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VOL. 1 NO. 3 OCTOBER 2013

CANADIAN SOCCER DIGITAL MAGAZINE

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J O H N H E R D M A N K A R A L A N G ’ S FIRST 90

CMNT U17 WORLD CUP GROUP E PREVIEW RNO’S BEST

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From the publisher Welcome to issue three of ABoot, one where we decided to take a noticeable shift in our content topic from the first two issues. Wanting to get an issue out at the end of the summer, or early fall, we saw that the inagural season of the National Women’s Soccer League (“NWSL”) had just wrapped up and timed perfectly to be the motivation to focus primarly on the Canadian Women’s National Team. As the Portland Thorns, lead by two Canadians, claimed the first title in the league, it seemed fitting to speak with one of Canada’s most colourful personalities in goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc. Katelyn Verstraten interviewed the veteran Canadian International regarding the array of skills, both on and off the field, that has given her success over the years. This is followed up by soccer statistician Aaron Nielsen looking at the numbers of the NWSL and arguing from this perspective, the league offers fans much more than other women’s sports in North America and should be positioned for further growth and increased support over the years. Gavin Day has long followed both the Men and Women’s National Teams, and has fostered a strong relationship with many players and coaches over the years. John Herdman is no exception as he spoke with Gavin regarding the future of the national team, as this interview took place right in the midst of rumours of him potentially signing on with England, and just before he decided to stay on with Canada until 2020. The last timely topic is looking at the Canadian U17 side as they prepare for the World Cup in the United Arab Emirate. Kamal Hylton has followed youth soccer closely for several years and offers his view of Canada’s chances in Group E and the teams that are needed to watch for. With that we hope you enjoy the third issue of ABoot and as always we greatly appreciate your support.

Vol. 1 No. 3 PUBLISHER

Ian Clarke ianc@rednationonline.ca

CO-PUBLISHERS

Rick Evangelista ricke@rednationonline.ca Steve Bottjer steveb@rednationonline.ca

EDITORIAL

Gavin Day gavinlday@gmail.com Katelyn Verstraten kmverstraten@gmail.com Emily Dulhanty emilydulhanty@hotmail.com Aaron Nielsen enbsports@gmail.com Kamal Hylton kamalhylton@gmail.com

COVER

Paul Marhue marhue@gmail.com

DESIGN

Ian Clarke

PHOTOGRAPHY

All photos courtesy of Canadasoccer unless otherwise noted

HAVOC 88 HAVOC 88

Opinions expressed in articles are those of the authors. A Boot and Havoc 88 Inc. accept no liability for information contained herein.  All rights reserved.  Contents may not be reproduced without written permission from the publisher.

18 Stafford Street, Suite 916 Toronto, ON, M5V 3W4 www.rednationonline.ca All contents copyright © Havoc 88 Inc. We acknowledge the financial support of the Government of Canada through the Department of Heritage Canadian Periodical Fund - Business Innovation.

Ian Clarke - Publisher

Nous reconnaissons l’appui financier du gouvernement du Canada par l’entremise du ministère du Patrimoine canadian ‘Canadian Periodical Fund - Business Innovation’.

ianc@rednationonline.ca Twitter @ClarkeRNO

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CONTENTS 6 BUILDING THE FOUNDATION FOR 2015 AND BEYOND Gavin Day speaks with CWNT head coach John Herdman on the future of the women’s team.

19 IT IS BUILT THEY SHOULD COME Soccer statistician Aaron Nielsen argues the NWSL should be a bigger draw and compared to other leagues, delivers more.

12

THE MANY ROLES OF

KARINA LEBLANC Katelyn Verstraten interviews Canada’s brightest personality and discovers the array of skills the goalkeeper has honed throughout her years to ensure success both on and off the picth.

21 THE FIRST 90: KARA LANG Emily Dulhanty chronicles Kara Lang’s arrival into the Canadian consciousness at the 2002 U19 World Cup.

30 2013 CMNTU17 WORLD CUP PREVIEW Kamal Hylton breaks down Canada’s opposition heading into the U17 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates. Looking at Argentina, Iran and Austria as well as what head coach Sean Fleming has at his disposal.

26 FROM THE ARCHIVES: CHRISTINE SINCLAIR Former CWNT head coach Even Pellerud asks the question “Why Christine Sinclair never concedes a throw-in?”

34 R N O ’ s BEST F ROM J ULY– SEPTEMBER 2 0 1 3


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JOHN HERDMAN

Building the foundation for

2015 a n d

b e y o n d

By Gavin Day

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JOHN H E RDM AN

B U ILD IN G FO R 2 0 1 5 A N D B EYOND

After the massive accomplishment that was coaching the Canadian women’s soccer team to a bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympics, it may have been a surprise to some when John Herdman said that 2013 would see the program taking a step back. With the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup on the horizon, the priority for Herdman became twofold: in addition to preparing the team for a home World Cup, he wanted to help develop the next generation of talent. “Everything was lined up to do something well (in 2012) and I think moving into this next World Cup is you’ve got to hope that there’s a system underneath that’s been ready to cater for the next generation and that you don’t have a hiatus and wait for a next cycle,” Herdman said in an interview earlier in August. “There’s been very little structure in place so your cycle of players now, there hasn’t been a plan to ensure the next crop are there ready and waiting.” Herdman points to programs like the United States and Germany where there’s a conveyor belt of talent rolling off the line seemingly every few years. Germany had three-time FIFA Women’s player of the year Birgit Prinz retire in 2011 but instead of there being a talent vacuum, her goals were replaced by a number of players. A BOOT

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And in the United States, legendary names like Hamm and Lilly have since been replaced by the likes of Wambach and Morgan. While there is a deeper talent pool due to the larger populations in these countries, Herdman wants Canada to keep up over the next few years because there are many players who will be on the wrong side of 30 after the next World Cup cycle, including team talisman Christine Sinclair. “One is you’re laying the foundation for the future and making sure that 2020 is going to be OK,” Herdman explained. “And for 2015 it’s all coupled in with laying that foundation and try to ensure that some of these young players can be given an opportunity to represent in 2015 because there’s a huge gap between the ages of 19 and 25.”

