On the debut of the 2 Guys and a Mike vodcast, Tyrrell Meertins and Mike the Mod breakdown the World Cup Draw that took place Friday afternoon.
Tag Archives: CONCACAF
The US men’s national team recorded a decisive victory against Mexico, which has hindered Mexico’s chances of featuring in next summer’s World Cup.
Jurgen Klinsmann was forced to make several changes to the side that lost to Costa Rica, Friday night. Eddie Johnson led the line in Klinsmann’s 4-2-3-1 with Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey and Alejandro Bedoya behind him. Kyle Beckerman and Jermaine Jones played in the double pivot, while Fabian Johnson and Clarence Goodson were included in the back four.
Interim manager Luis Fernando Tena opted to align his side in a 4-4-2 with Javier Hernandez and Giovani Dos Santos leading the line. Andres Guardado and Christian Gimenez operated on the flanks, while Jesus Zavala and Fernando Arce formed a midfield duo.
Mexico started the match brightly, but problems they’ve encountered throughout the Hex haunted them, in a lacklustre affair between the two rivals.
Mexico’s bright start
It’s normal for players to increase their game when a new manager takes over the helm, and the Mexican’s surely wanted to impress Tena. Throughout the Hex, the Mexican’s have underachieved, often ridiculed for producing dull, predictable and feeble performances, specifically at home.
A key factor in Mexico’s poor results is their inability to penetrate, but Tena’s men were eager to mix up their possession-based approach to get a result. Dos Santos and Hernandez made diagonal runs into the channels and behind the US backline, looking to receive the ball in dangerous areas. The Mexican’s moved up the pitch as a unit, the tempo of their passing was much faster, and their midfield was looking to play defence-splitting passes in the final third.
Dos Santos in particular caused the American double pivot problems they experienced in Friday’s loss to Costa Rica. The Mexican dynamo was drifting into space behind Beckerman and Jones to receive the ball, which led to penetrating runs towards the US backline. Unfortunately, Dos Santos decision making and quality in the final third was dire, thus saving the Americans from falling behind early in the match – and as the match wore on, Jones improved and began to track Dos Santos’ movement between the lines.
All of the factors that have led to Mexico’s downfall at this stage were being perfected, and Tena’s presence looked to have given the side a much-needed spark going forward.
Press vs. Shape
Another key feat in Mexico’s bright start was their pressing. They dropped into two banks of four when they conceded possession and disrupted the Americans in the early moments of the match. Dos Santos pressed Beckerman when he dropped deep to receive the ball, forcing Klinsmann’s men to use another outlet going forward.
Earlier on, Jones was surprisingly given heaps of space in deep positions on the right side to play positive forward passes – despite not completing his short passes, Jones’ long diagonal balls were accurate. Tena identified this issue, which led to an evident difference in the way the Mexican’s pressed on the left side, opposed to the right. Although Guardado tucked into central areas when Mexico had possession, he joined Carlos Salcido and Acer in quickly pressing the left side of the pitch when the American’s played out of the back. The Mexican trio’s pressure didn’t last long, but it was successful – often forcing Fabian Johnson and Bedoya into conceding possession.
The American’s approach without the ball was logical and quite effective, due to the severe dip in the Mexican’s energy levels. Klinsmann’s men were keen on dropping off into two banks of four, allowing the Mexican’s to dictate the tempo of the match. Zavalla’s dropped between the two centrebacks creating a 3v2 situation against Eddie Johnson and Dempsey, and he often started Mexico’s build up play, but they encountered a recurring issue – no creativity or penetration – thus allowing the American’s to sit comfortably in their shape and soak up pressure.
Both sides enjoyed a decent amount of success without the ball, but Mexico’s inability to sustain their pressure or increase the tempo in their attack, saw the American’s shape reign supreme.
American’s going forward
Klinsmann’s men spent large portions of the match without the ball, as they looked to break on the counter – however, despite Mexico having more possession in the first half, the American’s used the ball better in the final third. Bedoya’s tucked in centrally allowing Fabian Johnson to get forward and provide width on the right flank, thus providing balance in the US attack.
