Edmonton Bargain Hunt Renovation

By Benjamin Massey · September 28th, 2018 · No comments

Paul Giamou/Canada Soccer

Randy Edwini-Bonsu, born in Kumasi, Ghana and raised for several years in Edmonton, has been named to FC Edmonton’s “prospects” roster for two Al Classico friendlies against Cavalry. There are several fine professional and former professional players on the list: Jackson Farmer, Allan and Bruno Zebie, Edem Mortotsi. As Steven Sandor pointed out, both goalkeepers most recently played in Europe. With nobody under CanPL contract or committed in any way this is analogous to a training stint, perhaps. But it is more than nothing: at minimum, mild mutual interest.

Edwini-Bonsu is only 28 years old but—and as an extremely early REB fan I say this affectionately—he is last year’s man. His stint as a teenager with the Vancouver Whitecaps, while ferociously promising, was only moderately productive and he was not retained for Major League Soccer. Probably just as well: Tom Soehn would have ruined him anyway, and a stint in the Finnish second division saw him score in bunches. That led to the German second division, a better level by far, one which sent players to the Canadian senior national team in droves. Edwini-Bonsu was one of them, and he boasts fifteen caps with one goal for his adopted country.

By all accounts, many of his performances in the 2.Bundesliga were not bad, and there was hope among his fans that he’d establish himself. But he never quite held down a lineup spot, and his next contract dropped him down a division. In the 3.Liga he was, again, sometimes good but not good enough. His Stuttgarter Kickers side was relegated, Edwini-Bonsu was one of many players released, and he signed on a division down anyway with FC 08 Homburg in the German Regionalliga Südwest for a season. His last action was with fifth-division Tennis Borussia Berlin in 2017–18, and he is currently unattached.

Needless to say, Canadian soccer supporters have not seen him in some time. German semi-professional games are not regularly televised and Edwini-Bonsu was last called to the national team in June 2015. When last seen he was a pacey striker with decent finish, a bite-sized Tosaint Ricketts; these days he apparently plays more wide right. I thought he was very good almost a decade ago, but I do not guarantee it today. I understand they know something about soccer in Germany, where his career has not been a success, and even those with very modest expectations for CanPL’s initial calibre will certainly expect it to outgun the NOFV-Oberliga Nord.

Besides, Edwini-Bonsu’s one of those players who seems interested in European play on principle. He has spent far more of his life outside Canada than in it, immigrating in 2002 and beginning his foreign adventures nine years later. There’s every possibility that Randy Edwini-Bonsu’s time in Edmonton will end at a couple friendlies.

But he’s still the sort of player Edmonton, and the rest of the Canadian Premier League, should be looking at.

As I said I don’t know if Edwini-Bonsu still has anything left. But I am certain he used to have something. To the assorted German clubs who brought him in and threw him out, he was a tool to be used and replaced like any other. To a Canadian team, he would be a potential investment in the future of our game. He is, very specifically, the sort of player you want to give second chances to.

Jackson Farmer, to pick another Edmonton player I’ve liked for a while, is still a young man on the way up. He needs an opportunity to show what he can do and CanPL can provide that. But there are older players in the same boat. A Canadian player in his late 20s struggling to draw a European paycheque drops out of the game or puts out his shingle for some Lithuanian or Serbian or seventh-division French team would promise, however unreliably, to pay him for six months. Recently some of them have joined the PLSQ or League1 Ontario, but that’s what you do while making an honest living somewhere else. Real second chances have been hard to come by.

Around the world, many useful players have revived their careers from the real depths of obscurity because they landed on a decent team willing to invest in them. Jamie Vardy was playing non-League soccer until he was 25. On the Canadian end, Richard Hastings might well have dropped off the face of the Earth by 2004 had Inverness Caledonian Thistle, who already knew and liked him, not brought him back for a second successful spell and another half-decade of national team service. We need more stories like Hastings’s, and not just because of the golden goal.

Fans sometimes seem to think CanPL is almost a development league: given that they won’t be able to bring in more than a handful of famous players, roster spots should go to promising youth and as many random foreigners as it takes to make it watchable. But think also about the Randy Edwini-Bonsus of the world, or Derek Gaudet, who went from MLS to USL to surviving the Halifax open trials at age 29. Not everybody does anything useful with a second chance; heck, most players won’t. But some will, and the rest will give the kids something to push against. FC Edmonton’s Al Classico roster is heavy on the prospects, heavy on the early-20-somethings, and has a couple guys looking to redeem themselves… and that’s about right.

Carolyn’s College Corner Weeks 5 and 6

By Carolyn Duthie · September 21st, 2018 · No comments

Bowling Green University

Apologies for the lack of article last week—I just started a new job and had to shift some focus away from the college game.

News and notes from the past bit of time:

Canada dropped their CONCACAF-mandated 35 player provisional roster ahead of qualifying, featuring a selection of college players (alphabetically by first name because that’s how the CONCACAF list was released, for some chaotic reason): Deanne Rose (Florida), Emma Regan (Texas), Gabby Carle (Florida State), Jessie Fleming (UCLA), Julia Grosso (Texas), Kennedy Faulknor (UCLA), Rylee Foster (West Virginia) and Sarah Stratigakis (Michigan). The roster also includes several pre-college aged players: Jade Rose, Jayde Riviere (verbally committed to Michigan for 2019), Jordyn Huitema, Kalia Novak, and Maya Antoine (verbally committed to Vanderbilt for 2019). Evelyne Viens did not make even a 35-player roster for Canada, which is upsetting.

Later the camp roster was released. Of the college players Carle, Grosso, Fleming, Regan, and Rose were called into camp, and only Huitema among those younger. There are still three cuts, one a goalkeeper, to be made from this camp before the final roster of 20 is named. Hilariously, Jenna Hellstrom is listed as a fullback despite playing as a forward for her club and Gabrielle Carle is listed as a forward despite playing as a fullback or wide midfielder for FSU since arriving there. I am not here to tell anyone how to coach but perhaps a switch is in order there.

Canada faces Jamaica, Cuba, and Costa Rica in group play, beginning October 5th in Edinburg, Texas. Group winners and runners-up move on to the semi-finals, played in Frisco. CONCACAF has 3.5 qualifying spots, so the winners of both semi-finals as well as the winner of the third place game qualify directly, while the fourth place finisher will play for the final spot against Argentina in a two-legged qualification playoff.

This has nothing to do with college, but Sophie Schmidt has been training with the Whitecaps REX kids ahead of qualifiers.


Conference play has begun for NCAA woso teams. The Big 10 is likely your best bet for decent play and good number of Canadians, though the Big 10 network does require you to pay money (and possibly tell it you’re in the United States) to be able to watch it.

Recent Standouts (trading quality for quantity this week, I’ve been busy)

Claire Larose, Austin Peay State: Scored a goal in each of Austin Peay’s last two games.

Erica Hubert, Bowling Green: Three goals and one assist for Bowling Green in last week, including a five point night against Youngstown State.

Connie Awuku-Darkoh, Central Arkansas: Two goals last week vs. Sam Houston State, and two assist the previous week against Arkansas State

Kelly Chiavaro, Colgate: Two consecutive clean sheets vs. Loyola Maryland and Fairfield, making 9 saves.

Kelsey Smith, Grand Canyon: The defender tallied three assists in Grand Canyon’s win over Portland State.

Chandra Davidson, Indiana: Scored a goal for Indiana against Michigan and added an assist vs. Michigan State, helping Indiana to two straight wins to start Big 10 play.

