Good Monday morning Caps fans, hope your weeks are off to a fast start. I had a dentist appointment this morning so just be thankful you haven’t had to get a cavity filled...
Perhaps it is the disheartening state of my favored club teams (the Caps are, well, the Caps and Spurs are their own special kind of dumpster fire at the moment) but I am quite enjoying the current international break/rush of World Cup Qualifiers.
The Nations League final, which was one of the best/wildest matches I have seen in some time did little to dissuade me of this notion. Yeah the CNL is a made-up thing but the real emotion the U.S.-Mexico engendered was a sight to behold (even if it felt like the game in front of me was like some 125 minute long acid trip).
Obviously Canada had no problems at all in their routine dispatching of Aruba on Saturday. Lucas Cavallini bagged a brace, proving that Cava can still impress when not being asked to do too much. Phonzie got a goal during a sub cameo, Zachary Brault-Guillard hit a banger and the team generally seemed to be firing on all cylinders.
Their timing couldn’t be better, as a surprisingly decisive match awaits against Suriname to see who continues on in their World Cup qualification journey. While Group B is pretty soft, fair play to Suriname for advancing to this point unbeaten with a +15 goal differential — they’ve successfully mined their colonial legacy to include a lot of guys born in Holland (including the nephew of Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink; Kelvin Leerdam is another familiar name) and have some guys in the Bundesliga, English Championship, Turkish league and Jupiter League. Canada remains the heavy favorites but Bermuda this isn’t.
The storylines of Suriname and the Bahamas, who knocked Trinidad and Tobago out of qualifying earlier on Saturday (allowing U.S. Men’s National Team fans a sigh of relief), are what makes soccer so pleasurable.
It isn’t just Canada who has a vital match however; five of the six groups will be decided on the final day, with some potentially dangerous teams (Curacao, Panama) trying to keep their hopes alive.
Every cycle there is a period in which I want to quit my day job, globe trot and mine the considerable number of stories out there in the national team landscape. I quickly return to my senses but for people who nerd out over both soccer and geopolitics, this is your time to shine.
Things will get even more enjoyable Friday, with the European Championships popping off, one year later than initially expected.
The first weekend has a pretty strong start: Italy/Turkey get things started Friday afternoon, Belgium/Russia and Wales/Switzerland headline Saturday and an England/Croatia rematch rewards those who get up early Sunday. North Macedonia provides a worthy minnow to cheer on as well.
Sure, there is no shortage of intrigue for the Caps these days, between transfer rumors and the pursuit of a Gloire Amanda homegrown deal. And we’ve spent ample time discussing how the club should be using this three-week respite to regroup and plot out a new way forward.
But as much as the players need a break, so too do supporters. The real joy of the international break is a chance to puzzle over Finland/Denmark or El Salvador/Antigua and pretend that, when club soccer returns, the Caps won’t be as dire as we all know they will be.
As an aside — shoutout to Patrick Metcalfe, who got a spot on the Canadian Men’s National Team taxi squad. A positive development for a youngster that seems to have taken a step up from his few cameo appearances last year, Metcalfe used a strong Olympic qualifying turn into making a good case for the Gold Cup roster and (perhaps) for more minutes at the club level, as Marc dos Santos sorts out his midfield option for the months ahead.
Best of the Rest
More on Canada’s beatdown of Aruba, as well as what lies ahead
A look at Suriname’s squad and what to expect from them during Tuesday’s pivotal match
For us U.S.-based Caps fans: The club will begin allowing supporters into their “home” games at Rio Tinto Stadium. Anyone fancy a road trip?