Another positive element to the US attack was the link up play between Donovan and Dempsey. Donovan was eager to take on defenders when drifting infield, and he played key passes between the lines to Dempsey, who was often crowded out in the final third. With Klinsmann’s men deprived of passing options throughout the pitch, Donovan’s link up play with Dempsey was one of the few key components in the American attack that guided them into dangerous positions.
The American’s cautious approach to the match was vindicated, thus leading to very few goal-scoring opportunities, but they made the most of possession when going forward.
One of the several changes to Klinsmann’s squad was the introduction of a natural centre forward in Eddie Johnson. Dempsey started in Costa Rica, Friday night, and the American attacker failed to have a significant impact on the match, playing as the lone striker. He didn’t provide the required physical presence needed to succeed in the system, was unable to hold up the ball, and was often left as an isolated figure – despite scoring the lone US goal.
Johnson provided the Americans with the physical presence that they lacked on their travels to Costa Rica. He made sharp runs into the channels to allow his midfield to move higher up the field, while his link up and combination play with his attacking three was positive. Johnson was a nuisance to the Mexican back line, and was dominant when attacking set-pieces, which led to his match-winner.
In the first half, Omar Gonzalez blocked off a Mexican player, so Johnson could have space to successfully attack a corner kick, which fell into the hands of Jose Corona. Johnson made the most of his second chance – which saw Goodson replicate Gonzalez’s block – by nodding home a Donovan corner past an out-of positioned Corona.
Johnson provided a physical presence in attack, forcing the Mexican’s to cope with his direct threat and the American striker was a constant threat throughout the final third.
Johnson’s opener was one of the few key moments in the second half, as the onus was on Tena’s men to chase the match. Tena’s attempt to alter the outcome of the match was positive, but the Mexican’s once again struggled in several areas. Klinsmann’s men were content without the ball, because El Tri lacked the creativity, penetration and belief to break down a well-organized American side – which has been a recurring theme throughout their qualifying campaign.
Hector Herrera was introduced to add an attacking thrust from midfield, while Oribe Peralta partnered Hernandez upfront, moving Dos Santos to the right – yet Mexico still looked dire going forward. Peralta’s introduction saw Mexico become a natural 4-4-2 – focusing on hitting the target man, with the poacher playing off him – but deliveries from wide areas came at a minimum, Dos Santos didn’t trouble between the lines, while Hernandez was an isolated figure. The Americans kept their shape, encouraging the Mexican’s to push forward, because they were confident that Mexico couldn’t get behind their back line.
Nevertheless, Donovan put the match out of sight in the 78th minute, when he tapped in Mix Diskerud’s low-driven cross, after some nifty work around the box from the American substitute. An uninspiring second half displayed that Klinsmann’s tactics were spot on – he focused on his side’s defensive shape as a unit, solidity at the back and quick transitions. However, defensive errors from the Mexicans triggered the two goals, in a match that could’ve ended in a goalless draw.
Mexico continues to struggle to break down organized teams in the final third, and their defensive mistakes have seen them drop out of the top four in the Hex. The Americans were aware of their inability to create chances, so the idea to sit back and break on the counter was logical – and it has secured Klinsmann’s men a spot in next year’s World Cup.
Mexico is now placed in a difficult predicament, as hopes of featuring in next year’s World Cup look slim. Maximum points in both games are mandatory, but the issues this side face are worrying. A new manager will most likely take over, and he’ll need to address the issues they face in the attacking third, their slow passing tempo when in possession, and the ability to get the best out of Dos Santos and Hernandez. Most importantly, change is required, but maximum points are a must.
Despite possessing a depleted squad, Klinsmann was able to get the most out of his players and secure a top four finish in the Hex. It was an improved performance compared to what transpired in Costa Rica and the US manager will be looking to build on it in the future. The Americans still look flimsy in midfield without Michael Bradley and weak on right side of the pitch, but they can now set their eyes on Rio this summer, as they continue to develop into a side looking to make a statement.
Six seasons and still without a taste of post-season soccer; it simply isn’t good enough for the city of Toronto. After another season filled with jeers and a half empty home stadium, Toronto FC (TFC) finished the season in last place with 23 points, a massive 30 points out of a playoff spot. It was the team’s worst point tally since their inaugural season six years ago and a change in management was imminent.