Isabelle Mihail, Kent State: Scored both goals in Kent State’s 2-1 win over Syracuse, including this shot for the golden goal in overtime.


Serena Dolan, Memphis: Scored a goal in each of Memphis’ wins over Arkansas State and Ole Miss.

Annie Ibey, Niagara: Has scored a goal in three straight games for the Purple Eagles.

Kennedy Faulknor, UCLA: Scored her first collegiate goal in UCLA’s win over LMU while helping the Bruins keep three straight clean sheets.

Rylee Foster, WVU: Kept two consecutive clean sheets in goal for the Mountaineers, while also tallying an assist in their September 7th win over Clemson.

Saje Brar, Yale: The former Whitecap is off to a strong start for the Bulldogs, colleting three assists in her last two games.

Week 6 Games to Watch

Eastern Michigan vs. Kent State

September 21st, 5 PM Eastern/2 PM Pacific
No stream
Live stats EMUEagles.com
These two teams have 19 Canadians rostered between them, so look out for high Canadian content in this matchup. Vital Kats and Isabelle Mihail have both been strong offensive performers for the Golden Flashes, while for Eastern Michigan, Sabrina MacNeill and Kristin Nason have both been significant contributors.

Oregon vs. Utah

September 21st, 7 PM Eastern/4 PM Pacific
Broadcast Pac-12 Oregon or KWVA Radio
Live stats None
Hannah Taylor has been a regular starter for the Ducks and will look to continue her strong play as the PAC-12 season begins. Canadians Natalie Kump and Kristin Fairbairn have both made several appearances for Utah, with Fairbairn winning three starts and collecting two assists.

Yale vs. Princeton

September 22nd, 4 PM Eastern/1 PM Pacific
Broadcast ESPN (American subscription required)
Live stats YaleBulldogs.com
Natalie Grossi and Olivia Sheppard are both significant contributors for the Tigers, while Saje Brar has had a strong start to her freshman season at Yale, tallying one goal and four assists so far.

Nebraska vs. Purdue

September 23rd, 3 PM Eastern/12:00 PM Pacific
Broadcast BTN2Go ($)
Live stats Huskers.com
Nebraska’s Natalie Cooke and Dakota Chan, who both played with TSS Rovers over the summer, have contributed for the Huskers. Purdue’s Hannah Melchiorre, from Thunder Bay, has two assists this season.

Carolyn’s College Corner Week 4

By Carolyn Duthie · September 6th, 2018 · No comments

UC Riverside

This weekend saw the Canadian women’s national team play Brazil with three college players on the roster: Julia Grosso, Jessie Fleming, and Deanne Rose. Grosso is still breaking into the senior national team and saw time off the bench in Canada’s 1-0 win over Brazil on Sunday. Fleming and Rose, however, both having already been to the Olympics (and for Fleming a Women’s World Cup as well), did not appear. From reports of those who were able to watch it in person, they did not see any action in Canada’s Tuesday closed-door game either.

One might presume this is merely performance-based, except that if one has see Jessie Fleming play recently, one would know that this is not true. Even if she plays poorly, the Canadian midfield is at this point better with Jessie Fleming in it. Now, those of us who consistently watch NCAA will know that Fleming was injured in her last game before the international break against Penn State. Not to play doctor, but it didn’t look too serious at first glance—Fleming did try to continue playing before taking herself out of the game. I have no problem with the CSA bringing rehabbing players to camp, even, but it would be nice for them to mention something.

The case of Deanne Rose might be even more curious, because it’s harder to say that she has to be on the pitch starting for Canada. It is entirely possible that Nichelle Prince and Janine Beckie and some newcomer named Christine Sinclair would win starting spots over a healthy Deanne Rose. Except that Deanne Rose has played only 77 minutes for Florida this season, all in one game. For someone who started every game last year and was the Gators’ leading scorer last year, it seems unlikely that that’s performance related. So is she injured? Maybe! Who knows?!

Now, look, I am not looking for Canada Soccer or any college program to release medical information on any of their players. I am genuinely just looking for “injured” or “uninjured,” and if they’re feeling generous, a vague timeframe for return. Especially if you’re a national team holding a camp for a series of games, yes, bring them anyways if they’re able to participate in training and you anticipate having them on upcoming rosters but mention that they are unable to participate in the games?! If Deanne Rose is left off the CONCACAF qualifying roster do we just get to guess why?

Meanwhile, Canada Soccer apparently has a new assistant coach, Andrée Jeglertz. I learned of his presence at camp when scanning through the Canadian Soccer Association Flickr album and stumbled upon this one, captioned “Andrée Jeglertz and team huddle.”

Canada Soccer

Like any curious fan, I Googled him, and his Wikipedia promptly informed me that he is the current manager of Umeå FC, a third division men’s team in Sweden, having formerly managed the Finnish women’s national team. A cursory Twitter search of his name, however, directs us to a tweet in Swedish which informs us that he isn’t? maybe? the coach of Umeå FC anymore because he left to coach Canada? maybe? (I don’t know anything about the source of this tweet but this seems like something you’d only tweet about if you know about it.)

I guess the theme this week is increased transparency, or in some of these cases, any transparency. Melissa Tancredi was also at this camp in what appeared to be a coaching role, but we can’t know for sure! One time the CSA did not release a roster for Canada at the U17 Women’s World Cup until after the U17 Women’s World Cup had begun. This is not the way to get more people to follow your team.

Week 3 Standouts

Spreadsheet updated through September 5th.

Madeline Feist, UC Riverside. The senior from North Vancouver, BC scored a goal in each of UC Riverside’s wins this week, bringing her goal total on the season to four, to go with two assists. This well surpasses last seasons’ total of two goals and one assist in nineteen games.

Kaela Hansen, Kansas has started every game as a freshman for the Jayhawks, who this week defeated Utah and Butler, holding #25 Butler scoreless. The U17 Canadian looks to continue her strong start through the remaineder of the non-conference season and into Big 12 play, where Kansas will look to improve upon their sixth place finish last season.

Julia Mahoney, Maine. The freshman midfielder from St.-Augustin-de-Desmaures, QC, scored two goals and added an assist in Maine’s win over Bryant. Mahoney and fellow Black Bears freshman Emma Donovan also went to the same high school, Séminaire Saint-François, outside of Quebec City, known for its strong sporting program.

Marike Mousset, Ohio State had two assists in the Buckeyes’ big win over Morehead State, while also helping Ohio State keep two clean sheets this week, including over a strong Notre Dame side. The Canadian youth international looks to continue her strong start to the season over 4-0 Florida Gulf Coast.

Evelyne Viens, South Florida. I don’t like to include the same players in this week after week, but Viens was too good not to be included again. She scored twice and added an assist over Detroit Mercy, but mostly I have included her here so that I can show you this:

Week 4 Games to Watch

Michigan vs. Central Michgan

September 7th, 5 PM Eastern/2 PM Pacific
No stream
Live stats MGoBlue.com
The Canadians at Michigan have gotten off to a strong start this season, with Sarah Stratigakis already scoring three goals from the midfield while Sura Yekka has been a regular starter on defence. Central Michigan features six Canadians on the roster, all from Ontario.

Florida State vs. Florida

September 7th, 7 PM Eastern/4 PM Pacific
Broadcast ACC Network Extra (ESPN login required)
Live stats Statbroadcast.com
Florida State looks to be one of the elite teams in college soccer this season, having dismantled a Jessie Fleming and Hailie Mace-less UCLA 4-1 on Sunday. Canadian Gabby Carle has played nearly every minute for a defence that has only surrendered one goal all season. Florida, meanwhile, looks to turnaround what seems a disappointing start for a perennial SEC favourite, and should be glad to have Deanne Rose back, hopefully for more minutes.