B U ILD IN G FO R 2 0 1 5 A N D B EYOND

The growing pains for the team have been obvious this year as Canada has lost games to South Korea, England (twice), the United States, and Germany but there has been a method to the madness as an astounding 33 players have been handed their first caps at the senior team level and there have been a few revelations. Defender Kadeisha Buchanan jumped into the national consciousness when she shut down American superstar Abby Wambach at the highprofile “rematch” against the Americans in June.

“The bit that’s important is we just want to make Canadians proud. If that means we go out in the semi-final, we go out in that semi-final and everyone goes ‘Wow! Those girls were unbelievable.’ If you go out of a final and you don’t win the World Cup, but those people go ‘Those girls have inspired my daughter to be the next Desiree Scott,’ that, to us, is clear in our minds.”

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“The outcome’s got to be winning in 2015 and the process this year is can we find some players to add to this pool as well as potentially replacing some of the players that might be dropping out of this pool and I think we’re in a good space,” Herdman said. While the focus this year has been on blooding in the next generation of talent, the current crop of players that earned the program it’s highest honour to date hasn’t been forgotten either. With the advent of the NWSL came the opportunity for the Canadian Soccer Association the opportunity to choose which players they want in that professional environment. Herdman says they needed to know which players they needed to invest in to get them up to what he calls the “Gold Medal Standard” for 2015 and the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro as well. So while Herdman’s taken a little extra time to have a look at younger talent, there’s been the assurance that those in the current iteration of the team are getting games and training at the highest level. As the NWSL’s inaugural season reaches its conclusion, players are about to swap their club’s colours for Canadian red. Unlike the run-in to the Olympics, Herdman won’t have as much opportunity to work with the group so these are some crucial moments in the preparation for the team. Everything he does has a purpose so the team’s friendly against South Korea at the end of October in Edmonton is more than just a game. It’s an opportunity to check where they’ll be based for their first two group stage games. “When you look at the tournament it’s very clear. We’re going to play seven games in Canada. With the national team it’s the only thing we obsess about every day,” says

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Herdman noting the advantage Canada has as hosts in that they don’t have to worry about a qualifying campaign. “Going into Edmonton was key because we’re going into the World Cup bubble. We get into the experience of training, the travel time from training to getting to the hotel, some of the challenges around that. We’ll get into how much public access the team gets during the day and the public gaze is going to be like in Edmonton.” The team won the country’s hearts in the semifinal game against the Americans in London when they went down guns blazing in what was a memorable game. The whole country saw that there are certain parts of the game that are beyond the control of the players like the calls of a referee or the actions of their opponents. The one thing they have control over is how they take care of their own preparations so that when the time comes and the tournament begins, everything that they can prepare for hasn’t been overlooked. “The bit that’s important is we just want to make Canadians proud. If that means we go out in the semi-final, we go out in that semi-final and everyone goes ‘Wow! Those girls were unbelievable.’ If you go out of a final and you don’t win the World Cup, but those people go ‘those girls have inspired my daughter to be the next Desiree Scott,’ that, to us, is clear in our minds.” A BOOT

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Before the senior team takes centre stage, there’s still the small matter of the under-20 World Cup in 2014 that acts as the warmup to the big event. Many of the players in the current team burst onto the stage when Canada hosted the under-19 tournament in 2002 and the 2014 tournament will serve as a chance to show how the development system Herdman is helping to create is coming along. Former Montreal Impact goalkeeper Andrew Olivier is charged with coaching the team into the tournament but while he’ll obviously want his team to go as far as they can in the tournament, Herdman says the tournament is really just a part of the road on getting players to the senior team and that is the main priority rather than results at this age group. He also says there could also yet be one or two more players that could make the jump right away to the senior team, much like Buchanan did in 2013. Herdman’s future after the World Cup has fortunately been resolved. With him signing on to stay with Canada, even with rumours of him being a fit for the vacancy for his native England, his legacy in addition to the bronze medal will really come from what kind of memories are created from the 2015 World Cup and how strong the talent development system is in this country when he leaves. “No longer are we looking at the seperate squads in that we don’t even use the term u-20 squad anymore or u-17,” said Herdman. “It’s the next system and the system itself is able to produce women’s national team players.”  OCTOBER 2013

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SKILLS TRAINING CLASSES

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Ages 5 to 16+ Boys and girls Age and skill level appropriate Emphasis on skill development

Individual technical improvement Tactical awareness and understanding Speed and co-ordinated movements Psychological training OCTOBER 2013

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THE MANY ROLES OF

KARINA LEBLANC By Katelyn Verstraten

Photo courtesy of mariedejesusblog.com

“When I’m playing professionally, I’m always representing Canada. I don’t compare Portland Thorns fans to Canadian ones. Canadian fans are great. They’re loud, passionate – we’re playing for our country at that point so that passion is shared by just about everybody in that stadium.”

