Friday, September 14, 2007

Canada 1-1 Costa Rica

I went to see Canada play Costa Rica in a friendly on Wednesday night. Unfortunately, not many people joined me. The stadium was half empty, which is really a shame, because if you weren't there, you missed a good game. The home team even scored, for a change.

I think there were a couple reasons for the lack of fan support: First, the game wasn't all that well publicized. If you weren't a hard-core soccer fan, you probably didn't know about it -- unlike the U20 tournament, which everyone was talking about. Second, a lot of the tickets were too expensive. Where I was sitting in the south stand was only $15, but some of the seats were priced at $100. That's ridiculous, especially when they know that they haven't come close to selling out. There's no reason why they couldn't have dropped the prices and tried to bring in some more group sales.

I hope those are the two main reasons, at least. I hope it's not that fans have gotten a bit disillusioned with soccer after Toronto FC's recent string of bad results. But I don't think that's the case.

Anyway, the game itself: Canada played well and had the majority of possession, but they couldn't manage to put the ball in the net. Instead it was Costa Rica who scored first, early in the second half. Just a few minutes later, the Ticos were down to 10 men, as Randal Azofeifa was sent off for a second yellow card. Dwayne de Rosario then levelled the score for Canada with a fierce shot after a great pass from Julian de Guzman. But despite having another half-hour to press their advantage, the Canadians couldn't find another goal and had to settle for the draw.

Still, it's an encouraging result, because Costa Rica are probably the team that Canada will be fighting for the third spot in CONCACAF qualifying for the next World Cup. And a couple players really stood out for me: De Rosario, who was always looking for the ball and ready to run at defenders on the left wing -- and who scored that goal, of course -- and De Guzman, who controlled the midfield for 90 minutes and was clearly a class above everybody else on the pitch. He's the first Canadian to ever play in Spain (for Deportivo La Coruna) and the experience he's getting there definitely shows.

The downside of the game was the constant diving and timewasting by the Costa Ricans. Every time there was the slightest bit of contact, they'd fall down, rolling around on the ground and writhing in pain. They did a very good job of breaking up play that way -- that, and fouling the Canadians when necessary -- but it wasn't exactly an argument for their ability on the pitch.

I should also mention the black shirt protest that was organized for this game by a number of fan groups, intended to bring attention to the ongoing problems at the CSA. I saw quite a lot of people at the game in the black "Sack the CSA" T-shirts, and they seem to have gotten a decent amount of publicity, but whether it'll have any impact on the organization is another question.

Oh, and while we're on the topic of fans, much as I enjoyed the game, I could have done without the idiot in the next section who kept shouting at the people in our section because we weren't standing up and therefore weren't "real fans." I've paid for my ticket, I'm at the game, I'm wearing a fucking Canada jersey; I think that makes me a real fan, thank you very much, and I don't need some asshole wrapping himself in a flag to tell me otherwise. I did notice that the guy was escorted out by security partway through the first half; I'm not exactly sure why, though, because as far as I know you can't be ejected from a game just for being a douchebag, tempting as it may be.

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