Rice vs. Memphis

September 7th, 8:30 PM Eastern/5:30 PM Pacific
Broadcast ConferenceUSA.com (US$6.95 for a 24-hour pass)
Live stats RiceOwls.com
Rice and Memphis both feature a number of Canadians on the roster, so look for significant Canadian content in this matchup. Clarissa Larisey has continued her strong form for Memphis, scoring two goals last week and bringing her season total to five.

Louisville vs. Eastern Kentucky

September 9th, 7:30 PM Eastern/4:30 PM Pacific
Broadcast ACC Network Extra (ESPN login required)
Live stats GoCards.com
Louisville is a perfect 6-0 this season, and Canadian youth international Nadège L’Esperence has been a strong performer for the Cardinals in midfield, tallying a goal and two assists thus far. Eastern Kentucky features several Canadians of their own, including Brampton’s Sarah Owusu, who has scored three goals so far this season.

Sound and Fury Signifying Nothing

By Benjamin Massey · September 5th, 2018 · 1 comment

Paul Giamou/Canada Soccer

In October 2016 the Ottawa Fury, then of the North American Soccer League, announced they would move to the United Soccer League for the 2017 season. There was some drama.

At the time it had been the Canadian Soccer Association’s avowed policy not to permit teams in what was then called “USL Pro.” The Victoria Highlanders had once been interested, but the CSA was not and the Highlanders wound up folding out of USL PDL for a couple seasons. Exceptions were made for MLS reserve teams in Vancouver, Montreal, and Toronto, but, as the CSA had said at the time, that was different than opening another level of the American soccer pyramid for independent Canadian franchises.

The United Soccer League was then sanctioned in the United States as a third division league, below the NASL and Major League Soccer. Ottawa already had access to a domestic third division: League1 Ontario, also rated below the NASL and MLS. Of course these sanctioning “tiers” are fake news and nobody pretended L1O teams were as good as USL ones, but if the NASL was too rich for the Fury’s blood there was another option, one which fit with the CSA’s official goal to build Canadian leagues rather than American ones.

The reason for the Fury move was nakedly financial. The team, like many in the NASL, lost millions of dollars a year. In USL, as Fury president John Pugh stated quite frankly, he’d be able to send his team by bus rather than plane more often while somewhat cutting his wage bill. Later the bill was slashed further by having the Fury serve as reserve squad to the MLS Montreal Impact, giving him a few free players and a marquee home friendly every season. Seems like good business, though the team’s average attendance has declined year on year since leaving the NASL.

Ottawa could never have brought their team, whole, into League1 Ontario: it would have run away with the league if they had. Their budget, even trimmed, would be way out of line with the competition. Fans would have left and Canadian players would have lost jobs. Most importantly, the Canadian Premier League was imminent. In October 2016 Paul Beirne was picking out furniture for his new office. Surely the most important thing was to keep the Fury going on their terms, to keep the organization running until they could come back into the fold.

So the CSA made an exception.

The Fury’s move didn’t come without a cost for the rest of Canada. It was one of many cuts that led to the NASL suspending operations for the 2018 season, costing us a year of FC Edmonton first team action and leaving talented Canadians like Ben Fisk and Adam Straith to wander the byways of Europe. Nik Ledgerwood, Tyson Farago, and Nathan Ingham had to drop down to PDL, Marko Aleksic and Allan Zebie are out of the pro game altogether. If the Fury had remained in the league then the NASL would have had the vital six teams for 2018 even had North Carolina and Indy both still defected. This was not unforeseeable: any NASL fan will remember the handwringing about getting enough teams for 2017. Still, the most important thing was to keep the Fury operating, and the rest of the chips would fall where they may. The Fury did what they thought was good for their bottom line and the CSA went along.

Now, the Fury have announced that, even though the Canadian Premier League is kicking off for the 2019 season, they will remain in the United Soccer League. There’s all sorts of speculation why: they’re probably over the future CanPL salary cap, they have a roster that they well might want to bring in en bloc against expansion-team competition, and as a Montreal Impact reserve team they’ll come into conflict with a league that absolutely steadfastly wants nothing of the kind. Some of the Fury’s arguments are probably pretty good. But what’s important is that, once again, the Fury want an exemption because they think it’ll be good for their business.

Unquestionably, the Fury have been very good to Canadian soccer the past couple seasons. They give over a dozen Canadians regular USL minutes, many of whom are decent talents who needed an opportunity and are getting it. Without the Fury Carl Haworth would never have had a pro career, but today he’s the team captain and a one-time senior international. Callum Irving needs to be playing pro. Maxim Tissot needs to be playing pro. Julian de Guzman should be involved in the game here, and not “giving two-weekend youth camps for $500 a man” involved. Thanks to the Fury, they are.

But no team can ever do as much for Canadian soccer as an entire league. It’s a mathematical impossibility. The Vancouver Whitecaps play two or three Canadians a week: even seven teams as unpatriotic as that add up to more Canadian content than the laws of the game would permit the Fury to field. In CanPL, with generous domestic content rules, the Fury won’t even look exceptional in 2019. And if their playing USL jeopardizes the Canadian Premier League, then regardless of what they’ve done in the past or might do in the future, for the good of the nation they should be stopped.

This isn’t just about “team eight” in the 2019 CanPL season. Let’s assume that ship has sailed. But if the CSA permits the Fury to remain in USL then every time CanPL totters (and it will), every time a potential owner is counting the pennies and deciding whether this soccer lark is worth his millions, every time a current owner is debating how to wring his budget a little thinner, he’ll look south across the border and say “why can’t I just join the United Soccer League, like Ottawa?” There’ll be no good answer. On what grounds could the CSA allow the Fury but refuse a fleeing Forge? What judge would allow it if they tried?

The Ottawa Fury’s intentions may be the best in the world but it doesn’t matter: willingly or otherwise, they are directly competing against the league that is Canada’s number one men’s soccer must-have. Until the CanPL can offer as many short-range road trips with as many established teams and as many high-profile players as USL—and that will be many years from now, if ever—it will never clearly outperform USL as an investment opportunity, especially in Ontario and Quebec. And no players, no team, nothing in Canadian men’s soccer, is worth risking CanPL’s future for.

The Fury’s permission to play USL is conditional, up for renewal every year. The Canadian Soccer Association has every right to revoke that permission for the good of the game. They already revoked sanctioning from the so-called “Canadian” Soccer League, an Ontario-based semi-pro circuit, for rampant match fixing. The CSL still operates, and players you’ve heard of have laced up in it, but only well into effective retirement as joining a non-sanctioned outlaw league spells the end of your international career. The USL is unlikely to court trouble from FIFA by condoning an outlaw Fury, and even if they did players with any ambition would flee in droves. In short, the CSA could get the Fury out of USL any time they wanted, and if the Fury wanted to stay in business in CanPL afterwards, that would be up to them.

It is a power the Canadian Soccer Association should use. Ottawa Fury fans are good, loyal people, who have put up with a usually-mediocre team with smiles and energy. Their team has done prodigies for Canadian talent, and their supporters are justly proud. But do we want Canada to be one vast American branch plant or don’t we? When Ottawa joins a happy, healthy Canadian Premier League, the rest of the country will be overjoyed to see them again.

