Los Angeles Soccer: Canada national team
CARSON -- Ante Jazic hadn't played for Canada's national team in well over a year, and he's 35. It doesn't take much to see the landscape.
But Chivas USA's left back, enjoying a career season in Robin Fraser's attack-minded system, is in Toronto to help the Canucks start their 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign Friday against St. Lucia.
He never expected the call-up, but he's happy to get it.
“It's an honor anytime you get to represent your country,” said Jazic, who is from Nova Scotia. “And I appreciate it more because I'm 35 years old, you know? I thought my national team days were behind me.”
Jazic, who has a team-best six assists this season for Chivas, has been summoned by Canada coach Stephen Hart, he says, for “veteran leadership.”
“Basically, it's a when-they-need-me-they'll-call-me-in kind of thing,” Jazic said. “They're preparing for Brazil 2014. That's a stretch for me, at my age, but when they need me, when guys are missing and they need veteran leadership in the locker room, then I'm just honored to be there and just help out, pass on some wisdom if I can.”
Jazic, who has 24 caps, made his international debut in May 1998 and he was a regular for Canada from late 2003 through the semifinal run at the 2007 CONCACAF Gold Cup. He's suited up just twice since, the last time in January 2010, in a loss to Jamaica in a Kingston friendly.
But his form for Chivas, which he joined in 2009 following a trade from the Galaxy, has been exemplary. He's among Major League Soccer's best attacking outside backs, and his six assists would be significantly more if the Goats did a better job of finishing chances.
The follies in front of the net got worse for the U.S. national team Tuesday night, but they couldn't derail the Yanks from the business at hand: nailing down a CONCACAF Gold Cup knockout-stage berth that should have come far more easily.
Jozy Altidore's stirring strike to the upper-right corner in the ninth minute was enough for a 1-0 victory in Kansas City, Kan., that gave the Americans second place in Group C and a quarterfinal date Sunday with Jamaica in Washington.
El Salvador also got through to the quarters, qualifying when Panama rallied in stoppage time to tie Canada, 1-1, in the first game of the doubleheader. The Canucks were eliminated as all five Central American teams advanced from the group stage.
Panama's surprising victory Saturday over the U.S. had minimal impact on the bracket, merely giving the U.S. a tougher quarterfinal foe (Jamaica rather than El Salvador) but one it will be expected to defeat. Anything other than a U.S.-Mexico final on June 25 at the Rose Bowl would be a surprise, although the Jamaicans were more impressive than the Americans in group play -- and Mexico looks, frankly, unbeatable by anyone else here.
That includes the U.S., which looked far sharper while dominating Guadeloupe than it did against Panama, especially at the back, but was incomprehensibly sloppy in front of the net.
Big news off the field, too, with word that doping tests Friday at UCLA on the five suspended Mexican players all turned out negative for clenbuterol, a drug for treating respiratory diseases in horses that can build muscle. The players are requesting analysis of their “B” samples from the May 21 tests in Mexico.
A quick look at the 10th day of group play in the region's nations championship:
U.S. DOES JUST ENOUGH: Altidore offered a goal-of-the-tournament candidate (actually, a runner-up candidate; nothing will beat Mexican winger Andres Guardado's volley Sunday), but the Yanks could do little else right when they had a chance. They blew at least three sure-thing opportunities -- and those by Landon Donovan and, twice, Clint Dempsey, their surest finishers -- and were thwarted by Guadeloupe's fine goalkeeper Franck Grandel.
A stunning result in Tampa left the U.S. uncertain of reaching the CONCACAF Gold Cup's knockout stage, although it would require an upset more shocking than Panama's 2-1 decision Saturday -- and that's just a start.
The Canaleros scored twice in the first half, the second on a penalty kick, then held on as the U.S. applied heavy pressure the final 45 minutes of the showdown for the Group C lead, halving the deficit through a Clarence Goodson header.
It was the first victory by Panama in nine meetings with the U.S., which had ended the Central Americans' runs in the previous three Gold Cups and had never lost during the group stage in the first 10 tournaments. The teams could meet again in the June 22 semifinals in Houston.
Panama clinched a quarterfinal berth with the victory, and the U.S. almost certainly will join them in the knockout rounds, but if four matches go the wrong way, the Yanks will be finished.
Three of those results -- El Salvador over Cuba in Group A, Guatemala over Grenada in Group B, and Canada tying or beating Panama -- are well within reason. The fourth: Winless Guadeloupe beating the U.S. in Tuesday's Group C finale in Kansas City.
Canada commands its Gold Cup destiny after a 1-0 decision over Guadeloupe on a Dwayne De Rosario penalty kick.
A quick look at the seventh day of group play in the region's nations championship:
YANKS FALL: Second-year pro Tim Ream, thought to be the future at center back for the U.S., endured a first-half nightmare that probably cost the Americans a shot at the Group C title.
Ream lost track of Luis Tejada, who finished Armando Cooper's header from a superb Gabriel Gomez cross to provide Panama a 19th-minute advantage, and brought down Blas Perez in the box to set up Gomez's 36th-minute penalty kick.
Jozy Altidore punctuated a confidence-building performance with a goal and an assist, Tim Howard came up big at the end, and the U.S. national team put last weekend's fiasco against Spain behind them with an impressive start to the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Altidore scored from a Landon Donovan pass in the first half and set up Clint Dempsey in the second of a 2-0 Group C triumph over Canada in Detroit.
Coupled with an at-times scintillating doubleheader opener, in which Panama held off 10-man Guadeloupe, 3-2, it made for the best day yet in the region's nations championship.
A quick look at the third day of group play:
BACK IN STRIDE: The U.S., so out of sorts against the masterful Spaniards (in everything from lineup to tactics to inability to compete), looked like a title-game shoo-in against a game Canadian side, dominating throughout to take charge in Group C.