Rare men's win a good start

GARETH WHEELER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:31 AM ET

Lost in the shuffle of a busy weekend was a Canadian men's soccer team victory.

That's right. Canada played, and won. A squad of European-based Canadian players took on and beat Cyprus on the tiny, soccer-crazy island.

As important as it was to get any win, it was an opportunity to shine for Canadian debutant Simeon Jackson, but also youngsters Jamie Peters, Josh Simpson and 20-year old Eddy Sidra, all of whom should be included in Stephen Hart's lineup for the Gold Cup.

Midfielder Julian de Guzman was his dominant self and will be the anchor of the team that regroups late this month in Los Angeles before the competition gets underway July 3.

Add in Major League Soccer's Canadian contingent, and this should be a younger looking national team than in recent years.

But for the youngsters to develop, especially looking down the road, the Canadian team simply needs more games. Matches on home soil are preferable, but Toronto, as a location, is a difficult and mostly infeasible option. The national soccer teams are charged ridiculous fees to play at the National Soccer Stadium (aka BMO Field), including expensive and mandatory unionized staff for every event.

And to bring in a top-level team, the appearance fees alone would eat up a huge chunk of the team's budget.

There is no question the National Soccer Stadium would sell out for a men's game, but it would cost the Canadian Soccer Association too much to put on.

Long way to go

It's hard to describe the Canadian women's team's 4-0 loss to the U.S. last Monday any other way than ugly.

Although head coach Carolina Morace doesn't believe the scoreline did her team justice, the physical dominance and overall quality of the American women suggested otherwise.

Canada's defensive unit is either aging or lacking pace. And though the midfield has an extremely diligent work ethic, it lacks size.

American Shannon Boxx dominated the three-headed midfield monster of Diana Matheson, Kelly Parker and Rhian Wilkinson (until she was moved to left-back in the second half).

Problem in Houston

It's time for Toronto FC to regroup after its 3-0 loss Saturday to the Houston Dynamo.

Houston is one of the toughest places to play in MLS, one that ranks with the best teams in the league.

But TFC head coach Chris Cummins elected to give Danny Dichio a rest and his presence was missed. Without Dichio, TFC has had trouble holding up the ball all season long, a problem that came to light during a disastrous five-minute spell when it gave up three goals.

After any goal, it's of the utmost importance for the conceding team to retake control of the play. That means maintaining possession, putting your foot on the ball and keeping it.

TFC, for whatever reason, has never been able to do this consistently.

As important as it is to have attacking players who can hold up the ball, possession and offensive organization start from the back end.

As important as marking and defensive responsibilities are, the back line is counted on to start the offence through making good decisions and playing the ball on the ground.

Kick-and-run soccer is not the answer. And until TFC acquires or develops a commandeering defender with the ability to organize going forward, this will remain a problem.

Next up for TFC is a date with the Vancouver Whitecaps tomorrow out west, as it attempts to wrap up the Nutrilite Canadian championship.

A win against the Whitecaps and Toronto wins this year's Voyageurs Cup and moves on into the CONCACAF Champions League competition. A loss or a tie means a June 18 trip to Montreal to determine its fate.


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