Carolyn’s College Corner Week 3

By Carolyn Duthie · August 30th, 2018 · No comments

University of South Florida

Canada U23?

The Nordic U23 tournament is happening over the course of this FIFA break, involving the US, England, Sweden and Norway (this is a… loose definition of ‘Nordic’ but is still a better name than SheBelieves). There are other iterations of little tournaments like this every so often, involving different countries, in which Canada participates precisely never.

I’m not here to complain about that per se—there are a ton of reasons why this doesn’t happen. It wouldn’t be free, and while I think there would be benefits to assembling a group of U23 players not on the national team every so often, I am not anyone to be telling the CSA how to spend their budget. The CSA did sort of do this for the last Pan American Games team, and even that short tournament proved important in vaulting several players further onto the national team—Shelina Zadorsky and Janine Beckie were standouts for Canada in that tournament and then at the 2016 Olympics. There was also a U23 camp at the end of 2015, but that is the last one I can find record of.

It feels to many that if a player is not involved with the Canadian National Team setup by U17 (or U20, at the latest), they won’t ever be involved at all. The national team pool at times feels precisely as large as the national team. A lot of this stems from the lack of professional opportunities in Canada, but it also feels as though players that do continue to play after college rarely get looked at later for the national team unless they are extreme standouts or there is enough injury/retirement that Canada is suddenly in dire need of outside backs. Again, scouting costs money, but so does having a successful national team. With the exception of spots 20-23 (likely to go to teenagers) and the third goalkeeper, I could have named you Canada’s roster for the 2019 CONCACAF WWC qualifiers the day after the 2016 Olympics ended, and so could most of you, and perhaps with the exception of Shannon Woeller, we all would have been correct.

Assembling a group of U23 players every so often does not fix this problem, but it at least would cast a slightly wider net than we have now. (The men’s side is almost lucky in this respect, because the Olympics are a U23 tournament (sort of), so they have to assemble a U23 team for the qualification tournament). So I thought it would be fun to pick a roster for an imaginary U23 camp myself.

This relates to NCAA mostly because that is where I will draw these players from. I tried to limit it to players that have graduated from the U20 level, because the kids younger than that have other camps to attend. It also excludes everyone presently with the national team that is under 23 (Buchanan, Lawrence, Quinn, Prince, Agnew, Fleming, Rose, Huitema, Riviere, Antoine), because they are not who this is for. Players who were recently invoveld in camps but were not invited to this one are included, because in my imagingary game this is happening now. Many of these players have seen some time with Canada Soccer in the past, but hey, sometimes they actually do scout good players. It’s also a gigantic roster, because this is imaginary so I make the rules. Have a camp, evaluate them, invite twice as many people as this (I am certain there are many valuable candidates I have forgotten), this isn’t a real roster anyways.

Goalkeepers

Kailen Sheridan (Sky Blue FC)
Rylee Foster (West Virginia University)
Natalie Grossi (Princeton)
Marissa Zuchetto (Texas Tech University)
Devon Kerr (Ohio State Univeristy, if she is looking to play for Canada)

Defenders

Paige Culver (Kent State University)
Olivia Gauthier (University of Memphis)
Vanessa Gilles (Girondins de Bordeaux, D1 France)
Ally Haran (UMF Selfoss, Iceland)
Easther Mayi Kith (West Virginia University)
Kiki Lowell (Cincinatti)
Amandine Pierre-Louis (Sky Blue FC)
Emma Regan (University of Texas)
Olivia Sheppard (Princeton)
Bianca St. Georges (West Virginia Univeristy)
Hannah Taylor (University of Oregon)

Midfielders

Gabrielle Carle (Florida State University, can play other positions)
Kennedy Faulknor (UCLA, you might remember her as a defender too but it’s cool)
Nadya Gill (West Virginia University)
Marika Guay (Santa Clara University)
Vital Kats (Kent State University)
Nadege L’Esperance (Louisville)
Jessica Lisi (University of Memphis)
Sarah Stratigakis (University of Michigan)
Fanny Pelletier-Laroche (Univeristy of South Florida)
Victoria Pickett (University of Wisconsin)
Carla Portillo (ASPTT Albi, D2 France)

Forwards

Isabella Habuda (Umea IK, Sweden)
Jenna Hellstrom (Växjö DFF, Sweden)
Alexandria Lamontagne (FC Fleury 91, D1 France)
Marie Levasseur (University of Memphis)
Mylene Roy-Ouellet (Louisiana Tech)
Valerie Sanderson (FC Metz, D1 France)
Evelyne Viens (University of South Florida)
Simone Ward (University of South Carolina)

Also, a couple players who are not U-23 but probably deserve a look:

Kayla Adamek (recently completed her senior season at UCF, was at Orlando Pride training camp, I do not know what she is up to now but if it is soccer she deserves a chance)
Jade Kovacevic (FC London, League 1 Ontario, is just so much better than everyone I have ever seen her play against across multiple L1O seasons that she deserves one invite to something out of it)
Gabrielle Lambert (ASPTT Albi, D2 France)
Genevieve Richard (Olympique de Marseille, D2 France)
Melissa Roy (FC Fleury 91, D1 France)
Arielle Roy-Peticlerc (ASPTT Albi, D2 France)

Week Two Standouts

Statistics, updated through August 29th games.

Evelyne Viens, USF (my #1 candidate for a WNT call-up right this instant) scored a goal and added two assists in the Bulls’ lone game this week. She scored sixteen goals as a freshman and twelve last year as a sophomore, was rather hilariously scouted and recruited to USF by accident (for the non-francophones, the USF coach sent her assistant up to Quebec on a recruiting trip to scout other players she had in mind and he came back like “forget all of them you need this one”), was the 2015 CCAA player of the year while in CEGEP, and quite frankly it is ridiculous at this point that she has never gotten a look in a Canada Soccer camp at any age.

Her coach at USF at one point asked Danny Worthington if he was at least aware of Viens and his response (translated from the French it was transated into for this article) was something to the tune of “she is too old for U20 now so her only option with Canada would be the senior team and she’s a forward, so… that’s all I’ll say” and frankly no quote has better demonstrated the need for an aforementioned U23 camp once in awhile.

Sarah Owusu scored three goals across two games for Eastern Kentucky this past week, already passing her goal (1) and points (3) total from all of last season.

Mylene Roy-Ouellet registered a brace in two consecutive games for a four-goal total across three games for Louisiana Tech, also adding two assists for a ten point week. This vaulted her into the position of top scorer among Canadians in NCAA Division 1 women’s soccer.

Gabby Carle registered an assist in the Seminoles’ win against Wisconsin, and has played nearly every minute at outside back for an FSU defense that has yet to surrender a goal this season. (I’m interested to see the formation Canada uses in their game against Brazil this weekend, because if it is something akin to the 3-5-2 that was used against Germany, Carle would likely do extremely well in one of the wide spots in that lineup.)

Week 3 Games to Watch

Notre Dame vs. Cincinnati

August 30th, 7 PM Eastern/4 PM Pacific
Broadcast ACC Network Extra (ESPN login required)
Live stats Statbroadcast.com
Former Canadian U20 international Alexis Martel-Lamothe is a regular starter for Notre Dame, and Cincinatti features a host of Canadians, including sophomore defender Kiki Lowell and senior midfielder Cassie Wheldon.