Despite being crowned Amway Canadian champions last season for the fourth consecutive year, Canada’s first Major League Soccer (MLS) team has found life difficult in the North American league. TFC play their home games at BMO field, located at the Exhibition Place in downtown Toronto. Players and managers have arrived and departed, but Toronto’s hopes of having a successful franchise has failed thus far.
CBC soccer columnist Ben Rycroft says TFC’s underachievement begins and ends with their owners, Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment (MLSE).
“The problem with TFC is that it was run by people who either didn’t understand the game, or [didn’t] understand the game in North America,” Rycroft says.
In late November, MLSE hired Kevin Payne as the first president of TFC. Payne’s role at the club is equivalent to Bryan Colangelo’s with the Raptors and Dave Nonis’ with the Leafs. Both men are in charge of issues on the court/ice, while Payne will be involved with issues on the field and the business aspects of the club.
Payne loves to build winning sides, as evidenced by his time with D.C. United. During his 17-year tenure as president of the Washington club, they claimed four MLS Cups and a Confederation Of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football Champions Cup. Now his vision is to turn this organization around and provide the fans with a successful team. TFC has conceded the most goals in the league over the last two seasons; drastically improving the defence will be the first part of his vision for the club. Payne’s former club played a possession-based style of soccer, and the new TFC president would like to bring that mentality to Toronto, along with implementing a core system the team can grow with.
Sportsnet Managing Digital Editor, John Molinaro, says Payne’s track record in DC shows he has the pedigree to be successful at the club.
“He clearly has an eye for coaching talent and I think he has a good understanding of building a team,” he says.
The dismissal of Paul Mariner as head coach would lead to the surprise of the offseason: the hiring of Ryan Nelsen, who at the time was playing for English Premier League side Queens Park Rangers (QPR). He was chosen in early January as the man to lead TFC into the future. Along with making this team playoff contenders, Payne and Nelsen were tasked with changing the way the club handles transfers.
Last season, then-coach Aron Winter, tried to implement a tiki-taka style, similar to how famous Spanish side Barcelona play. This failed miserably, as Winter didn’t possess players capable of succeeding in such a technical system. Payne’s vision is also all about building a young core of talent that can improve every year.
With TFC making changes behind the scenes and in their philosophy as a club, are they headed in the right direction, that is, a club aspiring to win trophies?
Heading into their seventh season in MLS, the goal for TFC is to make their first playoff appearance. The move by Payne to appoint Nelsen, a 35-year-old, with no managerial experience, has left many optimistic fans puzzled. Rycroft admits that he was very skeptical with the Nelsen signing because he was still playing for QPR.
“He has no experience coaching, and generally a player that becomes a coach, does best when he takes over from playing with his old squad,” Rycroft says.
Although Molinaro feels one day Nelsen will become a good coach, he shares Rycroft’s concerns.
“He’s never coached before, he’s never taken any coaching courses or acquired any coaching badges, so he comes into this quite unqualified,” Molinaro says.
“Considering where this franchise is; after six years without a playoff appearance, it would have been a better idea to bring in someone with more experience and a track record of success,” he says.
Kenny Dalglish, Pep Guardiola and Vicente Del Bosque are a few coaches that have had great managerial careers after retiring from their playing careers.
“This is a different scenario. He got his start in the league, but it has been a long time since he has played here and the league has changed,” Rycroft says.
Although the Nelsen hiring was peculiar, there’s no guarantee that his tenure will be a failure. Nelsen was arguably QPR’s best defender this season before his departure, and his experience as a player can surely have an affect on his players.
Rycroft says that Payne brings a soccer management background that Toronto FC has never really had.
“Payne has shown he has a plan, and as someone with a real soccer background you have to give him the benefit of the doubt for now,” Rycroft says.
“He has a plan and a vision, and so far has shown himself willing to make tough decisions to execute it.”
Payne has already made some key changes since joining the squad, including acquiring homegrown talents Kyle Bekker and Emery Welshmann in the MLS SuperDraft, along with allocation money.
