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Canucks4Ever

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See that's just it, it's not just one game. It's all the games. It's years of being told that a "new" CMNT was ready to take the next step and be relevant on the world stage. It's coming within a win of the Hex and not just losing, but being embarrassed 8-1 in a result that makes players not want to pledge their international allegiance to a program that looks like it has no future. It's starting to believe that something might just be different and then throwing away a 2-0 half time lead to Haiti.

This time, they learned. This time, they adjusted. This time, they got better. This time, they actually won.

I will fully admit I am not sure I can honestly say I expected to ever see Canada beat the US in a competitive match. And judging by the overwhelming reaction from the US pundits, I don't think they ever expected it to happen either. I will confess that as injury time approached I was hoping that there would not be enough time for us to concede twice. In a world where this team has continually set the standard for finding new unique and embarrassing ways to lose, that was the only bar I set. And then the ball fell to Lucas Cavallini and I knew he was going to score. The same guy that was tied to Canada because Stephen Hart put him on as a late sub in that 8-1 embarrassment in San Pedro Sula, the same guy who told Argentinian media, as his career began to take off in Mexico, that he maybe regretted playing for Canada. The same guy who people thought might never where a Canadian shirt again, was calm, cool and clinical in front of goal to smash home a shot that put this result out of reach. Other generations of Canadian strikers would have missed their chance. Put it over, put it wide, put it straight at the keeper, scuffed their shot, taken a touch, whatever. They would have put their head in their hands, with that "I can't believe that just happened" look and, then, we probably would have conceded at least an equalizer. That is just how Canada works. Or at least it used to.

This time, no. This time we have players that are genuinely at least in the lower tier of World Class. We have players that you cannot afford to sleep on. We have players that will score if you give them a chance. "That's Cavallini," I thought as the ball was looping over their centre back and he was instinctively positioning himself between the defender and where the ball would land, "he's going to score; that's what this guy does." One bounce, two bounces, BANG. I don't think I have ever thought that about any Canadian player ever. We actually have players that you expect to be able to score against any team in the world. And his reaction said it all. The same guy who thought he might regret having played for Canada wheeled away, kissing the crest, to be mobbed by his teammates. The is a guy who is a star on his club side in Mexico's top division, the is a guy who has clattered in goals for Canada all year and this guy was asked to start on the bench in one of the county's highest profile matches ever while he watched two teenagers play his position up front. And he was all smiles. He bought in completely. They did their job, he did his and the team got the result.

That is why this is more than just one game. This team is actually different than those before it. I am not old enough to have been a part of the '86 run, though I know many of the faces who were, as they remain part of the local soccer scene. Apparently we beat the US with relative regularity back then. All I have ever known is obscurity and disappointment. Maybe some younger than I have only been consciously aware of the men's national team over the past five or six years. In which case, there has been steady enough progress under Floro, Zambrano and now Herdman. Perhaps beating the US seems like a natural progression in this arc to them. For me, this was a game that Canada has always lost. Not because it was the US, it could be anybody, but because this game mattered. It mattered for trying to qualify for the World Cup, which admittedly is still a long shot, it mattered because we have for so long been in the shadow of the US and it mattered because our last real test against Haiti had ended, once again, in abject failure. Canada has always lost when it mattered. Not this time.

The win should give Canada 18 points in the FIFA rankings and, when the updated standings are released next Thursday, it sounds like we will be in sixth place in CONCACAF ahead of El Salvador. That is huge. We all know how the back door qualification path ends for Canada. It ends away to Guatemala or Panama or Nicaragua or some other mid-tier Central American country where we should be, if not coming in as slight favourites, then at least coming it with a punchers chance. Instead, their fans and their passion and their desire overwhelm us and we lose. We watch those sides celebrate the way we did at BMO while we start to discuss "just where is this program now?" The same way the Americans are. Yes we are still a long way from the Hex. Yes we have to go to Orlando next month where the US will surely be keen to make a strong statement. But climbing into the top six in CONCACAF does not seem unrealistic now. And if we can do that, then why can't we be in the top four and earn a chance to play our way to the World Cup?

That's why it was more than just one game. Will Canada make it to the World Cup in 2022? Conventional wisdom would likely say no, there are still too many weaknesses, particularly at the back. And there is still the feeling that, yes, we will bottle it against some team that we really should beat. But it is clear these players genuinely believe that they can make it. So why not dream along with them.
 

