Sober Second Thoughts: I think I can...

Maybe you can't

There once was a Little Red Football Team. One day it was asked to climb a mountain that it hadn’t climbed for 37 years. It was a very tall mountain and no one thought that the Little Red Football Team could climb it.

But, the Little Red Football Team said,  “I  think  I  can  climb  up  the mountain.  I think  I  can.  I think  I  can.”  Then the Little Red Football Team began to pull.  He tugged and He pulled.  He pulled and he tugged.  Puff puff, chug chug went the Little Red Football Team.  “I think I can.  I think I can,” he said.  Slowly, slowly, the Little Red Football Team tried to build from the back. The Voyageurs began to smile and clap.  Puff Puff, chug chug.  The Little Red Football Team kept trying to go up that mountain, all the time he kept saying, “I think I can, I think I can, I think  I  can...”   

Again. And Again. And Again. Never giving up doing the EXACT SAME THING. Nope,  nope,  nope.  The Little Red Football Team kept trying and trying and trying.  At last the referee put them out of their misery and blew the whistle to end the game.

”I  thought  I could,  I  thought  I  could,  I  thought  I  could,  I thought I could,:” the Little Red Football Team repeated as he walked back to the dressing room, head held in shame.

Later that night, El Salvador would score a late equalizer against Honduras to keep the Little Red Football Team in a much better position than it deserved.

In case you haven’t had your morning coffee yet, above is a re-thinking of the famous children’s story, The Little Engine that Could. Only this time it’s not a heartwarming parable about the virtues of believing in yourself and perseverance, but rather an illustration of the pointlessness of repeating the same behaviour time and time again and expecting a different result.

That was Canada last night in its mind-numbing 0-0 draw with Haiti in Olympic qualifying. Faced with an opponent that didn’t seem to want the ball for the better part of 60 minutes, Canada kept trying to lure them off their line with methodical, predictable and horizontal passing out of the back.

It was a strategy that worked against El Salvador in match day 1, but was remarkably ineffective against a Haitian side that, to their credit, stayed disciplined.

Yet, Canada kept on thinking it could right up to the end. Plan A was going to work, damn it, because there was no plan B.

Eventually, Haiti started to get its own chances – possibly taking advantage of Canada’s lack of match play – and, in the end, the Canucks were very fortunate to escape this game with the 0-0 draw.  

Apologists will point to a first half miss by game one star Tajon Buchanan and a late game howler of a miss from Ballou as proof that Canada was just unlucky on the night. Cynics will counter that Haiti was dominate for a 20 min stretch in the second half and probably left a couple on the table as well.

In the end, a draw was more than fair for Canada and, especially when coupled with the late game result that still leaves Canada in position to qualify, you have to take your lessons and move forward.

Since it seems that Canada is going to stick to its dogged approach, this might have, ironically, been their toughest match. Honduras will likely want the ball more than Haiti did and either Mexico or the USA most certainly will.  So, maybe Canada’s approach will work, and they will open up the space they hoped to versus Haiti.

I think I can. I think I can, I th….