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Portland Thorns FC championship goalkeeper, veteran of the Canadian National Women’s Soccer Team (CanWNT), UNICEF ambassador, and businesswoman – these are just some of the many roles of Canadian goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc. “When I was younger I used to say, ‘I’m going to be a successful business woman, work in corporate, and I’m going to own a big company,” she said, laughing. “That’s what’s great about soccer - it’s opened up many different opportunities.” Currently playing for both the Portland Thorns FC and the Canadian National Women’s Team, LeBlanc’s soccer career has been illustrious. A native of Maple Ridge, British Columbia, she grew up competing in basketball, field hockey and soccer. While completing her business degree at the University of Nebraska she played varsity soccer, and was an All-American as well as a 2000 Hermann Trophy Finalist – the first of many awards in a professional career that has spanned almost two decades. A BOOT

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the m any roles of

LeBlanc has played for a variety of professional leagues and teams, including the Boston Breakers (Women’s United Soccer Association), the Montreal Xtreme and the New Jersey Wildcats (W-League), the Los Angeles Sol and the Philadelphia Independence (Women’s Professional Soccer League). Despite being amazing experiences, the majority of the professional female leagues have disbanded over the years.

k arina leb lanc

Despite a successful professional career in the United States, to most Canadians LeBlanc is best known as goalkeeper for the Canadian Women’s National Team. This will be LeBlanc’s sixteenth year playing with the CanWNT – she made her first international appearance at age 18 against China. Her time with the CanWNT has played a significant role in shaping her soccer identity.

In January 2013, LeBlanc joined the Portland Thorns FC of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) alongside CanWNT teammate Christine Sinclair. When it comes to creating a sustainable league for professional female soccer players, LeBlanc believes Portland is on the right track. “I feel what we’re doing in Portland has been the best in terms of sustaining a long-term future for the sport,” she said. “It’s a learning curve, a learning process. Every league has learned from the league before it, and tried to make things better. We’re trying not to make the same mistakes. But at the same time, had those mistakes not been made, I don’t think we’d be where we are today.” At the end of August 2013, the Portland Thorns won the inaugural NWSL Championship, defeating the Western New York Flash 2-0. While this victory was an incredible moment for LeBlanc, she says it is the fans that help make the organization so great. “We had over 17,000 people at our final game - and that wasn’t even a playoff game,” said LeBlanc. “It took me back to my childhood, when you dreamed of playing in a stadium that was sold out and people are cheering your name –that’s what every Portland home game was for me.”

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the m any roles of

“When I’m playing professionally, I’m always representing Canada,” she said. “I don’t compare Portland Thorns fans to Canadian ones. Canadian fans are great. They’re loud, passionate – we’re playing for our country at that point so that passion is shared by just about everybody in that stadium.” After winning a bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympics, the CanWNT players have risen to fame both within Canada and internationally. Their next goal, says LeBlanc, is to make a medal an every-time thing for Canadian women’s soccer. “My dream is to win a gold for Canada,” she said. “We want to be the best we can be. If you aim low you’ll end low – so we’re aiming high. It means we need to work harder, and to push each other more.” A BOOT

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Leblanc believes the recent extension of head coach John Herdman’s contract is in alignment with the CanWNT gold medal dream. “He’s so competitive – he loves to have things organized and he’s very analytical,” she said. “We will be one of the most prepared team in the next World Cup. This extension gives John a chance to make his way across Canada and influence the youth level, the style of play, and the coaching the way he’d like to.” One of Herdman’s goals is to recruit younger players to the seasoned CanWNT. Veterans such as LeBlanc, Christine Sinclair, Diana Matheson and Rhian Wilkinson are serving as role models for these younger players. The four recently travelled across Canada hosting a series of youth soccer clinics.

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“I’m aging myself, but when I started to play there weren’t any big female soccer players in the professional word,” said LeBLanc. “The majority of my role models - apart from my parents - were unfortunately a lot of males because that’s what you saw on television. We want to give these kids a chance to meet us, see us in our element and see that they too can be what we are.” The position of female soccer role model is yet another one of LeBlanc’s identities. As a woman in soccer, it’s not enough to simply play the game, she says.

k arina leb lanc

“You can’t just be a professional soccer player and think that’s going to be your life. I think it’s always first for a female soccer player to get an education - it opens up so many other doors. I have my business degree and I can go back and use that if all else fails.”

Photo: AP / Don Ryan

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the m any roles of

k arina leb lanc

Photos courtesy of unicef.org

“With the pay in women’s soccer you have to do more than just play soccer,” she said. “You can’t just be a professional soccer player and think that’s going to be your life. I think it’s always first for a female soccer player to get an education - it opens up so many other doors. I have my business degree and I can go back and use that if all else fails.” In fact, LeBlanc is currently combining both her business education and soccer experience, entering the North American corporate business world as a motivational speaker. Speeches about being the best you can be are not only for the athletic world, says LeBlanc, but for everybody. “So many people watched women’s soccer at the Olympics and they found it interesting and intriguing,” she said. “I have the opportunity to tap into that world, and I’m able to put on

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the business suit like I love to do. I do a lot of motivational speaking – it’s great because I’m just telling my story.” In her role as UNICEF Ambassador in April 2013 LeBlanc travelled to Honduras to offer her story – and soccer training sessions – to underprivileged youth. Her visit to Honduras changed her, she says, and motivated her to keep being the best soccer player she can be. In February 2014 she will travel to Namibia to meet with youth there. Between travelling for the Portland Thorns, the CanWNT, UNICEF, and as corporate motivational speaker, LeBlanc says her home is an airplane. When asked about her personal life, she laughs. “On the National Team we don’t have much of a personal life - and that’s a sad thing,” she said. “It’s difficult to find the stability of

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the m any roles of

k arina leb lanc

a personal life. Some of us are private about what we do in our own time, and some of us aren’t. Some people will go out and flaunt who they’re dating - for me personally I just keep it a bit more private.” Something is she not private about is the admiration she has for her teammates. Spending so much time together over the years has made them an extended family, LeBlanc says. They talk and hang out together constantly when off the field – on LeBlanc’s recent Hawaii vacation she met up with some of her CanWNT teammates. On the field, the Canadian National Women’s Team will reconvene in October to prepare for their October 30 Edmonton match against South Korea. On November 24 they will travel to Vancouver for an international friendly against Mexico. Always cognizant of her many roles, LeBlanc plans to makes the most of her training during Portland Thorns FC offseason. “We want to make Portland a woman’s powerhouse for the sport, and we want it to be a club that championships are expected,” she said. “That’s the expectation we have, and in the off-season we’re going to work hard and come back and hopefully do it again.” As for retirement, LeBlanc is hoping to hang up her cleats after the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. But she’s not counting down the days. “I’m in a good place right now,” she said. “I love my life. It gives me the opportunity to go around and inspire different people from all walks of life. And I don’t take that for granted. It’s a huge honour - I’m trying to be the best soccer player I can be.” 

