Sober Second Thoughts: The same as it ever was

20 years and counting

One of the regular features of 24thminute.blogspot.com was my post game column, which I called Sober Second Thoughts. If you were around during the early days of TFC you’ll understand that the name had a very deliberate double meaning – TFC games back then were…blurry. They still can be, but it was other level back then.

At any rate, whenever I would roll out of bed after a TFC day I would crawl to the computer and reflect on the Reds 3-2, last minute loss to Chivas USA.

Eventually, things got so toxic around TFC that it became counter-productive to break down every single last minute loss to (insert team here) so I reduced the amount of times that I wrote SST to just the biggest and most noteworthy games.

As I embark on this new 24th Minute project, I have gone back and forth on whether I should include SST as part of its return. Ultimately, I’ve decided that it should return, in limited form.

I won’t be breaking down every TFC game. First of all, this space is a TFC friendly space, but it isn’t a TFC only space. So, I don’t want to only break down TFC games. I may write a SST after a NoImpact game, or a Whitecaps game or, for that matter, a Real Salt Lake game, if it is of interest.  

And after Canada games. In a year that will see Canada play vital games on both the men’s and women’s side it seems like that’s a focus that I can bring here.

So, welcome to Sober Second Thoughts (Diet Pepsi only though. I’m too old to fully revive the concept…)

Feb 18, 2021 – Game 1 of the SheBelieves Cup -- USA 1 – Canada 0

So 7,285 days it is.

After nearly a year of inactivity, the Canadian women came back with a spirited and noble effort against the World Champions.

However, as much as you can claim a moral victory for the Canucks in this one, it ultimately ended the same way as it always has over the past 20 years – with Canada failing to win.

When you’ve followed the CanWNT for as long as I have it can be difficult to celebrate these brave defeats. Although each is, if course, unique and, in any given case, you can fine things to be positive about, the bottom line is the same.

These games all kind of blur together, actually. Canada will defend hard and tackle harder. The US will often struggle to break down a highly organized defence. At some point a referee’s call will go against Canada and fans will hold it up as evidence that everyone is against us. The US will hit a crossbar or two.

And, then, finally, the US will get one.

There have been some blow-outs over the years, but usually Canada hangs in there against the Americans.

Hang on they did on Thursday. And, although they did have chances – Janine Beckie really should have scored from point blank in the first half, Deanne Rose did everything right save actually shoot the ball a couple times and Allysha Chapman beat her player on the baseline before having her cross attempt clearly blocked by an uncalled handball in the box, but ultimately it would be a mistake to suggest that the Americans weren’t the deserving winner.

The US massively out-shot Canada and observers down there aren’t talking about brave Canada, but rather lamenting that they didn’t finish more.

Bluntly, to steal one of John Herdman’s favourite talking points, Canada isn’t in the US’ “tier.” It’s unclear if anyone is, really, but Canada certainly isn’t. The best we can hope for is to one day have all the bounces fall our way and to nick a result against the run of play – or take them to kicks in a major tournament. The US is just too talented to expect much more.

To that end, Canada is in Brazil’s tier though (and is above Argentina’s) so the rest of this tournament is where the real test will begin.  

If Canada is to medal for a third straight Olympics, being better than Brazil is going to be needed. A good measure of how realistic that podium is will come in the week ahead.

The US, meanwhile, can only really beat itself in its march towards Olympic Gold.

NOTES:

-          The clear worst moment of the game came early when keeper Kailen Sheridan went down with what appeared to be a groin pull. An absolute heart-breaker for a player that likely felt an Olympic spot was possible

-          More positively, a player that very well could have booked a trip to Tokyo was defender Vanessa Gilles, who was Canada’s likely player of the match

-          Also deserving of credit was Stephanie Labbe, who kept a strong presence in front of a busy goal all night

-          Just wanted to shout out Allysha Chapman, who always puts a shift in, often to little notice or credit. A true pro, she is.