West Virginia vs. Xavier

August 30th, 7 PM Eastern/4 PM Pacific
Broadcast WVUSports.com
Live stats Statbroadcast.com
WVU is still looking for their first win this season, but strong defensive perfomances from Canadians Bianca St. Georges, Easther Mayi-Kith and goalkeeper Rylee Foster have kept them in three straight draws in OT. Xavier features two Canadians on their roster, Emma Westwater and Jenna Leslie.

Nebraska vs. Washington State

August 31st, 6 PM Eastern/3 PM Pacific
Broadcast BTN2Go (subscription required)
Live stats Huskers.com
A trio of Canadians play at Nebraska, including Natalie Cooke, who last week registered her first collegiate goal against Oregon. Washington State’s roster features two Canadians, Shayna Dhindsa and Ebony Clarke, younger sister of Caleb (now at UBC), Summer (graduated from LSU in 2016) and Jade (currently at LSU).

Florida State vs. UCLA

September 2nd, 5 PM Eastern/2 PM Pacific
Broadcast ACC Network Extra (ESPN login required)
Live stats Statbroadcast.com
The Bruins will be without Jessie Fleming, but Canadians Kennedy Faulknor and Shana Flynn will be looking to contribute for UCLA against a strong Florida State side, featuring Canadian defender Gabby Carle.

Goderich Is Canada

By Benjamin Massey · August 28th, 2018 · 1 comment

Steven Vacher via Flickr, Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 2.0

The Canadian Premier League’s corporate interests are literally represented by a company named “Canadian Soccer Business.” This sounds like the invention of a “PRO/REL NOW”-style Twitter lunatic. Team revelation are cut from a template with dramatic fast-cut footage and weirdly-named colours like “starfish purple,” and their logos somehow all look very samey. It is being marketed to an almost parodic degree. CanPL has done a lot right but apart from the team names1 they aren’t exactly trying to distinguish themselves from MLS, are they?

Well, if CanPL is a crappier northern MLS it will fail and die. Don Garber has a firm grip on supporters for soulless soccer corporations like the Vancouver Whitecaps and the Toronto FCs, which makes even less sense than cheering for Etihad Airways or Verizon. Is there anything more tiresome than people acting like the moral aspect of soccer fandom is irrelevant or? If you’re going to cheer for shareholders you may as well cheer for the big ones; the Canadian Premier League does not want to wrap itself up in a numbers game it cannot win.

Our league will almost certainly always be smaller than American one even if we don’t concede Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal to Major League Soccer, which we have. The United States is big and we are little, and trained by decades of practice to attach ourselves to the Americans and hope for the best. An all-Canadian organization needs a lot more than “it’s like the American one but over here!” to succeed.

So we fans try to shape the league while the clay is still soft, turning it into something that suits our Dominion. Already, there are good signs. Many of the league’s brain-men are bona fide Canadian soccer people who have proven that they are interested in the domestic game as more than a temporary source of a paycheque. But fans have been burned before and improvement must be continuous if it is to last.

Example. Earlier in August an anonymous Twitterer shot for the moon by starting an account named “GoderichCPL” dedicated, as their bio puts it, to “bring[ing] the Canadian Premier League to Goderich, Ontario!”

That’s their exclamation mark but they’re entitled to it. Goderich is an obscure little town on the shores of Lake Huron. They won TSN’s “Project Play” this year, which put their name in TV ads. Her Majesty the Queen, who has never visited, is unverifiably said to have admired it. Hockey immortal Father David Bauer is from there. It’s small-town southern Ontario.

This prospective CanPL expansion, alas, is no success story. Momentum has waned in the Goderich camp and they have not tweeted for a couple weeks. A promised website has not materialized, and big-name support is limited to Paul Beirne being one of fifty Twitter followers. Practical concerns may play a role. Their suggestion of a 15,000-seat stadium, for example, seems a bit ambitious given a 2016 census population of 7,628. Cynical though it sounds, there’s just the possibility that their campaign is a bit of a joke.

But why should it be? No, really, why? Goderich is an extreme example but towns that size are not inherently incapable of supporting professional soccer. Look to the mother country. Nailsworth, home of Forest Green Rovers, is the smallest town in the Football League with a population of about 5,800, and though they are newcomers to League Two they had been in national semi- and professional soccer for twenty years before. The second-smallest, Fleetwood, boasts a still-modest 26,000. League Two and League One aren’t even MLS-level but will probably outgun at least the early CanPL. That is a level of play, and a level of success, we should be thrilled to see in 2019.

Okay, maybe Goderich, or Gaspé or Cold Lake or Port Hardy or Dildo or any other city with a thousand locals and shit-all else to watch in the summer, shouldn’t be number one on David Clanachan and Paul Beirne’s hit list. Fans in Saskatoon, Regina, Quebec City, London, Vancouver, Kitchener-Waterloo, and probably Sudbury-Thunder Bay are organizing to get their teams. These are big markets; the list of Canadian markets bigger than Goderich is actually fairly long.

But thinking in terms of markets is the original sin of Major League Soccer, shared by every other professional sports league on the continent. Who cares about Goderich’s potential MyCujoo market share? Do they even have broadband in Goderich? It doesn’t matter. Can they build a field with the correct proportions made of a reasonable material and send out at least eleven men every week? Then we should work them in. Let the locals roll the pitch themselves and sit on lawn chairs, let the players be recruited at the library and coached by the guy who’s watched the most EPL, that is detail.

Why should they get a crack at the Canadian Premier League? Because they are Canadian, and that’s the end of it. Because spectator soccer is not about fat bloggers devouring press box donuts and 4K coverage of every match, nor about beancounters asking “but will they mock us on Bay Street?”, nor even thousands of raucous supporters bouncing up and down on lavish terraces for a full 90. It is about plain local people going out to watch their plain local team, and if anything dazzling emerges from that plainness, even if it is so-to-speak by accident, then that dazzle being automatically whisked to the big stage for the nation’s admiration and the locals’ deserved pride.

Could CanPL work in Goderich? I have no idea, I don’t know the first thing about the place, we established that paragraphs ago. I don’t even know if they could make it in League1 Ontario. But if Twitter interest is worth anything they could make it in League2 Ontario, or the Huron County Amateur Conference, or any of the other levels of the Canadian soccer pyramid that don’t exist yet but which, if we’re ever going to be a meaningful soccer country in any sense beyond watching foreign players in foreign leagues, we will need. And if they do make it work, and come into a golden generation or get finance from an eccentric vegan businessman who turns them into Canada’s first wind-powered soccer club, then they deserve a chance to promote into the CanPL, if that is where their powers can take them. And if their powers are not so great, which let’s face it is way more likely, then no hard feelings. Play the amateur with your neighbours and look longingly on the steep trail to greener pastures.

Most importantly, this pyramid should not be the pipe dream for ten years down the line. You cannot build the top of a pyramid before you even design the bottom. Sure, promotion and relegation in 2020 is probably impossible, and CanPL’s pioneering investors expect and deserve a chance to succeed without getting replaced by Surrey United. Fair enough! Build the pyramid and worry about the escalators for 2028. But build it. For if you do not have that wide base, why would a local fan care about a lousy Canadian-based soccer franchise when there are so many excellent foreign soccer franchises already on offer? What would a monolithic, purely commercial franchise named “York” have to distinguish itself from a monolithic, purely commercial franchise named “Toronto”? Appeals to patriotism only work if you have something to feel patriotic about, beyond a team’s mailing address.

CanPL for Goderich? We should all hope so. Not because that town is something special, but because it isn’t.