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IT IS BUILT - THEY SHOULD COME By Aaron Nielsen

On August 31, 2013 a great Canadian soccer achievement happened that received little media attention. Christine Sinclair won her third professional club championship, further proving she might be the best female soccer player of all-time. Sinclair led her NWSL side the Portland Thorns to a 2-0 win over Western New York Flash in the inaugural NWSL championship. Her previous two titles were WPS championships, including the 2011 title with her 2013 opponent by the same name the Western New York Flash. This is the third installment of an attempt to make a professional league for women’s soccer in North America and as a sports statistician who covers 60 leagues around the world, and strong supporter of soccer in North America, I have followed and done detailed statistical content for each league. I’ve also accumulated detailed data from Women‘s soccer at the World Cup, as well as leagues in Germany, Sweden, France and England. While there has been some growth in the game, it still amazes me, and at the same time saddens me, that the interest is not as high as it should be. NWSL had an average 2013 attendance of 4,270, and teams in New York and Boston had A BOOT

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average attendance of under 2,000, which is certainly not viable for a professional league. Women’s professional team sports have always struggled in terms of an audience. In sports such as Basketball and Hockey, I can understand why because the games are completely different than the men’s equivalent that we are accustom to in those sports. In hockey, the women’s game is mostly noncontact, where in Basketball the heights of most players mean the game lacks the positional play or highlight reels of the men’s game. As a live event the games in both sports don’t have the speed, strength and for that matter the output we expect as a consumer. I would argue soccer is different and the statistics back this up. An ongoing project in the sports analytics world, especially in terms of professional soccer, is quality of play especially in creating a product that will be an interest to the viewer. We can break this down through statistical data such as passes, build up, shooting and final goals. Although the women’s game doesn’t have the same data set available as some men’s leagues, the number we do have such as shots, shots on target and what would be regarded as “quality goals” - goals scored via direct assists, OCTOBER 2013

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IT IS BU I LT - TH EY SHO U LD C O M E

goals scored via headers, goals scored outside the box and goals scored by direct free kicks, are very much comparable from the women’s game to the men. This is so much so that if I showed you the final data set from the NWSL and the MLS removing the names of players it would be very difficult for even myself to notice which stats set belongs to who. Added, the NWSL provides an American audience something that the MLS will never accomplish and that’s the top quality players in the world. The 2013 NWSL included American stars such as Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan and also included top international players such as Germany’s Inka Grings, Conny Pohlers and Spain’s Adriana Martin. Furthermore, women’s soccer at a grassroots level is also equal to the men’s game with the number of players at youth level equal, and there are more women playing college soccer in the United States currently than men.  So why does widespread support still struggle? Personally I blame the culture and stigma attached to women’s sports with most of the blame going on the media as well as corporate support. However, part of the blame is women’s soccer itself almost accepting this position as an inferior product to the men’s game. For example, one of the reasons why attendance was low in the NWSL was because teams were playing in small venues, including Boston playing in what could be regarded as a high school venue. The only impressive attendance number in the league was Cristine Sinclair’s Portland Thorns, who played games in Portland Timbers home stadium Jeld-Wen Field and averaged crowds of over 13,000. In 2015 the Women’s World Cup will be coming to Canada. With the hype of the A BOOT

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big event and media strongly behind it, with this support the CSA is hoping to turn the tournament into a cash cow by playing in stadiums, except for Moncton, that are over or expandable to 40,000+. Instead of playing games at Saputo Stadium in Montreal, the tournament decided play games in the Olympic Stadium with a capacity of over 65,000. Although the tournament should be very enjoyable for those who attend, I will say that the quality of play of the tournament based on the countries who will be participating will be much worse than what is to be expected in an NWSL game. My view, especially with this new found money the CSA will be generating, is that we properly develop a women’s professional league and we give it a fighting chance comparable to the men’s game. This includes playing games in professional graded “Soccer Specific Stadiums”, having equal coverage on television and in the media, and giving the game the respect it deserves. A recent popular story has talked about BMO Field in Toronto expanding to allow in the CFL Toronto Argos so they can increase stadium dates. Instead, why doesn’t BMO have a women’s professional team? Cities with new stadiums in Ottawa, Winnipeg and Hamilton have mentioned their desire for an NASL men’s soccer, again I feel in terms of a quality product a professional women’s team is a much better option. Players such as Christine Sinclair have done everything possible to make women’s soccer work. It’s now the job of the soccer community to remove the stigma and biased/naive opinions, realize quality when it is in front of us, and let’s give these star professional athletes something they deserve. I can guarantee you if we give them the platform they will provide us the entertainment.  OCTOBER 2013

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Kara Lang’s talent was first showcased to Canada, and the world, on a grand scale in 2002 when Canada hosted the first ever Under 19 Women’s World Cup. The tournament served as an important start to Lang’s career in which she has earned 18 youth and 92 senior team caps.

THE FIRST 90

KARA LANG By Emily Dulhanty

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2002 was a whirlwind of a year for Kara Lang. As a 15-year-old, Lang made her first appearance for Canada’s senior national team in March at the Algarve Cup and scored her first international goal in just the second game of the friendly tournament.