The MLS SuperDraft is an annual event in which all teams select players that have graduated from college or have been signed by the league.
According to MLSsoccer.com, allocation money is a resource available to all clubs in addition to their respective salary budgets.
Soccer Newsday columnist Sonja Missio, says Payne is bringing all of his old chums with him, to build a team that he’s comfortable with.
“It’s clear that Payne has a vision in mind, I’m just suspicious as to what that vision is, and is he flexible to change it if or when it doesn’t work?” Missio says.
“It’s not just about winning games, it’s how he will, can, or should assist in the development of Canadian soccer culture in Canada,” she says.
In their six-year existence, despite the few good moments, TFC has consistently underachieved. The club has gone through seven managers in six seasons, and none have managed to win more than 50 per cent of the games during their respective tenures. The club is coming off its worst season since it was founded, recording only five wins, and their average home attendance decreased by 2000 tickets.
Former TFC goalkeeper Milos Kocic stated in a January 2013 interview with the Globe and Mail that some of his teammates would laugh after games, even after defeats.
“It’s better for me to leave, to go somewhere else where I’m going to be appreciated,” Kocic said in the interview.
Aron Winter being tactically inept – not realizing this players needed a simpler system to operate in, Paul Mariner’s inability to cope with injuries to veteran players Danny Koevermans and Torsten Frings, and some questionable decisions regarding player sales from MLSE, including homegrown heroes Julian De Guzman and Dwayne De Rosario all played a factor in TFC’s recent poor form. Over the years, TFC has lacked experience, vision and stability behind the scenes.
While the players and coaching staff certainly deserve most of the blame for TFC’s downfall, Missio says MLSE didn’t properly assess the team they possessed.
“It’s like a family getting a puppy for Christmas and not being able to take care of it come February,” she says.
“Oh sure, it’s fun and exciting at first, but you have to know how to look after it…MLSE had all the best intentions, but they were in over their heads,” Missio says.
The introduction of a president has been a bright spot for the club. Payne has done a great job handling one of the club’s main issues recently, bringing in effective Designated Players; most have been well past their prime and not worth the expense. Heading into the new season, TFC was faced with decisions to make on these players, and Payne handled the situation well.
According to the 2012 MLS rules, the Designated Player rule allows clubs to acquire up to three players whose salaries exceed their budget charges.
This is where the allocation money gained in the draft comes into play.
Payne told the Toronto Sun, “The allocation money will allow us to potentially bring in a small Designated Player– a younger player but one with some real upside,” Payne says.
“We can now potentially bring them onto our team not as a DP any longer because we can buy their contract down with allocation money,” he says.
Last season TFC had three DP players, in captain Torsten Frings, 36, Danny Koevermans, 34 and Eric Hassli, 31. Hassli was brought in to provide depth in attack but spent most of the season sidelined due to injury, Frings, is the best midfielder on the team and Koevermans is the prolific goalscorer.
The question Payne had to consider was, could the oldest combination of DP players in MLS lead this side to a playoff appearance in the near future?
The answer was no.
Hassli pushed for a move away from the club, and Payne was willing to let him go for a second round draft pick. Considering he was making $790 thousand US, roughly $370 thousand of which was affecting the club’s salary, it was a smart move.
Frings announced his retirement in February due to a hip injury suffered last season. He felt stepping away from the game was not only better for his health but also the team’s development.
Koevermans’ future still looms in the air as he recovers from an anterior cruciate ligament injury he suffered last season. Considering the limited options upfront, it would be suicidal for TFC to trade their most prolific striker. Since joining the club in 2011, Koevermans has netted 17 goals in 26 league appearances. Bringing in two young DP’s more likely attackers, and retaining Koevermans, and the experience he brings, would not only save TFC from more financial woes, but could also benefit the club in the short and long term.
There’s a lot of pressure, expectation, and optimism as the new MLS season unfolds. Die-hard TFC fans will be hoping to see the club do much better than last year’s dismal campaign.
Daniel Kwasny, a member of TFC’s supporter group, U-Sector, says that Payne and Nelsen will succeed, if MLSE don’t interfere with their plans.