Carolyn’s College Corner Week 2

By Carolyn Duthie · August 23rd, 2018 · 1 comment

University of Memphis

I’d like to start this article with some important insight or analysis every week, but it has been one week, not a ton has happened, and I didn’t really have any ideas. So instead we’re going to start with The Multitude of Ways in Which College Soccer Was Kind Of A Mess This Week:

  1. Animal invasions of the pitch.

    This is an old favourite in all sports, but I must admit this is the first time I’ve heard of a soccer game being stopped because of a serpent. Regrettably the creature was not photographed.

  2. The stadium just breaking.

    During the game between Texas and Rice University, taking place at Rice, a entire half of the stadium went dark somewhere around the 69th minute. As Texas Soccer was quick to point out, the game is not official until the 70th minute has been played, so I can imagine they were… keen to get out and play just a little bit more and get this counted as an official game (given that they were ahead 2-0 at the time), but I was watching this game and it was Very Difficult To See. Did Rice turn the lights off on purpose to try and get the game nullified? We will never know (they did not). They did play out the rest of the game, with Texas attacking into The Dark End, and the prevailing strategy on corner kicks became “chuck the ball anywhere at all into the box nobody can see it anyways.”

  3. UNC Seems To Think That They Are Playing Hockey.

    This is not a college soccer thing, per se, it’s an Anson Dorrance/UNC thing that is permitted by the college rules, but I hate it. For those not familiar, NCAA rules permit re-entry at halftime and then once in the second half—so a player can start the game, come off at some point in the first half, go back in at halftime to start the second half, come off at some point in the second half, and then go back in the game again. If she comes off again, that’s it. Many people have many opinions about this substitution format, but UNC seems to be making an intentional mockery of it by going for wholesale line changes multiple times per game. UNC has played three games so far this season, and their substitutions in those games look like:

    There is nothing wrong with this except that I hate it, but Anson Dorrance has now coached UNC (men + women) to 1000 NCAA wins and THIS IS DUMB.

  4. The University of Louisville scored to win their game with eight seconds left in overtime and did not set their highlight video to “Over My Head (Cable Car)” by the Fray. Admittedly this is not on the same level as the others.

Canada – Brazil Roster

A trio of NCAA players—Jessie Fleming, Deanne Rose, and Julia Grosso—are on the roster for the upcoming CanWNT game against Brazil on September 2nd in Ottawa. If it were up to me, players in college would be left alone for the short amount of time that they are in the college season, especially for friendlies, but Canada’s senior player pool is dramatically too thin for this to be a realistic option. This is the last (of frankly too few) warmup games before CONCACAF qualifying, where Jessie Fleming and Deanne Rose at the least will be expected to make significant contributions, and the NCAA does not break for the FIFA calendar. There is an extra sense of disappointment with this particular callup because it means both Fleming and Rose will miss the game their teams are playing against each other on August 31st.

Three players who have not yet reached college age were also called in—Jayde Riviere, Maya Antoine, and Jordyn Huitema. Riviere is verbally committed to Michigan for next fall, and Antoine to Vanderbilt (though it should be noted that verbal commitments are not binding). Huitema has not yet committed, and while she would be a massive addition to any college program, her training with PSG while they were in the US this summer could also indicate that she is considering forgoing college to pursue a professional contract.

Week 1 Standouts

First, some caveats: this will be biased towards attacking players who score a lot because their stats are easy to observe. Sorry defenders. It will also tend towards games I actually managed to watch, because it is easier to observe a good performance when you can actually see it. With that said, some Canadian standouts from week 1 of NCAA play:

Clarissa Larisey, Memphis:

The Memphis forward scored three goals over Memphis’ first two games, matching her goal total from all of last season, and if we use the NCAA points system where a goal is good for 2 points while an assist is worth one, Larisey is currently the Canadian NCAA points leader. Her goal against Omaha was a highlight reel-worthy bicycle kick, but Memphis did not actually include it in their highlight reel.

Sarah Stratigakis, Michigan:

Stratigakis scored a goal for the Wolverines this weekend in their win over Western Michicgan, which can been seen at 1:44 of this highlight video. Her real standout performance came in Michigan’s first game against Boston U, where she completed 94% of her passes, was successful in all eleven of her dribble attempts, and was the top rated player for the game in inStat.

Emma Regan, Texas:

Regan did not appear on the stat sheet for Texas in their first two games, but was part of a backline that kept a clean sheet against Rice and held #4 UNC to one goal. In the game I was able to watch, against Rice, she also made several dangerous runs going forward, including one highlight-worthy dribble through at least 5 Rice players. She made several dangerous crosses, so look for Regan to pick up some assists over the course of the season.

Quinn Josiah, Prairie View A&M:

Josiah, a freshman at Prairie View A&M in Texas, made twenty (20!) saves in her collegiate debut vs. McNeese State, while conceding just one goal. Twenty saves in one game is a lot. Twenty saves in two games would be a lot. I didn’t see the game, so I cannot offer much more context, but definitely keep an eye out for Josiah because this was quite the start to her college career.

Week 2 Games to Watch

University of Wisconsin vs. Florida State

August 23rd, 6 PM Eastern/3 PM Pacific
Broadcast BTN2Go, subscription required
Live stats UWBadgers.com
This game features three veterans of Canadian youth teams with Gabby Carle at Florida State, and Victoria Pickett and Emily Borgmann at Wisconsin. Carle has already seen some time with the senior national team, having been an alternate for the 2016 Olympics, and I think both her and Pickett definitely have the chance to break into the senior team more regularly in the future.

Memphis vs Mississippi State

August 23rd, 7 PM Eastern/4 PM Pacific
Broadcast GoTigersGo.com
Live stats GoTigersGo.com
Memphis is well known at this point in Canadian Soccer circles for always featuring a plethora of Canadians on the roster, and this year is no different. The Tigers count fourteen Canadians from six different provinces on the roster this year, including the Levasseur twins, Marie and Catherine, and Tanya Boychuk, a member of Canada’s most recent U20 team. Mississippi State features two Canadians of their own, Tianna Harris and Andrea Tyrrell.

Pittsburgh vs. Kent State

August 24th, 5 PM Eastern/2 PM Pacific
Broadcast ESPN Player (cable subscription required, and basically impossible to get in Canada).
Live stats SidearmStats.com
Two Canadians, Taylor Pryce and Ashley Moreira, play for Pittsburgh, who are under their first year under new coach Randy Waldrum, formerly of the Houston Dash and of twice-national-champion-under-his-coaching Notre Dame. After a number of poor seasons, Pittsburgh is off to a 2-0 start this year. Pryce and Moreira both participated in U20 qualifying for Canada in 2015 and are key players for Pittsburgh. Kent State features a number of Canadians, including youth national team veteran Vital Kats, defender Paige Culver, and starting goalkeeper Faith O’Neill. Striker Isabelle Mihail is from Kitchener, Ontario, and now competes for the Romanian national team.

Florida vs. Ohio State

August 24th, 7 PM Eastern/4 PM Pacific
Broadcast ESPN again or Gatorvision radio (free!)
Live stats FloridaGators.com
Deanne Rose, at this point a senior national team regular, is looking for her first goal for the Gators this season after leading the team in scoring last year, playing alongside Courtney Douglas, the redshirt senior at Florida from Brampton, ON. Ohio State has two Canadians of their own, Marike Mousset of Montreal, a veteran of the 2016 U20 WWC, and Devon Kerr, of Barrie, who was a member of Canada’s 2014 U17 WWC team, though has since attended various US U19 and U23 national team caps. (Kerr has not, as far as I can tell, competed in any official capacity for the US, and thus remains eligible to compete for Canada if she should choose to.)