Lang entered the consciousness of Canadian soccer supporters in just her first game of the tournament, scoring the game winner against Denmark in the 80th minute. With a laugh, she was able to recall the goal that gave Canada the win.

However, Lang’s talent was first showcased to Canada, and the world, on a grand scale later that same year when Canada hosted the first ever Under 19 Women’s World Cup. The tournament served as an important start to Lang’s nine-year career in which she earned 18 youth and 92 senior team caps.

“I remember it was sort of like a Hail Mary goal. It was just one of those situations where I got the ball quick, looked up, saw the goalie off her line and kind of hoped when I kicked it.”

Set in Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium, 25,000 supporters showed up to cheer on Canada’s U19 team in their first game of the tournament against Denmark, giving the team a preview of the kind of crowd support that would carry them throughout the month. “We kind of took a deep breath when we got outside and we heard the noise and we realized how many people actually showed up that day,” Lang explained. “We were not expecting that kind of turnout and that kind of support.”

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Lang went on to score twice more in the group stage, helping Canada cruise past both Japan and Nigeria with convincing victories. The quarterfinal against England provided more of the same: five goals by none other than 19-yearold Christine Sinclair helped Canada advance to the semifinal against Brazil. Canada was in uncharted territory, as the team encountered what would be their toughest competition of the tournament to date. In the squad, Brazil had the likes of current senior team standouts Cristiane, Daniela, and Marta, now five time FIFA World Player of the Year. Scoreless through 90 minutes, then another 30 minutes of sudden death extra time, the semi was sent to penalties.

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“I remember being taunted by the goalkeeper and that just fueling my fire.” “I was angry. I was mad at a whole lot of stuff that went on in the game. There were a lot of dirty plays behind the ref and behind the play,” Lang recounted. “It was just a really scrappy game and we just wanted to finish them off so badly and we wanted to be in that final.” As the referees prepared and the teams lined up, Sportsnet’s analyst set the scene. “There are grown men who have weakened in situations like this.” But 15-year-old Lang did not appear fazed by the situation. “I think we were fortunate we were so young, we were a little bit naive. You’re in the moment and you don’t really have time to process all of it so there’s not really enough time for the [pressure] to affect you.” Lang was Canada’s fourth penalty taker. She needed to score to put them ahead. A BOOT

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After retrieving the ball that was kicked away by the Brazilian keeper, Lang placed it on the spot and stepped back a good 10 yards. The whistle blew. “I remember being taunted by the goalkeeper and that just fueling my fire. You can’t at any point think about missing in that situation. From the moment we knew it was going to penalty kicks I was just telling myself ‘this is going in, I’m scoring this’.” Off the post, and in. Elation was evident on Lang’s face. She jumped in the air and fist pumped in the direction of the Brazilian keeper before returning to the centre circle. “Off the post and in is pretty much impossible to save. If you’re going to take a PK, that’s the best way to do it.”

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Edmonton native Sasha Andrews took Canada’s fifth and final penalty kick, and it too was good. 37,194 people in Commonwealth stadium saw the Canadian team make history and advance to the final of FIFA’s first ever women’s youth tournament. Famously, Canada lost to the United States in the final by the smallest of margins. Once again, the game was pushed into sudden death extra time, but the United States were able to score the tournament winner in the 109th minute. Despite the loss, the image of nearly 48,000 people packed into Commonwealth Stadium to support women’s soccer- teenagers- is one supporters in this country have not forgotten. It was the first time Canadians showed up and tuned in to watch Canada play soccer in large numbers. The team’s legacy lived on, as many of the members of that U19 team would go on to represent Canada’s senior national team, including Lang, Sinclair, Erin McLeod and Candace Chapman, among others. With the 2014 U-20 and 2015 Women’s World cups in Canada on the horizon, Lang believes the country now has two perfect opportunities to recreate the buzz and attention on women’s soccer that the U-19 team created in 2002. “I think I’m just hoping that it will…well not even hoping, regardless of how the Canadian team does, just having that level of women’s soccer here at home is going to do amazing things to propel the women’s game forward, and raise the profile. Then of course I think if the Canadian team does well and if the Canadian team wins, that would just do amazing things for soccer in Canada.” Lang is in a special position herself. After retiring in 2011 at the age of 24 due to the effects of ACL tears in both 2005 and 2009 in her right knee, she is in the midst of a comeback. B2ten, a company in Montreal with many of the world’s A BOOT

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best rehabilitation specialists, has given her new hope that with extensive rehab and improved movement patterns, she may be able to once again play the game she loves for Canada’s national team. The process has not been easy, but Lang’s progress is coming along well. “There’s probably about two months left of the sort of rehab phase before I can rejoin the team. Everything is now starting to look and feel a lot more like soccer instead of rehab, which is extremely exciting for me because it feels like its been forever, feels like I’ve been in the gym forever. It’s going well. The more I get to work with the ball the better I feel and the more real it feels.” Lang admits that the national team set up is now very different since her retirement in 2011 under coach Carolina Morace, and that the opportunity to play under John Herdman, the man who prompted her comeback, is enticing. “The environment that I am hopefully going to be entering is a completely different environment than the one I left. John’s philosophies are totally different, and I think its just a much more positive environment and there’s a level of professionalism that I never experienced in my time with the national team. People have no idea

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th e first 90

how far in advance John is thinking of things and how prepared he is. And so I’m really excited about that.” Eleven years after earning her first senior team cap and participating in her first major international tournament, the journey to possibly earn another cap is proving to be unique for Lang. This time around, Lang is the one aspiring to be on the national team. For the first time, Lang is on the outside looking in. “This has kind of put me in a position where now I can relate to all those young girls that say ‘one day I want to be on the national team’.” Although Lang is fully aware nothing with her comeback is guaranteed, the possibility of wearing the maple leaf and representing Canada once again is one that motivates her every day. “I can’t really say that there have been very many other experiences in my soccer career playing for other teams where you hear the anthem before the game and you start to tear up. It’s just something really special. There’s just really nothing like it.” Here’s hoping that Canada will get to see Lang in the red and white once again. 

