There's not much that worse from a blogging perspective than a Friday morning.
I can't remember the last thing something interesting happened sports-wise on a Friday morning. Actually, I'm not sure anything interesting has ever happened on a Friday morning. I find myself sitting on my couch, surfing the Internet, looking for some scrap of interesting material I can try to spin a thousand words out of. "Hey, they're all sold out of bronze seats for tomorrow evening's game against Portland!" I watched the Canadian women's national game from yesterday afternoon and realized that I have much, much less to say about Canada doing its job and pulling out a competent, expected win than I do when Canada gets up to its usual tricks and craps the bed.
But I still want to post something, if only out of desperate hope that my readers are as bored as I am and will look upon whatever tripe I throw onto the Internet as some sort of literary salvation. Perhaps if I use unnecessarily long words and toss crappy gags in every paragraph, this article will be entertaining? And to tell you the truth, there is a bit to talk about... nothing in detail, but a few things worth saying. I mean, it's the first of October, it's an exciting new world, right?
So here comes the first part in what I hope is a one-part series, Slow News Morning! Point-form stories and opinions that really don't deserve anything but point form. Hey, BC Soccer Web, thanks for all the links over the years but you can go ahead and skip this one. I'm not so much skimming the surface of Canadian soccer news as I am flying over the surface from 30,000 feet up and acknowledging in a non-committal way that it exists. After the jump, some hopefully tasty morsels from the soccer world today.
Yesterday afternoon there was a brief update to Tuesday's story about Petr Cech and how he isn't going to be a Vancouver Whitecap. The "Ben Fairthorne" Twitter account used to start the rumour has been suspended by the Twitter gods, and the fellow who planted the rumour has told the world how it got started.
So that's it at last. The rumour has been killed, the story is dead, and in the last couple of days since it was debunked surely nobody was stupid enough to keep spreading this nonsense... oh for the love of god. As you'd expect, the lice over at MLS Rumors are keeping the story on their front page, too.
I spent most of yesterday afternoon mocking the attendance at the Canada - China women's friendly at BMO Field, which is why I was flabbergasted to hear it had been announced as 5,427. Duane Rollins, who attended the match, was courteous enough to send me a photograph and information about who was in the stands: the picture he sent me of the East stand looks more than a third but less than half full, the north and south ends were empty, and there were three half-filled seconds of the West stand. Estimating appallingly based off one photo, a text message, and the fact that the east stand doesn't seem to have any official listed capacity, I come up with something like 3,500 - 4,000 butts in seats.
Now, the last time the women's national team played at BMO Field just over 10,000 fans came out last year to watch the Americans cream us 4-0. The time before that we drew Brazil 1-1 in front of 13,554 at BMO in 2008. This was a Thursday evening, the weather wasn't great, it's getting late in soccer season, there'd just been a men's friendly in Toronto earlier in the month, China isn't exactly a glamorous opponent, and by international standards an attendance of 3,500 for a women's game isn't bad. All the same, it's a shame. The last time a senior Canadian team played at home before that few fans was back in 2006 for a women's match against the Netherlands in... oh god, now I'm going to look like an idiot... Vancouver. To be fair, that game saw 3,162 fans come into a stadium with a capacity of 3,500, but still.
While we're discussing yesterday's game, my woman of the match was Diana Wilkinson, who kept the Chinese defense backing off her constantly for her eighty-five minutes and not only took her goal very well but picked up a few other chances as well. Christine Sinclair was obviously the most talented player on the pitch but, aside from her (lovely) goal, didn't really assert herself. Kara Lang was strong, making Sinclair's goal, but played less than half an hour. And while I rag on Karina LeBlanc for the all-time howler of a goal she allowed to Zhang Na, it took Canada about fifteen minutes to find their sea legs in this game and during that time LeBlanc had to make two pretty alert saves off the Chinese attack. Apart from that, Canada was pretty much dominant all around. That's so staggeringly rare it leaves me almost speechless.
You've heard about the changes in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, of course? I actually wrote an article about the two proposed systems back in the old days; they wound up more-or-less adopting what I listed in my schedule as "First 2014 Scheme". It's a brilliant change that will mean more, better, and more meaningful soccer for almost the entire confederation, and is as such so un-CONCACAF-like that I remain half-convinced they're going to screw this up. Nobody could possibly object to this new system, except apparently the normally-solid Grant Wahl over at Sports Illustrated. He accuses the new system, which will reduce the chances of the United States and Mexico facing in World Cup qualifying, as killing the United States - Mexico rivalry (a rivalry that is, to Wahl, apparently more important then the thirty-eight other national teams in CONCACAF).
"Hey, Americans forget that other countries exist sometimes!" is an even lower-hanging geographical stereotype than my favourite of "hey, Torontonians think they're the centre of the universe!" But it appears that Wahl genuinely did forget that CONCACAF has a role other than pumping American tires (oh, the Mexicans would miss the rivalry games too, but Mexico cares about soccer no matter who they're playing and have formed other Latin American rivalries within the confederation). He also brushes off the Gold Cup as "not exactly the European Championship" even though it's featured two consecutive United States - Mexico finals: if your rivalry only counts as a rivalry if the match is played in one specific quadrennial qualifying competition, it's not a real rivalry.
If there are any Americans reading this freaking out at the thought of losing United States - Mexico rivalry magic, remember: whatever emotions you have towards the Mexican team aren't going to go away with World Cup qualifying. Ask an English soccer fan how he feels about the Argentine team even though they've only played three times in the last decade.
(That "morsel" turned out to be three paragraphs long. God, what a stupid format this is.)
Related to yesterday morning's article about the debate between the Canadian Soccer Association and the Canadian teams in Major League Soccer about quotas for Canadian players in the league, there seems to be a surprising number of people saying the CSA should "do something". I'm inviting any of my readers who feel this way to share their ideas, because I can't think of any action the CSA could take that wouldn't be catastrophically self-destructive. Both the Whitecaps and Toronto FC are bigger business than our little parochial soccer association. The CSA played a large part in creating Toronto FC in the first place, but that doesn't give them much control now that the club's up and running. The one big stick the Association does have is to withdraw sanctioning from Canada's MLS teams, and trying to destroy Canada's MLS teams in the name of putting more domestic players onto Canada's MLS teams seems... astonishingly misguided.
I'm open for ideas. Frankly, I bet the Canadian Soccer Association is too. But as things stand the CSA needs the two MLS clubs far more than they need the CSA. The mere fact that we're having this dispute is a tacit admission from the CSA that they feel their future success hinges, to a large extent, on what the Whitecaps, the FC, and soon the Impact do to help it along.
A highly recommended Whitecaps-related blog post from the Vancouver Southsiders blog: a look at the possible playoff combinations for the Whitecaps in the first round. The Carolina Railhawks and the Austin Aztex tangle tonight in Carolina. If Austin wins, Vancouver will take the number two seed in the playoffs if we either get a point against Portland on Saturday or lose by less than Carolina did. Otherwise, Vancouver will need a victory with a better goal differential than whatever the Railhawks get to take the tie-breaker. The two teams clash at 4:00 PM Pacific Daylight Time; there should at least be live audio from the Austin Aztex website.
Last and least, remember Jay DeMerit, the rumoured first designated player and American international? He's been left off the United States roster for their upcoming friendlies. Unsurprising, given that DeMerit is still without a club, but still a blow to his stock in the soccer world.