Today's game showed nothing more than what the senior team looks like with zero preparation. The priority and funding are directed at the U19's right now. Pellerud merely took advantage of the opportunity to get his senior team (and some U19 prospects) together and play a little soccer on the US tab.
So is the glass half full or half empty? It all depends on your perspective. It wasn't long ago that Canada was losing to the USA by scores like 9-1 and 4-1. Then just prior to the 2000 Olympics Canada broke through with a 1-1 tie followed in late 2000 by a 3-1 win. Now people wonder what happened to all that promise. Is this all there is? Pellerud isn't especially verbose about his strategy so people don't know what to think.
I've watched the team closely for the past 4 years so it's not too hard to look back and see what happened. First off it's obvious that Canada needs to improve their technical skills but Pellerud has neither the time nor the budget to do more than hone what skills are already there. Resources limitations aside, Pellerud had a workable strategy to build his team from the defense forward. Once his team defense and the back line were solid he could go on to push his midfield and outside backs forward to support the strikers. Until he reached that point his best option was to focus his mids on defense and drive long balls onto his talented and opportunistic strikers. By the time the 2003 Algarve cup came along his plan was right on track. The focus was switching to team offense, possession through the midfield and attacks from the outside backs. Then the wheels fell off. Although he probably wouldn't say so in public his progress with the Canadian team took a big backwards step when Chapman and Boyd went down to major injuries. Their loss took him pretty much back to team defense and long balls. A fourth place in the WWC was pretty amazing and one has to wonder if Sweden would have managed a late 2 goal run with Boyd and Chapman on the back line. Or if Boyd, Chapman and Nonen's considerable speed would have been able to shut down Dominguez in the Olympic trials like it did in the Gold Cup. Neither question even considers how much stronger Canada would have been had Pellerud's plans gone uninterrupted. I expect it will take some time to get back on track. Zurrer looks like a step in the right direction but there is a long way to go.
I agree that Pellerud did a fantastic job with what he had leading up to the 2003 WC, not only strategically, but also with inspiring the team. In fact, being a dual citizen of Canada and the U.S, I changed who I was cheering for because the Canadian Team has been far more inspiring than the U.S. since 2002.
However, since the 2003 WC, Pellerud seems to have done some questionable things. As mentioned before, the goaltending choice at the CONCACAF Olympic quals was very suspect. It is also not clear why he has not tried to increase the ball handling since the WC, and why he does not call up and/or play a few of the more skilled players (e.g. - Thorlakson).
I agree that Zurer looks like a good prospect, but she is slated to be playing forward this fall at U. of Illinois (which will be an odd lead up for the U-19 WC if she is still going to play defense at the U-19 WC).
And btw, I've seen many of the players play NCAA soccer, and all the ones I've seen are capable of playing ball control soccer against top quality opponents (which reminds me, I remember now seeing Candace Chapman hurt her knee against Stanford during the NCAA playoffs... but that was November of 2002. Did she do it again?). (Oh, and Sinclair is absolutely phenomenal when she has midfield support... I've seen her in person a few times with Portland... in only two season she broke Mia Hamm's career playoff scoring record).
Anyway, the main point is that if Canada wants to be the best in the world (and I think that they do), then now is the time to be learning to play the way they need to, not to retreat into a bunker defense so that they don't lose by too much.
Maybe expectations are too high, but that is good, I think. High expectations, in combination with strong support, is how the public and media can help.
Speaking of which, how do Canadian teams get their funding (I've been out of Canada for a long time)? Is it entirely government, or do they have private and corporate sponsorship. And how does the CSA decide how to divide up their funds, especially between men and women? I assume, if it is a government funded organization, that information is in the public domain.
Pellerud's policy is to play whichever keeper is showing best in practice. Keepers run hot and cold, seems like a smart policy to me. Who on these boards attended the practices in Costa Rica to form the opinion his choice of keepers was questionnable?
The ball handling question was answered in my previous post. It's not that Pellerud doesn't see the problem, there is only so much he can do about it. Preparation for the Oly trials was focused on earning a berth in the Oly's with another makeshift defense. In the end our defense (not ball handling) came up short. Since the Oly trials Pellerud hasn't had the time/funding to do much of anything. btw Canada has some excellent current and former NCAA players. Pellerud doesn't tell them to leave their skills at the door.
