I've said some pretty nasty things about the Canadian Soccer Association over the years. I've sung the "sack the CSA" chant in full voice. I've called Kevan Pipe things that would get me sued if I repeated them in writing, and the words I've unleashed against Dale Mitchell should probably be subject of a police investigation at some point. But things have been improving, and my stridency has grown less vocal. Since the catastrophic end of World Cup qualifying, the CSA has done their job with unaccustomed aplomb. I have greeted the reign of Peter Montopouli with excitement and even dared to hope that bygones might be bygones.
Evidently not. For last week the Voyageurs Cup schedule was released, and the CSA has apparently decided to kill me.
Like some sort of demented video game, the Whitecaps have a brutal schedule where each game is more difficult than the last. At home to Montreal, then Toronto, then some time off to think about what they've done. Then a flight to Stade Saputo to play an Impact team that will need the three points. Finally, into BMO Field to take on the final boss, Toronto FC on their turf grass, possibly for all the marbles. Montreal is, on paper, better than Vancouver this year, so we may be playing the 2009 Impact role and rolling out half the Residency program. But in a three-team tournament, there's always a chance.
Hell, thanks to this schedule, we could lose both our home games and head into the road legs with a chance of winning the Voyageurs Cup. Or we could dominate at Swangard and lose a heart-breaker at BMO Field to send us home. It's hard to say which would be the more excruciating experience.
Combine two road finales with the Argentina - Canada friendly May 25, and a Voyageur/Southsider like myself will be experiencing one week-long heart attack. If it comes down to a Toronto - Vancouver final to determine the national championship, I will wind up gibbering in the stands of BMO Field like a madman, and win or lose the night will end with my getting into a bottle fight with a U-Sectorite after yet another ill-advised comment about the Gold Cup.
Of course, the release of the USSF Division Two schedule (or as I will call it at least twenty times this year, "USL-1") today has complicated matters even further. The Whitecaps play archrivals Portland four times, once in Portland in April, twice in July, and then once at Swangard in October, where the Cascadia Cup will likely be decided. It's the exact opposite of the Voyageurs Cup, with the 'caps playing twice on the road and then twice at home, with such long spaces between each game the tension will be drawn out like a blade. Or how about the Whitecaps playing Montreal six times in 2010 in all competitions, not counting the playoffs?
This seems doomed to be a wasted year for the Whitecaps, a season that will look forward to MLS and 2011 instead of capturing the A-League USSF Division Two crown. I said that last year, too, but we wound up making the finals. Still, our strikers will be oft-injured youngster Randy Edwini-Bonsu, oft-injured old man Marlon James, and whichever assortment of oft-injured players in their primes Teitur Thordarson can scare up to replace Charles Gbeke and Marcus Haber. Gordon Chin, as far as I can tell one of the two Edmonton Aviators left playing in North America, is all but gone. The midfield and defense still look good, but as good as Montreal's, even with the loss of Joey Gjertsen?
Damn, who am I kidding? I'm excited.