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Bid Red poised for big redemption in Olympic soccer

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One year removed from World Cup humiliation, Canada could have its best Olympic showing to date. A semifinal clash with the U.S. awaits.

Canada supplied the shock of the Olympic tournament thus far, knocking out Great Britain in the quarterfinals with a tour de force performance. The shock wasn’t just the result, but the manner in which it was achieved.

Although both goals arrived from set pieces, Canada thoroughly dictated the run of play with crisp passing and incisive movement. Jonelle Filigno became the first player of the tournament to break through Great Britain’s defense with a lovely half-volley. The opening salvo pinned the hosts into a corner. Christine Sinclair’s arching free kick later in the first half proved to be the fatal blow.

It’s not the first time Canada – affectionately known as ‘Big Red’ – has entered a major tournament with hopes of playing a more substantive style of soccer. This is, however, the first time it’s worked. So far, at least.

The origins of Canada’s attack-minded ethos lie with former head coach Carolina Morace. The hard-nosed Italian took charge of a program that seemed to be stagnating – both competitively and stylistically. An all-out overhaul ensued.

Morace’s philosophy looked to catch fire, as Canada won the 2010 CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying tournament (a.k.a. the Gold Cup) for the first time in nearly a decade. Her ideas also proved to be combustible. Canada would go on to crash out at the 2011 World Cup in spectacular fashion, losing all three group games while only registering one goal.

The unmitigated failure led to Morace’s exit and a brief period of soul-searching. John Herdman left his post as New Zealand head coach to assume the reins of a program struggling to find an identity and direction.On the back of Friday triumph, it appears he’s discovered both.

(MORE: Herdman draws a circle around “highly illegal” U.S. tactics)

When the Englishman arrived at the helm last year, he vowed to build off the style Morace introduced to her players. He has since added his own personal touch. Physicality – not just possession – has become the name of Canada’s game.

In addition the more pragmatic approach, the team has developed something that was in short supply during the Morace era: self-assurance.

Canada went into the quarterfinal against Great Britain teeming with it. Gone were the nerves that paralyzed the team in its three World Cup group games last summer.

Canada will need to draw upon more of its new-found confidence on Monday when it comes up against three-time gold medalists and regional rivals the United States. For all of England’s Great Britain’s workmanlike merits, they are a team prone to fading down the stretch. Fatigue and panic evidently crept into the side on Friday, particularly after shipping two goals.

The United States, in contrast, is considered the fittest team in the world. The U.S.’s record of dominance over its northern neighbors is daunting: 26 matches without a loss since 2001, with the most recent victory coming in late June.

After years of pretention and frustration, has Herdman truly transformed Canada into medal contenders? His side will be eager to show it has another surprise in store.

College Soccer Update: Tragedy strikes USC Upstate with horrible car accident

USC Upstate
USC Upstate
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No interviews today. No star players and programs. Just mourning.

USC Upstate lost four students earlier this week, two of them men’s soccer players, in an early morning car accident this weekend. A fifth was injured when the car they were driving in ran off the road, hit a tree, and caught fire.

James Campbell and Mills Sproul are the soccer players who’ve left the pitch for the final time.

[ MORE: College soccer news ]

USC Upstate’s athletic department held a candelight vigil on Monday, and honored both players with online memorials.

From Campbell’s, entitled “James Campbell Was an Intense Player Whose Competitiveness Made Those Around Him Play Harder”:

While Kyle Juell and James attended different high schools, they played club soccer together. “James was intense and passionate on the field,” Juell said. “He was the kind of aggressive player you wanted as a teammate. He was fun and warm and full of life and he cared so much about his teammates.”

From Sproul’s, entitled “Mills Sproul Put the Needs of Others Before His Own and Was Accepting of All”:

Mills’ teammate Deon Rose said that Mills was like the brother he never had.

“The first time I met him, I knew that he was special,” Rose said. “Not because he asked me if we had beaches in Canada or how Canadians survived without Chick-fil-A, but because he had an unconditional love for everyone and everything.”

Our thoughts are with the USC Upstate team, and entire community. Rest in peace.

Three stars of the week

1. University of California Santa Barbara — The Gauchos leapt from “receiving votes” to No. 14 in the nation. The Gauchos have won five-straight, all in-state, by a combined score of 13-3.

2. Joey Piatczyc, West Virginia — The midfielder leads the nation in assists with 12, one coming in Tuesday’s upset of Penn State, a match in which he also scored his first of the year. The Mountaineers shocked PSU with a 3-0 home win in Morgantown.

3. Francis Atuahene and Colin McAtee, Michigan — The Ghanaian freshman is a lightning bolt, and keeps producing goals along with the redshirt senior McAtee, who hails from San Diego. The Wolverines beat Duquesne 3-0 on Tuesday.

Other notes

— Creighton dropped two of its 24 first place votes, one each to North Carolina and Stanford, but remains the No.1 men’s team in the nation.

— Wake Forest hasn’t allowed a goal in three matches, against quality competition in NC State, South Carolina and Boston College. There were stretches in the 2-0 win over South Carolina where they looked unbeatable.

— Speaking of the Demon Deacons, they’ll face dangerous UNC on Saturday in what will be a cracker.

— Also No. 1:Florida State (Women’s D-1), Gannon (Women’s D-2), Trinity of Texas (Women’s D-3), Pfeiffer (Men’s D-2), Franklin & Marshall (Men’s D-3).

Three things we learned from the USMNT’s loss to Costa Rica

Joel Campbell, Tim Howard
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There’s really not much to say about the United States’ loss to Costa Rica tonight.

Following a disappointing, disheartening, uninspired loss to Mexico, the USMNT traveled to Red Bull Arena and put in a disappointing, disheartening, uninspired performance against Costa Rica.

[ RECAP: USMNT 0-1 Costa Rica ]

With World Cup qualifying starting in November, there’s a lot to improve on in a short period of time. Here’s what we learned…


Michael Bradley is the captain of this team, and has been the United States’ best and most consistent field player. His importance to the side was evident tonight, as the midfield looked lost without their leader. Danny Williams got the start in place of Bradley and had himself a nightmare. Williams couldn’t hold possession in the middle of the field, and his giveaways put added pressure on the defense. Jermaine Jones wasn’t much better, as he was yanked at halftime and replaced by Mix Diskerud. With Jones and Kyle Beckerman both on the wrong side of 30, their international careers are coming to an end and won’t be in the equation for long moving forward. Danny Williams had his chance to prove his worth tonight, and failed miserably.

[ PLAYER RATINGS: Howard’s return highlights poor performances from USMNT ]


Despite earning his 34th cap for the USMNT tonight, Brek Shea has never really been given a prolonged run with the national team. Originally a high-flying winger, Shea has been used as both a midfielder and outside-back for Orlando City this year, and playing alongside Kaka has helped develop his skill-set. Shea is good from set pieces and has scored before from free kicks for the U.S., and with the way they are playing right now, those situations create their few opportunities on goal. While there is still room for improvement for Shea, he brings a bit of pace and creativity that the side lacks, and a run of games could give him the confidence to become an impact player.


Brad Guzan has what it takes to be a starting goalkeeper for a national side, but not when his competition is Tim Howard. Guzan isn’t to blame for any of the United States’ poor results over the summer or this fall, but simply put, Howard is better. Despite Guzan being five years younger than Howard (Tim is 36), goalkeepers can play deep into their 30’s at an elite level, and Howard looks to be one of those players. Throughout World Cup qualifying, Howard should get the nod as the number one choice, and it shouldn’t be debated.