability to finish effectively. Although the Canadian back four were solid, the team will still rue those missed opportunities.
I like that Canada didn’t let up; they kept attacking the Salvadoran goal, resulting in 6 (usually poorly taken) corner kicks. I really like what Stephen Hart is doing with the team: they’re hustling and playing very disciplined soccer. I don’t recall any Canadian player being caught out of position, which is a sign of a well-coached team.
El Salvador, for its part, looked very average. There was no urgency, even after they went down 1-0. It was as if they felt they could score any time. I really hope El Salvador isn’t going down Mexico’s path: trying only against the “good” teams.
For the time being, Canada is the first team through to the quarter-finals with 6 points. And that’s a good thing if you’re a Canadian soccer fan.
Team Canada deserves it coffee tonight.
I’m a bit late on this, but that’s not really a problem since most people don’t care about the Gold Cup. So I guess this makes me Don Quixote charging the windmills. Oh, well.
Here’s Canada’s roster:
- 1. Greg Sutton, goalkeeper (Unattached)
- 2. Adrian Cann, defence (Esbjerg fB/Denmark)
- 3. Mike Klukowski, defence/midfielder (Club Brugge KV/Belgium)
- 4. André Hainault, defence (Houston Dynamo/MLS)
- 5. Kevin McKenna, defence/midfielder (FC Köln/Germany)
- 6. Julian de Guzman, midfielder (Deportivo La Coruna/Spain)
- 7. Paul Stalteri, defence, midfielder (Borussia Mönchengladbach/Germany)
- 8. Marcel de Jong, midfielder (Roda JC/Netherlands)
- 9. Ali Gerba, forward (Unattached)
- 10. Will Johnson, midfielder/forward (Real Salt Lake, MLS)
- 11. Richard Hastings, defence (Inverness CT/Scotland)
- 12. Issey Nakjima-Farran, midfielder (FC Nordsjælland/Denmark)
- 13. Atiba Hutchinson, midfielder (FC København)
- 14. Dejan Jakovic, defence (DC United/MLS)
- 15. Josh Simpson, midfielder/forward (FC Kaiserslautern/Germany)
- 16. Simeon Jackson, forward (Gillingham FC/England)
- 17. Jaime Peters, defence/midfielder (Ipswich Town FC/England)
- 18. Joshua Wagenaar, goalkeeper (Yeovil Town FC/England)
- 19. Kevin Harmse, defence/midfielder (Toronto FC/MLS)
- 20. Patrice Bernier midfielder (FC Nordsjaelland/Denmark)
- 21. Chris Pozniak, midfielder (Dundee FC/Scotland)
- 22. Kenny Stamatopoulos, goalkeeper (FC Lyn Oslo/Norway)
- 23. Charles Gbeke, forward (Vancouver Whitecaps FC/USL)
I’m very pleased that Will Johnson is on the team. I’m completely and utterly shocked that David Edgar and Asmir Begovic were left off the roster. That pisses me off more than words can express at the moment.
Also, even though Ali Gerba is listed as unattached, he’s actually signed with Toronto FC, but can’t join until 1 July (though, in practice, that means after the Gold Cup).
That said, the match against Jamaica has started well. I’ll give an update when the match is over.
UPDATE – 9:07 PM CST
Ali Gerba celebrates his goal (Lori Shepler/AP)
Canada just defeated Jamaica 1-0 on a goal by Ali Gerba. Canada played rather well, if a bit defensively. Ricardo Gardner was virtually non-existant. The Canadian offense came off of counter-attacks which is how a weaker side needs to work. The move itself, a pass to Gerba’s feet by Mike Klukowski, was good. It seemed to take the Jamaicans by surprise, much like the entire Canadian counter-attack.
Canada faces two tough games versus El Salvador and Costa Rica next. Hopefully, they’ll play as good as they did against Jamaica.