As he lives in that neck of the woods, was going to the game, and there was a chance that Rory McAllister might be involved, we asked Scarlet Pimple if he would send us a report on the U20 match between Canada and Scotland..... and here it is.
Today I am under the weather, sore throat and temperature - I think it was because yesterday I was literally "under" the atrocious weather....read on:
Since Thursday, 22 March 2007, about 50 inches of rain has been dumped on us here in the Vancouver region of S.W. British Columbia, the most Westerly Province of Canada on the Pacific Coast. Swangard Stadium in Burnaby, B.C. was therefore unplayable and the game was transferred to another Municipal stadium in the suburbs with artificial turf - 4p.m. kick-off.
So my son and I eventually found the park and questioned a Canadian Soccer Association official as to why tarps had not been placed on the original pitch. Her response was "in 112 years we have never had to cancel a game at Swangard, but the Scots have come a long way and we are desperate to play the game" - Roll-on global warming!!!
At a much smaller stadium it was first come first served for the seats, but we did get two very good ones in the VIP section courtesy of that lady. We were flanked on both sides by CBC cameras (for their broadband live presentation) and the owner of the local Whitecaps F.C., Vancouver’s professional soccer team, handed me a list of the players. It was all very friendly and that was a nice touch. Bobby Lenarduzzi, former manager of the Canadian National team, was also seated beside us and on my left was the father of one of the National team's goalkeepers. So we had great chat during the match to boot.
The game started in pouring rain and sloshing puddles at every step with the Canadian team attacking strongly but the Under 20 Scottish boys weathered the storm and within 20 minutes were dominating possession in the middle of the park with fast, very accurate passing but without much success up front. They looked good but poor tactics were to prove their undoing. Ryan Conroy (Celtic), a midfielder, was out on the left wing inside the Canadian half and never got a sniff of the ball. My son said "his team-mates don't like him because they never pass him the ball". In truth, with acres of space on the left and the middle and right side of the park completely clogged up with 6 Scotland players it seemed incomprehensible why they never passed to him.
The conditions were so bad as to be crying out for a run down to the by-line and a hard ball delivered across the goalmouth to take advantage of any possible mistakes. Also this would have had the effect of drawing more Canadian players out of the middle melee leaving more room for the Scots to run in on goal .But no....eventually he got fed up and went into the middle of the pitch to try to get into the action but he did take set pieces and had a good ball narrowly go by the post on one of the infrequent forays up front by the Scots.
At half time I bumped into Rory McAllister coming out of the dressing room. I asked him if he played for Caley Thistle and then introduced myself and I asked him if he was playing today. He said "I'm on the bench but I hope to get a game later". I then asked him slyly "are you going to win today" and he gave a half smile and said "oh yes, sure". Then he was off on a jaunt to warm up. He seemed like a very nice fella but he towered over me since I am only 5'7" - hmmm.
After half time the game improved and it came to life with a bang when Gabe Gala (NTC Ontario) took advantage of HIS wide spaces on the left side of the park, skinned the Scottish right back, cut in sharply to the right making a bee-line for goal and delivered a powerful 30-yard dipping left-footed shot right over the head of the goalie, Andrew McNeil (substituted in the 2nd half) and into the net. A fantastic goal fit to win any match. Crowd erupted in glee.
A short while later a 2- player Canadian breakaway down the middle, leaving two Scots in their wake, homed in on goal and to the disbelief of the crowd and the Scottish players they cottoned onto the cross coming in from the right and scored. Shortly after this the linesman did not flag when a Scotland player was nudged off balance in the box , staggered forward but was unable to keep upright and the Canadian referee did not give what I considered to be a clear penalty!!!!!
However, immediately afterwards in a goalmouth stramash, Steven Fletcher (Hibernian) managed to crack the ball in. It was saved by the goalie but he allowed it to squirm out of his hands into the net to make it 2-1. At that point I thought that the Scots would surely now get going but the Canadian response to this was to again sprint downfield and in another goalmouth scramble in the rain rammed the ball into the Scottish net.
Steven Fletcher was outstanding-- cool, collected and controlled and looked like a top class player. He and the strapping Gary Kenneth (Dundee United) who had a really stuffy game were named as "men of the match" together with Jaime Peters (IpswichTown) and Gabe Gala (NTC Ontario) named as MOM for the Canadians. Jaime Peters, in particular, was a constant thorn in the flesh of the Scots in the first half with his trickery and speedy direct runs. Also prominent for Canada was Will Johnson, (S.C. Heerenveen) Captain, never afraid to run at the Scots' defence, and I thought that the steady Kennedy Owusu-Ansah (Hertha Berlin) at right back also came on to a good aggressive game also making one or two probing runs up their right flank, something the Scots back two never did preferring to pass the ball to each other frequently across the goalmouth...Hmmm.
Rory McAllister came on with about ten minutes to go, positioning himself as a forward on the inside right slot, but never got the ball so he went over to the left again in search of some action. He did have a strong 25 yard shot go just wide of the right post and, as I recall, one over the bar, but coming on cold and damp with five minutes to go no one can judge his performance.
Kevin McCann (Hibs) came on late also to position himself on the right wing and obviously was itching to get a kick of the ball but was similarly ignored by the Scots players in the middle just as Ryan Conroy was in the first half which meant that the clogged up middle was the chosen route for the Scots and it was the rock on which their ship floundered.
Frankly I am still baffled as to what the Scots' tactics were in this match but it was a good experience for the youngsters who looked dejected as they trooped off the pitch but it was a great fillip for the aspirations of the Canadian National team. These two teams play again in Victoria, the capital of B.C. on Vancouver Island, on 27 March 2007 -an evening match.
The Final Score - Canada 3 v 1 Scotland
Despite everything, I really enjoyed this game and outing.
The Scarlet Pimple