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??? F ROM THE A R C HI V ES

Why Christine Sinclair never concedes a throw-in By Even Pellerud May 9, 2011

In the winter of 2000, I had signed my contract with the Canadian Soccer Association and for the purpose of identifying players, a number of exhibition games were staged across the country. The second of these matches took place at a (rainy) venue in Vancouver, with the scrimmage teams consisting of players invited by some local BC coaches - coaches I did not know. These scrimmages turned out to be a valuable exercise for me -- as a new coach recruited from Europe. In fact, I could not find any form of documentation to aid me with names from former camps, games, tournaments -- anywhere in the CSA offices at Toronto or Ottawa -- with the exception of one single team sheet from a U20 camp that had taken place in the US the year before my arrival.

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years old. My immediate reply was that I did not ask for her age but for her name. A few weeks later, I invited the player to my first official Senior team training camp at Burnaby, BC -- and shortly after that she played her first ever official match for Canada. I had convinced my Scandinavian peers to get my new team an invitation to join the prestigious Cyprus Cup. Our first game was against my former team, Norway. We shocked the experienced Norwegians and scored the first goal of the match. One of our players intercepted a flat pass, pushed a ball through a surprised Norwegian back four and scored on the resulting break away. The player at the centre of all this was, of course, Christine Sinclair (still 15 years young!). And how many times did she duplicate that goal in the years to follow? A true star was born on that day.

From my position within wooden stands, I enjoyed evaluating both the level of play and the individual standards set by the players. It didn’t take me long to admit that I was watching a few steps down from the level I was used to in Norway and Europe. But there was one genuine exception in the form of a lanky, young-looking girl who appeared to be causing all kinds of problems for those that tried to defend her. She really stood out. She was always available. Showed consistently good touches and clever decisions. Possessed the skill of unique timing that was inherited more so than being acquired through training -- making her a good team player as well as a good individual talent. After five minutes of watching the run of play, I turned around to my local coach and asked, “So who is this player on the right side of the field?” His answer was that she was only 15 A BOOT

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Fast forward nine years later and Christine has scored another 100 goals -- many of them in the most spectacular way possible. In my eyes, she has never played a bad game and has always been an outstanding team player. Having led the Norwegian Football Association’s “Project World Cup - 98 (Men)”, for years in the 90’s, (with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Tor Andre Flo and many other top international players participating), I possessed a reasonable foundation for assessing talent and performers in our sport of football. Let me also add the multiple years as a Head Coach of several men’s premier league teams back in Scandinavia, including my years of coaching Norway and the Canada Senior Women’s teams. Even within this broader context, it is not difficult for me to say that Christine is an absolute top player, no matter what kind of perspective one chooses to use as a measurement stick regarding individual players. OCTOBER 2013

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Photo Koji Watanabe/Getty Images AsiaPac

Christine sees the game as a Zidane does. Scores like a Solskjaer and passes like a Hege Riise -- and in terms of work rate, she is not far behind a Messi or a Marta. Big words, yes, but my admiration for this player never ceases. Even better, is that Christine Sinclair is still a relatively young footballer, holding the distinct possibility that her best might still be yet to be demonstrated. I believe her real peak will be at the World Cup finals set on Canadian home soil in 2015. But what is the connection between the headline to this column and this story? When watching soccer players dance around the sideline of a pitch, one very important question to ask is “Who gets the throw in call in a tight situation?” It is always the “Sinclairs” or any other player of excellence. The average player has a few rewarded to them and even concedes some throw ins as well...while a poor player seems to routinely find a way to get the last errant touch on the ball, essentially giving the ball away to the opposition.

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That being said, when you are defending a lead and playing with your back to the wall, it is fundamentally crucial to have the types of players that can tactically clear the ball out. The clearance should bounce very slowly out of touch -- just beside the opponents corner flag, but on the outside so that a throw is conceded as opposed to a goal kick. I will never forget this very scenario in the final 20 minutes of Canada’s crucial Olympic Qualifying match against Mexico at Juarez, on March 2008. In front of 20, 000 Mexican fans, we successfully defended a 1-0 win using that very tactic. And the player that used this cunning play to our advantage? Christine Sinclair. The crystal clear analyser and super-smart decision maker. Make no mistake about it, that version of her exists today as well. Soccer is more about teams than individuals...but players of Christine’s ilk are game changers in multiple facets of the beautiful game. She is also one of the most consistent players in terms of her all round ability to truly impact the result of match.  OCTOBER 2013

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NATIONAL SOCCER COACHING CONFERENCE presented by JANUARY 31 - FEBRUARY 2, 2014 CLINICIANS/GUEST SPEAKERS TONY FONSECA | MARTIN VASQUEZ | TONY DICICCO DANNY DICHIO | KRISTINE LILLY | COLIN MILLER | MARC DOS SANTOS CANDACE CHAPMAN | RICHARD BUCCIARELLI | ISAAC RAYMOND

FOR MORE INFORMATION VISIT www.varsityblues.ca/nscc OR VIA EMAIL a.capotosto@utoronto.ca

VARSITY CENTRE • UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO • 299 BLOOR STREET WEST • (416) 978-6428