99 Friendship Episode 69: It’s #Nice to Be Back

By Carolyn Duthie and Benjamin Massey · August 22nd, 2018 · 2 comments

It feels wrong to phrase it this way but it’s tradition, so, on this week’s fabulous episode of 99 Friendship:

  • Um, we’re sorry that we took so long?

  • Many things have happened in the past eight months and it would be reckless to try and touch on them all. It would, let’s be honest, make for an almost entirely-unlistenable episode of a podcast that has perilously little listenability to lose.

    So we try anyway.

  • Ben plays “Carolyn Can You Guess Which Episode Number This Is?” It does not provide much entertainment. You can actually hear us remembering “oh yeah that’s why we haven’t done one of these for a bit.”

  • You probably expect us to recap the Olympic curling. We do not, we recap the World Championships instead.

  • The first half of the show is still curling-centric, as we dissect pretty much every one of the new curling teams that has any relevance. If you have been waiting seven months for me to react to Val Sweeting suddenly becoming Manitoban, this is your episode.

  • (FYI, the curling team Ben is obsessed with now is Chelsea Carey, Sarah Wilkes, Dana Ferguson, and Rachelle Brown. They are the best.)

  • Our attempts to catch up on the women’s soccer season are perfunctory, with Foreign Desk whipping through some player moves, but we give some attention to Calgary Foothills WFC and the TSS FC Rovers mustering good seasons in the UWS and WPSL, respectively. It’s brief but how many podcasts even say these things? We are cutting edge.

  • (FYI, the NCAA division two woso player Ben is obsessed with now is Emma Pringle, the tall, accurately-finishing forward who came to Ben’s attention with the WPSL TSS FC Rovers. She is the best.)

  • The real reason this podcast is back is that NCAA women’s soccer is starting again and Carolyn needs to talk about it, so we spend a while remembering Jessie Fleming, Kennedy Faulknor, and Technically Shana Flynn’s UCLA narrowly beating The Beach in a game that was an advertisement for nothing, but was on DAZN.

  • Finally, a discussion of Texas Longhorns woso, which features my second-favourite cansoc Emma and another player, recently called up to the senior women’s national team once again, about whom I have less nice things to say. Just to be clear, no matter what Carolyn says I don’t hate her.

Side note about sound quality: Carolyn and I record these in the same room these days, which has historically led to our worst-quality shows, audio-wise. Since this might become a habit in the future we’ve taken steps to try and improve the situation and I think that we, to a great extent, succeeded. This show now sounds not much worse than our average Skype-based show.

But there’s still ever-so-far to go and the limiting factor is now our equipment, so it may take some time to remedy.

Follow 99 Friendship on Twitter, if you remember how and haven’t been banned yet.

Carolyn’s College Corner Week One

By Carolyn Duthie · August 16th, 2018 · No comments

Matthew DiMaria/UCLA

The NCAA women’s college soccer season opens today, so it is time to unleash upon the world my ridiculous project tracking all of the Canadians currently playing Division I soccer in the college system in another country.

This data tracking originated mostly out of personal curiosity. Like it or not, nearly every Canadian women’s soccer prospect spends the years after high school in the NCAA system, and I was interested to know exactly how many there are. There are a host of problems with NCAA soccer (an article for another day), but when the season is on it is my favourite time of year, even when the soccer is not the best. Also, I was supposed to be writing my master’s thesis and the 2017 spreadsheet proved an excellent distraction.

It’s not perfect, and I hope to improve it with time, to include notes such as whether the player has competed internationally for another nation, or if they have been invited to CSA camps, or if the player redshirted the season in question. Currently players are only included if they have a Canadian hometown listed on their school roster or if they have recently been invited to a Canada camp (Hannah Taylor is currently my lone member of this category). There are undoubtedly many players eligible to represent Canada, but until the CSA pays me to I am not investigating the family history of every player in NCAA Division I women’s soccer. (Dear Canada Soccer, Carly Wickenheiser, daughter of the late Doug Wickenheiser, who you might remember as the #1 overall draft pick by the Montreal Canadiens in 1980 or as “Hayley Wickenheiser’s cousin”, currently starts at Texas Tech. For more tidbits like this, contact me through the site.) If there are any Canadian players I forgot (very likely) or that have non-Canadian hometowns but you think it would be valuable to include, let me know, I’ll add them to the list.

I’ve included the 2017 RPI ranking in both the 2017 and 2018 data for now, and will update with 2018 RPI data when it becomes available. RPI (Rating Percentage Index) is not perfect, but it is readily available and will help to add some context to the data by giving some indication of how well a team performed. The top NCAA teams and conferences are a lot better than the lower ones, so consider this when looking at data. I’d like to at some point also add strength of schedule data, but it’s not quite so easy to find.

I will try to keep the current season’s data as up-to-date as I can, though there are a lot of college soccer games and some teams are pretty slow at updating box scores. The spreadsheets are available on Google Drive for 2018 and 2017.

Pre-season Honours

To begin this section, I think pre-season honours are dumb. We are meant to celebrate these players because they have looked good in the past? One of these things is a watch list for an award based on this year’s performance. This is dumb. We should watch all of the players to see who is good. But they include a bunch of Canadians this year, so I will report on them.

The MAC Hermann watch list was released this past week, featuring 8 Canadian women: Paige Culver (Kent State), Jessie Fleming (UCLA), Rylee Foster (WVU), Victoria Pickett (Wisconsin), Deanne Rose (Florida), Bianca St. Georges (WVU), and Evelyne Viens (South Florida). Special shoutout to Evelyne Viens, who has been so criminally ignored by Canada Soccer in all of her time playing soccer that they even failed to include her in their first publishing of an article about this list.

I do not know who selects this list; it includes Casey Murphy, who chose to forgo her senior year of college at Rutgers to play professional soccer in France (and was drafted by the NWSL’s Sky Blue FC) and I imagine is ineligible to win. I would not trust the creators of this list with deciding who is the best player in college soccer, but it is nice to see these Canadians get recognition. Fleming was a finalist for the award in 2017; Kadeisha Buchanan won it in 2016 while at WVU, and Christine Sinclair won in 2004 and 2005 while at the Univeristy of Portland.

Top Drawer Soccer, a website that does a lot of valuable reporting and and is thus ascribed a lot of power in ranking teams and players, also released their pre-season best eleven teams. The top XIs feature Canadians Fleming (UCLA; first team), Viens (South Florida; second team), Foster (West Virginia; second team), Pickett (Wisconsin; third team) and Emma Regan (Texas; freshman team).

Most of those same players are included in the top 100 players to watch, with Fleming at #2, Viens at #19, Pickett at #23, Foster at #25, Culver at #42, and St. Georges at #59 (the list intentionally does not include freshmen, who are ranked independently once the season begins, so Regan was not in consideration). Other Canadians included are Marie Levasseur (Memphis; #41), Olivia Gauthier (Memphis; #57), and Devon Kerr (Ohio State; #66). I do not know where Deanne Rose is, she absolutely belongs on this list.

Week 1 Games to Watch

I will do my best to highlight some games each week that will be of some interest to Canadian viewers. Hopefully some of them are watchable to Canadian viewers. My apologies in advance if I link to a stream that either asks you for a ridiculous sum of money to watch, is geoblocked, or convinces you to pay a ridiculous sum of money to watch only then to inform you that it is geoblocked. Also I promise not to list UCLA every week. Maybe.