Thorlakson is a skilled striker. So are Sinclair, Latham, Lang and Jamani, not to mention Hooper. Who is Thorlakson supposed to replace?
Chapman tore her ACL last summer preparing for the WWC. She hasn't (to my knowledge) played for ND or Canada since.
Canada does want to be the best in the world but in the meantime the the coach's job is to win games. Canada played as smart a game as possible against the USA given the circumstances. Pellerud's vision for this team doesn't include a bunker defense against anyone but as I said in my previous post Canada's progress was hurt by the loss of 2 key defenders.
I believe Canadian teams get most of their funding through the feds. There are some sponsors but I don't have any idea how much they kick in. Maybe Elaine knows more about where funding comes from and how it's allocated.
CIBC (the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce) is a big private sponsor of all the national teams. i think that the women also get additional funding from companies such as JVC and Whirlpool.
Pellerud has been the most successful coach in the history of all the Canadian national teams , of that there is no doubt. He came in after the dismal showing at the 1999 Women's World cup, and quickly turned things around in many areas. His ability to meld players into different positions has been brilliant. So did Holger with the men to a lesser degree after the debacle of 1997. But like Holger, Pellrud has not been perfect all the time with all things.
CAFAN, I know I had the debate with you last winter about this on Big
Red, but I agree that Pellerud has done some very questionable things
things since the World Cup, especially in terms of tactics within a game. Like Erickson (and many other Scandinavian coaches) he has great strengths in management and preparation, but seems very inflexible in terms of changing tactics within a tournament or within a match when required. "Frozen by misfortune" might be a term I would apply.
For instance, he knew before the second half of the Olympic semi with Mexico started that he faced a very strong headwind, but made no adjustments to tactics at all to face this obvious challenge. The players he had were more than capable of switching to a more control oriented game, and were far better athletes and overall players than the Mexicanas, and that was the only choice given the severe winds. It was the failure to move and keep the ball in the Mexican end in the second half that doomed us, and this was primarily the fault of the tactics employed by the midfield and forwards, not the fault of the defence. "The loss of two key defenders" is with respect, a tired old mantra, especially against the latina opposition that had very little depth other than some good strikers. Thus, it was not the abilities or inablities of the players on the field that lost us the expected berth in the Olympics, it was clearly Erickson's tactics and his inability to adjust that chained them.
CAFAN - actually, most experienced coaches go with who played best in the last game, not practice. Anyone who has been an athlete or coach for very long should know that who performs in practice and who performs in games is definitely not the same list.
And though I agree w/ beachesl that we had poor adjustment to the wind in the Mexico game (though I think we adjusted poorly in both halves), it did not help that Mexico scored on LeBlanc's two MAJOR weaknesses, that are known throughout the soccer world because she had the same weaknesses in the WUSA: coming off her line way too far and staying there for way too long, and her inability to move side-to-side very quickly. She may work harder than anyone else in the world in practice, which is probably more admirable than the way one performs, but for a national team you go with who performs in games.
That's what I said, Canada has some excellent NCAA players. But apparently Pellerud does ask the players to leave certain skills at the door. In fact, every coach does so that they play within the system of the team. However, ball control is a skill that needs to be at least partially added to the team.
I would definitely have Thorlakson replace Jamani. Though Jamani did score a few goals against some weak teams in the CONCACAF Olympic quals, she generally looks like she's a chicken running around with her head cut off. She looked terrible against the U.S. on Saturday. And I cannot decide about Latham; she is a skilled player, but seems to be into the game for about 20 seconds out of every ten minutes. Thorlakson and Sinclair together have proved very formidable in the past, and Sinclair desperately needs at least one more player up there who can play with some control. She looks like she has to play one-on-four all of the time (which also begs the question: why does the midfield support?)
Oh, and I am pretty sure that Pellerud's directive's from the CSA are not to win friendlies against the U.S. in mid-2004, but to win the WC in 2007 and the Olympics in 2008. That should dictate his strategies. Besides, Canada was only outplayed slightly in the first half, so I am not sure why Pellerud panicked. Yes, our team looked out of shape (which I don't understand... to be in shape you do not need your national team... maybe it excuses some miscommunication and some poor passing, but not endurance), but you keep pressing if you are coming close (which Canada was, given the save off of the post of one of Sinclair's shots, and the hand ball in the box on another of Sinclair's shots that was not called).