2013 U17 WORLD CUP GROUP E PREVIEW By Kamal Hylton

On October 17th Canadian Men’s U-17 coach Sean Fleming and his squad begin its 2013 FIFA U-17 World Cup journey in the United Arab Emirates. With the draw completed, the young Canucks now know not only the venue they will be stationed for the group stages, but also its group opposition. The city of Dubai and the Al-Rashid Stadium will be where Canada will call home for all three group games and its Group E opposition are Argentina, Austria and Iran. In this article we’ll run through all three of Canada’s opponents, go over the key members of the Canadian squad and what this experience could mean for the future of a senior Canadian squad going through a youth movement. OCTOBER 2013

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C A N A D A U17

Argentina The South Americans are the clear favorites to top the group and are looking to carry regional dominance over to the world stage. Under the guidance of coach Humberto Grondon the Argentines won the 2013 U-17 South American Championship on home soil and finally broke a streak of four straight titles won by its rivals Brazil. This is a confident side looking to bring home its first U-17 FIFA World Cup, the Albicelestes best finish in this tournament has been third place in 1991, 1995 and 2003 but in this same span have had to watch Brazil win three titles in 1997, 1999 and 2003 while Uruguay were runners up in 2011. The entirety of this squad is domestically based with noteworthy clubs such as Boca Juniors, River Plate Velez Sarsfield and Independiente, and the main player to watch on this is clearly River Plate forward Sebastian Driussi. A highly rated attacking threat that scored 5 goals en route to the aforementioned 2013 U-17 South American title, in said tournament he showed an ability to finish in spectacular fashion at this age group as was evident in its match against Uruguay.

Iran The Iranians could be the wild card in the group if previous experiences are anything to go by. This will be their third time qualifying for the tournament at this level and the country performed on both ends of the spectrum on the two previous occasions. In the 2001 tournament, based in Trinidad and Tobago, it was three and out losing to Costa Rica, Mali and Paraguay with the only bright spot being the two goals scored against the South Americans in a 3-2 loss. Eight years later, in the 2009 tournament in Nigeria, the young Iran squad finished top of their group winning all three matches, defeating Gambia and the Netherlands while drawing against Colombia but ultimately losing to Uruguay in the Round of 16. As the host country in the 2012 U-16 AFC Championships Iran coasted in the group stages against Kwait, Laos and Yemen before crushing Australia by a 5-1 score line in the Quarterfinals before losing 3-2 to the eventual champions Uzbeks in the Semifinals. Coach Ali Doustimehr who was the same man in charge in 2009 will be looking toward versatility and a team approach more so than relying on one player to create chances and score goals, ensuring the U-16 AFC Championships three players (Reza Chaab, Majid Hosseini and Amir Mohammad Mazloum) scored 3 goals each while two others (Saied Ezzatollahi and Ali Rigi) contributed a pair of goals each. A BOOT

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Austria The Austrians were able to book a place into the U-17 World Cup after finishing third in the U-17 European Championships. Under Hermann Stadler this group of players hopes to do better than its only other appearance in 1997, which saw them finish bottom of a group consisting of the eventual champions Brazil as well as Oman and USA with no points from the three matches. This is a group that might not have much in the way of goal scoring talent but lean more on defending, which will need to improve if the country doesn’t want to see a repeat of the 14 goals conceded in its only other World Cup appearance. Most of its games played in the lead up to qualifying were by single goal margins and focus on organization. The key player to watch for the Europeans is goalkeeper Alexander Schlager, a player that will need to be on the top of his game and organize his defensive unit against three group opponents that will be keen to test any defensive frailty.

At the moment Canada are still going through preparations with camps held in Florida, Mexico and a pre-tournament camp in the UAE. This is not only to see if there are any players capable of breaking through that weren’t part of Sean Flemings original squad during qualifying, but also to get used to the humid conditions that are a trademark in the middle east. With the exception of one or two players, the majority of the Canadian squad play for the four Canadian clubs, either for the first team or the academy sides. Performing on this stage has the opportunity to help individual careers with scouts from all around the world in attendance, as well as give Canadian soccer and the likes of Toronto FC Academy, Montreal Impact Academy, Vancouver Whitecaps Residency program and FC Edmonton/FC Edmonton Academy a great deal of recognition. The two players that stood out during qualifying were Vancouver Whitecaps Residency’s Marco Bustos and FC Edmonton’s Hanson Boakai. For what they lack in size they more than make up for in attacking intent, fearlessness and a boundless energy that will be crucial if Canada are to get out of the group stages and make an impression in the tournament. From a defensive perspective it will all begin and end with the U-17 captain A BOOT

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and Vancouver Whitecaps Residency goalkeeper Marco Carducci. Commanding the area and organizing the team shape will be vital in a tournament like this that has shown in past years that a player in hot form can be ridden deep into the tournament. With the new regime now in place for the Canadian Men’s Senior program, and no “meaningful” games outside of a couple exhibitions against Mauritania newly appointed Coach Benito Floro, his staff and Canada’s Technical Director Tony Fonseca will likely be keeping a close eye on the goings on in the UAE, looking to pinpoint a few players worth giving senior experience down the road in preparation for World Cup Qualifying for 2018 in Russia. In the grand scheme of things, as is usually the case with youth tournaments, the majority of these players will likely not make it past this level and this will be their shining moment. However, there are always a few players that progress from this point and grow into good professionals that represent their nation, and with Canada in a transitional period it wouldn’t be surprising if a few of these players are called upon in the not to distant future. 

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R E D N AT I O N O N L I N E P O D C A S T S

A S T SOutside I D E of news, reports and columns, RedNation Online offers a series of podcasts STAND TorontoFC

UP

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delivering analysis and interviews on Canadian Soccer. Look for the PODCASTS section on the homepage on the right hand column, listing all the newest episodes available on www.rednationonline.ca

EPTEMBER 17, 2011 – TFC v COLORADO

LOOK FOR ANOTHER ADDITION TO THE RNO PODCASTS IN JULY 2013

E ASTS I DE S TA N D U P TorontoFC

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E A S T S I D E S TA N D U P The only Toronto FC-specific podcast, East Side Stand Up is now heading into it’s fifth season of covering Canada’s first MLS team. The podcast provides post game analysis and discussion after every match the team plays, as well as episodes following the club through the off-season.