Ronaldo. 07

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See that's just it, it's not just one game. It's all the games. It's years of being told that a "new" CMNT was ready to take the next step and be relevant on the world stage. It's coming within a win of the Hex and not just losing, but being embarrassed 8-1 in a result that makes players not want to pledge their international allegiance to a program that looks like it has no future. It's starting to believe that something might just be different and then throwing away a 2-0 half time lead to Haiti.

This time, they learned. This time, they adjusted. This time, they got better. This time, they actually won.

I will fully admit I am not sure I can honestly say I expected to ever see Canada beat the US in a competitive match. And judging by the overwhelming reaction from the US pundits, I don't think they ever expected it to happen either. I will confess that as injury time approached I was hoping that there would not be enough time for us to concede twice. In a world where this team has continually set the standard for finding new unique and embarrassing ways to lose, that was the only bar I set. And then the ball fell to Lucas Cavallini and I knew he was going to score. The same guy that was tied to Canada because Stephen Hart put him on as a late sub in that 8-1 embarrassment in San Pedro Sula, the same guy who told Argentinian media, as his career began to take off in Mexico, that he maybe regretted playing for Canada. The same guy who people thought might never where a Canadian shirt again, was calm, cool and clinical in front of goal to smash home a shot that put this result out of reach. Other generations of Canadian strikers would have missed their chance. Put it over, put it wide, put it straight at the keeper, scuffed their shot, taken a touch, whatever. They would have put their head in their hands, with that "I can't believe that just happened" look and, then, we probably would have conceded at least an equalizer. That is just how Canada works. Or at least it used to.

This time, no. This time we have players that are genuinely at least in the lower tier of World Class. We have players that you cannot afford to sleep on. We have players that will score if you give them a chance. "That's Cavallini," I thought as the ball was looping over their centre back and he was instinctively positioning himself between the defender and where the ball would land, "he's going to score; that's what this guy does." One bounce, two bounces, BANG. I don't think I have ever thought that about any Canadian player ever. We actually have players that you expect to be able to score against any team in the world. And his reaction said it all. The same guy who thought he might regret having played for Canada wheeled away, kissing the crest, to be mobbed by his teammates. The is a guy who is a star on his club side in Mexico's top division, the is a guy who has clattered in goals for Canada all year and this guy was asked to start on the bench in one of the county's highest profile matches ever while he watched two teenagers play his position up front. And he was all smiles. He bought in completely. They did their job, he did his and the team got the result.

That is why this is more than just one game. This team is actually different than those before it. I am not old enough to have been a part of the '86 run, though I know many of the faces who were, as they remain part of the local soccer scene. Apparently we beat the US with relative regularity back then. All I have ever known is obscurity and disappointment. Maybe some younger than I have only been consciously aware of the men's national team over the past five or six years. In which case, there has been steady enough progress under Floro, Zambrano and now Herdman. Perhaps beating the US seems like a natural progression in this arc to them. For me, this was a game that Canada has always lost. Not because it was the US, it could be anybody, but because this game mattered. It mattered for trying to qualify for the World Cup, which admittedly is still a long shot, it mattered because we have for so long been in the shadow of the US and it mattered because our last real test against Haiti had ended, once again, in abject failure. Canada has always lost when it mattered. Not this time.

The win should give Canada 18 points in the FIFA rankings and, when the updated standings are released next Thursday, it sounds like we will be in sixth place in CONCACAF ahead of El Salvador. That is huge. We all know how the back door qualification path ends for Canada. It ends away to Guatemala or Panama or Nicaragua or some other mid-tier Central American country where we should be, if not coming in as slight favourites, then at least coming it with a punchers chance. Instead, their fans and their passion and their desire overwhelm us and we lose. We watch those sides celebrate the way we did at BMO while we start to discuss "just where is this program now?" The same way the Americans are. Yes we are still a long way from the Hex. Yes we have to go to Orlando next month where the US will surely be keen to make a strong statement. But climbing into the top six in CONCACAF does not seem unrealistic now. And if we can do that, then why can't we be in the top four and earn a chance to play our way to the World Cup?

That's why it was more than just one game. Will Canada make it to the World Cup in 2022? Conventional wisdom would likely say no, there are still too many weaknesses, particularly at the back. And there is still the feeling that, yes, we will bottle it against some team that we really should beat. But it is clear these players genuinely believe that they can make it. So why not dream along with them.
Ye whatever, nice essay.
 
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