Anyway, on to another point. I assume that just about everyone who reads this forum would like to see Canada do well. I also assume from reading this forum that the women's national team does not get near sufficient funding, and that is a big problem (and I'm sure it must have been for the Olympic quals given that it was at the end of a long Canadian winter and that a training camp in warm weather would have cost the CSA a pretty penny... I think they did have a short camp in Ft. Lauderdale, but apparently not nearly long enough). It would probably help the team most if people contacted the sponsors, obviously thanked them for the generosity, and encouraged them to donate more. Keep in mind this is considered marketing, so it's not like the companies are just "donating" funds. Also contacting other companies that seem like obvious matches is a good idea, like sports or women's products companies. Marketing departments usually consider a customer contact as representing at least a thousand customers, and at least some marketing departments drive their strategies based on customer opinion (or what they think is customer opinion). Just an idea...
a creative genious like kiss probably couldnt stand a kick and run style
Miss Kiss was/is great in any style. Best corner-kick taker Canada ever had, and the best competitor I saw in the Mexico game at Commonwealth last August 31. A real loss. Pound for pound, one of the best football players Canada (any gender) has ever had, with the possible exception of Diana Matheson.
Can't agree with you there, beachesl. Sinclair is by far the best player Canada has ever had, even pound for pound (she doesn't weigh 7000 lbs...or 3180 kilos for you Canadians). Kiss and Matheson are all right, but not by any means irreplaceable. If there is enough funding for enough camps and games, the young midfielders coming up will make you forget Kiss and Matheson.
Speaking of corners (and I agree Kiss was pretty good), I thought Timko did a pretty good job on corners. Zurer just missed heading one in, and Lang's whiff on one was another close opportunity on another.
I hate going back to the Mexico game but I've watched the tape too many times. Mexico adopted Canada's tactics and it worked. The game played out in much the same way as Canada's win over China. Mexico scored early and then played a strong team defensive game to win the match. Two long balls to Domingeuz were all Mexico needed. Dominguez simply had too much speed for our defenders. She went past them like they were standing still and her finishes were superb. Leblanc had no chance on either goal and neither would Swiatek. Canada had the advantage in field position and possession for much of the first half and almost all of the second half but Mexico did a commendable job limiting Canada's scoring opportunities. That's not to say the Canadian strikers had zero chances but Jamani was the only one to capitalize. In the end, a lot of credit has to go to Mexico. They used the same strategy against the USA. Dominguez scored 2 early goals and the Mexicans almost pulled off an even bigger upset.
I won't debate whether Pellerud should favor Swiatek over Leblanc or Thorlakson over Jamani, they're all good players in my books. Nor will I debate how most experienced coaches select their keepers. It's a pointless exercise unless someone has a comprehensive study to back up their opinion.
I'm not sure the Canadians were unfit for the US game but they were not as fit as in the WWC. Pellerud didn't panick in the second half, the Canadian mids just didn't have the energy left to defend and attack, so they stayed deep. The strikers were also running out of gas. They weren't as effective at chasing long balls or at pressuring the US defense into mistakes. The problem was made worse because Canada was not passing well (even for them). Too much loss of possession.
Few would deny the loss of Boyd and Chapman hurt Canada's performance at the WWC and in Costa Rica. Even more than that it set the program back at least a year and maybe two. Until the Canadian defense is back to where it was, Canada is going to have to accept giving up a lot of goals or the mid's are going to have to take up the slack. Either way it's still a big step backwards from where the team was at in the spring of 2003. I can understand calling the situation a 'tired old mantra', the team has to move on. On the other hand, the problem is real and it won't go away because people are tired of hearing it.
Pellerud's job is to get the team ready for 2007 (not the 2003 WWC or the 2004 Olympics), however if his team doesn't win in the interim he won't be given that chance. As a case in point, the loss to Mexico wasn't about 2007 but you can bet Pellerud took a lot of heat. The more Canada loses from here on in, the less support Pellerud will get. No one will buy "We're getting our butts kicked now, but just wait." No way. The CSA has been there before and got the t-shirt. It has Neil Turnbull written all over it.
btw. The Big Soccer boards lit up over this game. Most US observers were pretty disappointed the game was so close considering the amount of Canadian preparation and the fact Canada had a 16 yr. old rookie on the back line. US fans are also ticked off the USWNT always has so much possession and so little to show for it. They're starting to think Canadian strikers are better than theirs. Finally, most agree their coach has no idea what she's doing. Some things it would seem are universal.