“I feel that Payne and Nelsen’s arrival is a positive move for the club, and if MLSE allow them to see out this project, the team will be an MLS contender in the next three years,” Kwasny says.
TFC will need to perform at a higher level to gain back the large number of fans who have turned their back on the club, but the pressure will certainly lie on Payne and Nelsen’s shoulders.
“From what I’ve seen thus far, TFC have improved tactically, their work rate has increased, and we’re competing against the top sides in the league,” he says.
This new era can end in two ways: the first being that the team improves and potentially fights for a playoff spot. This would give the fans an incentive to back these two men and would certainly mean their long-term vision is working.
On the other hand, this season could turn into a nightmare, with similar results and continued struggles between coach and players. This would result in fan backlash; not only would we see more empty seats and fewer supporters, but it would also put a blemish on Payne’s outstanding track record.
“I would only expect them to be a bit more competitive this year and improve on what they did last year,” Molinaro says.
“In 2014 they need to be not only challenging but also making it into the post-season, because by then Kevin Payne would have had enough time to implement his plans fully,” he says.
This year, I received the opportunity to cover the Humber Hawks men’s varsity team in the fall edition of the Humber Et Cetera. Besides the poor quality of soccer and dreadful web streams, I witnessed Humber win their third straight OCAA (provincial) title and first CCAA (national) title in 11 years.
The Hawks cruised through the OCAA season in convincing fashion, conceding four goals and losing twice to St. Clair and Sheridan. As great as the achievement sounds, it was far from an impressive championship run. Along with Humber being far superior against sides such as Fleming and Lambton, the Hawks won many games on moments of brilliance or poor defending from the opposing team.
Humber faced off against Seneca in the OCAA finals in a comfortable encounter. Despite Seneca having lots of the possession, they lacked cohesion going forward, and Humber simply broke them down on the counter.
Humber and Seneca were off to nationals in New Westminster B.C. to represent Ontario in the CCAA championships, with both sides coincidentally meeting in the semi-finals. It was déjà vu for Humber as they cruised by Seneca 3-0, advancing to the CCAA final having yet to face a quality side.
Humber faced off against VIU in a match that I’ve been waiting to see all season; certainly the Hawks were expected to face competent opposition in a national final.
VIU pushed Humber to their limits — they outworked and outplayed the Hawks for large portions of the match. VIU were the superior side that looked like national champions, but the Hawks were resilient and they dealt with everything the B.C. outfit threw at them, ultimately winning the game in a shootout.
Now don’t get me wrong, Humber is a great side, but we only caught flashes of how good they really are.
Many ask me, how could a team that hasn’t played great soccer become national champions?
As much as I’d like to say, “defence wins championships,” that wasn’t the case for the Hawks’ triumph. Humber had solidity at the back, but the fact that Canada’s national champions are unable to control the tempo of a game or string together several passes in a row is an indictment of the quality at this level.
Is it Humber’s fault for playing this way? No.
Could they have been better throughout the season? Definitely.
Humber should be proud of their achievement and cherish the moment for the rest of their lives. What I got out of this experience wasn’t how great this Hawks side was. But through covering soccer at the college level I received a wakeup call.
After Canada’s embarrassing exit in their final group game against Honduras, many fans were left furious. I stumbled upon comments on twitter such as “Why are these guys on the team?” “We have better players in Canada,” “Sack Stephen Hart,” and “Why not Morgan, Cavallini or Henry.”
To set the record straight, Hart was never going to avoid the sack after being humiliated in such a manner. The youth is promising, but the chance of these players changing the game against a superior side in Honduras was very unlikely. Lastly, and I repeat, CANADA DOES NOT HAVE BETTER PLAYERS.
Many feel that we have better players since our country is multi-cultural, but in reality we don’t. Having the chance to go through the youth system in Ontario and watch the best our country has to offer at the college level opened my eyes.
Canada has players with raw talent, and that’s no surprise based on our large population, but we don’t have the right system intact to develop elite players. We focus on building “super-teams” as early as 12 to compete in the OYSL, leaving leagues and competition imbalanced. We focus on running, scrimmaging and winning, when we should be focusing on the fundamentals.