University of Wisconsin vs. North Dakota State

August 16th, 8 PM Eastern/5 PM Pacific
Broadcast https://www.btn2go.com/game/n-dakota-st-at-wisconsin-on-08162018
Live stats http://uwbadgers.com/sidearmstats/wsoc/summary
I totally lied in my previous paragraph, you absolutely have to pay for BTN2Go and I’m pretty sure it’s also geoblocked, but if you’re into that, Wisconsin is led by midfielder Victoria Pickett (in addition to Canadian forward Emily Borgmann) and North Dakota State features six Canadians on their roster.

Rice vs. Texas

August 17th, 8 PM Eastern/5 PM Pacific
No stream indicated
Live stats https://riceowls.com/sidearmstats/wsoc/summary
Two names likely familiar to CanWNT fans, Julia Grosso and Emma Regan, are both entering their freshman year at Texas, where they are coached by former Canadian WNT midfielder and Canada Soccer Hall of Fame member Angela Kelly. Rice has six Canadians on the roster, including Caleigh Boeckx, who has participated in several U20 CanWNT camps.

UCLA vs. Long Beach State

August 17th, 10 PM Eastern/7 PM Pacific
Broadcast Pac-12 Network and DAZN in Canada, so I no longer have to promote pirated webstreams.
Live stats http://www.statbroadcast.com/events/statbroadcast.php?t=1&gid=ucla
There aren’t any Canadians at Long Beach State but you should absolutely take any chance to watch and enjoy Jessie Fleming dominating the college game. UCLA also features Kennedy Faulknor and Shana Flynn, of Canadian youth national teams, but you’re here for Jessie Fleming.

CanPL’s Historic Duty

By Benjamin Massey · August 9th, 2018 · 1 comment

Lake Side Buoys via Facebook, used with permission.

In the autumn of 1990 the Victoria Vistas were riding high in the Canadian Soccer League. They had rallied from an atrocious debut in 1989 to finish high-mid-table in the regular season, then knocked off the Winnipeg Fury on penalties in the first round of the playoffs. The mid-dynasty Vancouver 86ers beat Victoria on away goals in the semi-final but, especially in hindsight, there was nothing shameful about that. Victoria boasted local talent, led by veteran Canadian international Ian Bridge, and a few foreign stars like former Aston Villa skipper Allan Evans. Head coach Bruce Wilson, already a national legend from the 1986 World Cup and a Canada West champion coach with the University of Victoria, led a steady improvement throughout his first full season as a professional boss. It was a very good year.

Fans walked away from 1990 expecting more in 1991. But by March the Vistas were dead. Their players went in a dispersal draft, Wilson went back to UVic full-time, most of the locals dropped to the amateur ranks. The long story of Victoria soccer would go on, from the return of Victoria United to the Pacific Coast Soccer League, through the storied Vancouver Island Soccer League, all the way to USL PDL’s Victoria Highlanders, but this was all strictly local stuff. Victoria, one of Canada’s most soccer-mad cities, was deprived of the professional game for a generation.

On July 20, 2018, that finally changed when former Canadian internationals Josh Simpson and Rob Friend unveiled the Victoria area’s new Canadian Premier League team, Pacific FC. The new team is a backup plan after Friend’s attempted “Port City” greater Vancouver team couldn’t find a stadium, they’re is playing in the suburb of Langford rather than Victoria soccer’s spiritual home at Royal Athletic Park, and the city is delighted anyway. The Victoria Highlanders’ supporters group, the Lake Side Buoys, are getting behind Pacific FC with hardly a flicker of doubt. Some diehard Highlanders supporters have waited for this moment longer than their future players have been alive.

It’s a beautiful story. It is also far from unique.

The Nova Scotia Clippers played one CSL season in Dartmouth, didn’t win a thing, and went away, but like Victoria, Halifax soccer has always punched above its weight. In the years since Nova Scotia has produced several professionals two national amateur championship teams. Now the CanPL Halifax Wanderers have an exciting “pop-up” stadium on historic ground and the most amazing grassroots supporters group that actually anticipated their team’s name. Winnipeg has been without professional soccer since 1992 and their PDL team has been bad, but fans there will turn out in the hundreds just to look at Desiree Scott and their CanPL team has already registered over 1,200 would-be season ticket holders.

Hamilton, the CanPL’s cradle if anywhere is, has waited as long without being able to enjoy PDL, but has “enjoyed” years of Bob Young almost bringing in an NASL team. It would be a surprise if Forge FC was not the best-supported first-year team of the bunch. Next to them Calgary looks like paradise; they had an A-League team as late as 2004 and today’s championship PDL team is the likely spine of their CanPL entry. York, the butt of jokes, had two at-least-semi-professional soccer teams in the 1990s and zero for the past half-decade. FC Edmonton‘s problems, spending 2018 without a league, are trivial by comparison.

As individuals we feel our excitement for the Canadian Premier League burning within us, a blazing beacon for soccer communities that have seen so much darkness. But taking a step back to look at the rest of the Dominion reveals that the same stories can be told all across the nation. Each of us, with our prayers, our desperation, and our patience, is repeated ten thousand times across four time zones. It’s inspirational. It is also an enormous emotional, historical, and cultural burden, which this new league will have to bear.

We fans—the ones who already exist, not the ones the league will have to attract—are bringing so many years of barely-sustained hope to these little stadiums. Such undying loyalty should be a point of pride, but it is also a lot of baggage. Do the league’s pioneers realize the weight they are responsible for? When the Canadian Soccer League started in the ’80s it was an ambitious but logical peak for our developing soccer pyramid. Our men’s soccer programs were at their very best and there was no serious American competition. It proved a noble failure, noble enough that we are proud of its legacy, but a failure all the same and one that left scars. And the thing about scars is that time does not make them go away.

Without signing a player or playing a game, these teams have become the targets for a generation of hope from the soccer supporters in seven different towns, all of which have been burned before. Such hopes cannot easily be recreated if dashed. Ask fans of FC Edmonton, a team which has had decent performances and all-time legendary ownership but can only slowly attract mass interest because the Brickmen and the Aviators and the Drillers have poisoned the well so thoroughly. What the Canadian Premier League has is one precious, potentially golden, building block, but it is oh-so-fragile.

The Canadian Premier League is not Canada’s last chance for a national soccer league, but it might be our last chance for anything good.

Even a qualified CanPL success, with Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal permanently lost to MLS and no hope in CONCACAF, one vast Wales, would be a very good thing. We do not need to aim too high. But if it fails entirely, if it turns into MLS-style corporate trash or goes broke, then those lost hopes will maim everything that comes later. The future will look like the new “Canadian” cricket league, where meaningless squads of foreign mercenaries named Vancouver, Montreal, and so on all play in Toronto, and at the end people nobody cared about lifted a trophy with no emotional attachment to it. Great if you want to sit outside for two hours but hopeless if you care about any of what makes sports compelling beyond the literal physical activity.

It’s a hard job. The diehards cannot simply be pandered to; there are too few. To survive any team must attract the common soccer family, this is mathematically unavoidable. Yet experience shows that without those diehards curating an organic soccer culture and bringing an atmosphere to the ground you become Chivas USA. Let supporters support, don’t abandon your community in the name of monolithic corporate genericity, and don’t screw up the business. Most of all, respect your local soccer history. With a league front office full of soccer men and team names like Jim Brennan, Stephen Hart, Josh Simpson, Tommy Wheeldon, and so on involved, that ought not to be too difficult. But you need to be aware of that responsibility.