I NTE RVI EW S E R I E S/ I N S I D E TH E M LS RedNation’s longest running podcast, Interview Series & Inside the MLS provides questions and discussions for those who follow the sport closely. Each podcast appears bi-weekly, combined for each week, interviewing players and personalities in Canada and Major League Soccer.

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OFF THE WOODWORKX RedNation’s newest covers the Montreal Impact. Kevin Laramee is going full steam ahead offering his views on the Montreal Impact and a preview of their upcoming fixture, bringing on board a guest each week representing their opposing team.

FROM THE BLACK HOLE RedNation’s newest podcast covers the game of soccer in Canada, from a prairie perspective. Rob Notenboom, Jeff Salisbury and Lars Lowther discuss and debate all the news of soccer in Canada from coast to coast.

www.rednationonline.ca A BOOT

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B E ST F R O M

JULY–SEPTEMBER 2 013 As has been noted in the Letter from the Publisher in the first two issues of ABoot, the nature of online publishing and content-based websites in general is that often articles, interviews, columns and features can go up on the homepage and be relegated to the archives within a day or two. With the MLS season in it’s final stretch, many articles of excellent quality have gone up on RedNation Online for only a matter of days that deserve more exposure. A regular part of ABoot will be highlighting some of the best published in between issues so that those who come to the site, perhaps only once or twice a week, can have a chance to see again any of the content missed through that period.

RedNation Interview Series: It’s Football Day Ian Clarke | July 28, 2013 RedNation Online reached out to Bram van Bommel and Eric Anderton a few weeks ago after receiving an email with regards to their upcoming project and tour of Europe. It’s Football Day is a Canadian produced 10-episode series on the gameday experience in Europe. The idea struck a chord with us, and we’re certain every other football supporter in North America, as these two young Canadians embark on a tour of some of Europe’s biggest and best stadiums and clubs.

TFC’s current direction raises concerns and little optimism Aaron Nielsen | August 3, 2013 I will admit being angry at Toronto FC reminds me of knowing a drug addict who you watch deteriorate: first you laugh about it as you don’t think it’s serious, then you ignore problem as it’s embarrassing, until it reaches the point of sadness where there is little chance of reclaiming lost days of past, while those hopes and great expectations deeply affects those who feel obligated to care about it.

Ousted the logical choice between the sticks for Whitecaps Jake Vendramin | August 22, 2013 Joe Cannon began the season for the Whitecaps and fared well in games one and two but after that the Caps struggled in league play as we all know. That is where Brad Knighton saw his opportunity to steal the starting spot, and that is what he did. Knighton was spectacular in his first month on the job, from a general supporter’s point of view of course. Of course he had his slip-ups here and there like most keepers do, but overall Knighton did the job and did it well.

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Argos to BMO would be the final straw Jeremy Loome | August 31, 2013 It’s hard to be a TFC fan. And sometimes in North America, it’s just hard being a soccer fan, period. Soccer is undergoing extraordinary growth right now on this side of the Atlantic, despite the best efforts of the people who actually own the teams and promote the game. That’s because the internet has magnified the fan experience, allowing trans-national rivalries to grow between supporter groups much more readily, and because MLS has cottoned on to the “fan experience.”

Herdman signs extension until 2020, Mexico Friendly Emily Dulhanty | September 5, 2013 The Canadian Soccer Association held a press conference Thursday in Vancouver to announce that they have reached an agreement with women’s head coach John Herdman, extending his contract to 2020. Herdman was previously under contract with the CSA until 2016.This puts speculation that Herdman would jump ship to his native England following the end of Hope Powell’s 15 year reign as England head coach.

RedNation Interview Series: Atiba Hutchinson Steve Bottjer | September 7, 2013 Brampton-born Canadian International Atiba Hutchinson is a veteran central midfielder and the reigning Canadian Player of the Year. Hutchison has enjoyed a successful career at the club level in Europe, playing for renowned clubs such as FC Copenhagen, PSV and Besiktas. He has also been a key player for his national team and has been capped 64 times by Canada at the International level.

Can Floro make scoring a priority for Canada? Michele Tossani | September 8, 2013 There has been a lot of discussion and speculation since Canadian Soccer Association president Victor Montagliani announced the hiring of former Real Madrid head coach, Benito Floro, as new Canadian National Team manager in July. Can Floro help Canadian soccer reach the ultimate goal, bringing them back to the World Cup, their first one since the experience they had at Mexico ‘86?

La Pasiòn – What Canadians can learn from Uruguay soccer Richard Bucciarelli | September 17, 2013 On August 27th to September 8th, 2013, I was contracted to run pre-season fitness assessments with Canadian SC Uruguay, a professional soccer team from Montevideo, Uruguay, that won promotion into the “B” Division (second division) of the Uruguayan Primera Liga this past spring. Fernando Aldao, the President of the Club, also arranged several opportunities for me to view and observe other first division Uruguayan teams play and train during my time in Montevideo.

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WATCH FOR

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ABOOT: A Canadian Soccer Digital Magazine for October 2013  

In this Issue: Karina LeBlanc | John Herdman | Kara Lang and her "First 90" | CanMNT World Cup Group E Preview | RedNation Online's Best f...

ABOOT: A Canadian Soccer Digital Magazine for October 2013  

In this Issue: Karina LeBlanc | John Herdman | Kara Lang and her "First 90" | CanMNT World Cup Group E Preview | RedNation Online's Best f...

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