Winning is an important part of the game because everybody wants to be a winner, but is winning all that matters?
Many parents in this country dish out hundreds of dollars yearly so their children can be a part of a winning team and many of those children fail to play outside of Canada.
Young players in this country lack the fundamental skills, tactical awareness and tactical intelligence needed to succeed at the highest levels in football. Players struggle to string together several passes, they’re unable to dribble past defenders, they provide no movement off the ball and many never fully understand their positional role
Now who do we put the blame on for these issues our youth face in this country?
Well anyone who’s been involved or associated with a soccer team at a competitive level in this country (parent, coach or player) needs to take a look in the mirror and hold his or herself responsible for our nation’s failure at the international level.
The problem with youth soccer in this country is the win-at-all-cost mentality that is instilled. Coaches teach their players and parents that winning is all that matters and they avoid teaching them skills needed to compete at a high level. Coaches need to be teachers of the game rather than recruiters who target players that rely on strength and speed.
Trophies are great, but by sticking to this philosophy, we ignore the fact that our players are deprived the opportunity to obtain the skills needed to thrive at an elite level. The key to youth development is educating both players and parents. We need to focus on smaller-side games and more training sessions, so children can have confidence when the ball is at their feet and be able to learn from their mistakes.
TSN soccer analyst and former Canadian international Jason deVos believes there is no short-term solution to our nations struggles at the international level.
“We must take a long-term approach, by completely overhauling our youth development structure,” deVos said.
“There is far too much emphasis placed on winning in youth soccer in Canada that must be structurally altered so that young players can be free to make mistakes that aid in learning.”
Luckily, Canadians are being presented with a solution to their international disappointments in recent years.
The answer is Long Term Player Development (LTPD). LTPD’s goal is to build a soccer environment that’ll develop young players to their full potential. The seven stage development program will eliminate gaps in player development, allow players to realize their athletic potential and enhance Canadian excellence in soccer.
According to the Ontario Soccer Association website, “LTPD is common practice in many of the best soccer nations in the world. It stresses, especially at the crucial early development ages, far less emphasis on games and “winning”, and much more on practice, touches, creativity, skill development and learning how to play and enjoy the game.” LTPD is focused on our kids enjoying the beautiful game of soccer and helping our country develop players capable of playing at an elite level internationally.
Goal.com chief editor Rudi Schuller believes that the CSA needs to take away some power from youth clubs and regional associations.
“As long as we have youth clubs fighting relegation and competing for registration dollars, we’ll see the bigger clubs poaching the best players to win which does little for the development of the individual player,” Schuller said.
It may take 10-20 years to see results from LTPD, but it’s the direction Canadian soccer needs to take in order to become a powerhouse in CONCACAF.
So the next time you feel the need to blame the CSA or state “Canada has better players out there,” remember that Canada doesn’t have a developmental youth program or a youth system capable of producing elite players.
Change in our youth system is in our hands as Canadians. The question is, are you willing to stand up and help make a difference?
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It was a week that will go down in Canadian soccer history for years to come. Canada needed four points out of an available six to make it to “the Hex.” The Hex is the final stage of World Cup Qualifiers in CONCACAF, and if Canada were able to progress then they would have a legitimate shot of qualifying for the World Cup in 2014. With destiny in their hands and a whole nation finally behind them, nothing could go wrong, right?
This tweet was in regards to the news of Jonathan De Guzman and David Junior Hoilett joining Canada if they were to advance to “the Hex”. The news has been buzzing around Canada, hours before arguably the biggest game in our nation’s history.
I had quite a laugh at Jason’s life relating analogy, and frankly it makes sense.
Anyways, the comments I’ve seen online and via social media have been quite shocking and I question some of these big name journalists that have weighed in on the topic. But lets enjoy the humour of this tweet and stem away from all this JDG2/Hoilett talk for a moment. In less than three hours, we will sit at the edge of our seats, praying for a result and this speculation should be the least of our worries.
I will be the first to say GO CANADA GO, and if we happen to advance to “the Hex”, then I will be more than happy to weigh in on why many are insane for not wanting to accept these players.