Onstad: Racking up the miles
Pat Onstad is in his second year with the Earthquakes. He won an MLS Cup in his first season in San Jose.
Well it has been a long time since I last spoke to you. Many things have happened over that time. Canada qualified for the World Cup qualifying semifinals, the Earthquakes went 1-1-1 and I have racked up some serious frequent flyer miles.
First, a little about Canada's World Cup bid. We prepared with a friendly in Wales with a 1-0 loss and, thankfully, a victory 3-1 victory against the Earthquakes (I definitely did not want to lose that one - I never would have heard the end of it!). We played pretty well in Wales, especially in the second half when we went at them and probably deserved a goal but on the whole it was a pretty good performance against a team that had not lost in nine matches.
For those of you that saw the game at Spartan Stadium you saw a very good and spirited performance by Canada. I felt we moved the ball well and created quite a few opportunities against a very good team. Dwayne [De Rosario] played well in a role he is not too accustomed to, left midfield, but he adapted well and gave Wes [Hart] all he could handle. Also Julian DeGuzman, a teammate of Clint Mathis at Hanover in Germany, played a terrific game in central midfield against Rich [Mulrooney], who is one of the best midfielders in the MLS. It may sound a little strange, but for the Canadian team this game really allowed us to believe in one another and helped us gain the confidence we needed to beat Belize. We felt going into the match that it would be a good contest and it was.
The Belize series was a little strange. We did not have any tape on them or any scouting reports, so they were quite unknown. In the end, this may have helped us. We prepared as if we were playing the United States or Mexico. The first five minutes of the first game gave us a pretty good indication that as long as we finished our chances we would have a great opportunity to progress in qualifying. We did just that, winning 4-0 in the first leg and again 4-0 in the second leg for an 8-0 aggregate score. Now, we are drawn into the toughest group of the semi-final qualifying round. The group includes Honduras, Guatemala and Costa Rica. However, we have probably the strongest Canadian team since the 1994 group that lost out in our last match against Mexico to go to the World Cup. We shall see what happens.
On a side note, Frank Yallop gave me the captaincy for the Canadian team. It was a huge honor and I can only hope that I performed my duties as he had hoped. I had been captain on a few other occasions, but never in a World Cup Qualifying match. Also, for the record, I won the toss against Jeff [Agoos] in San Jose!
It was tough being away from the Earthquakes and great to see everyone again in Chicago. I'm glad I was able to contribute in some way to our result on the road. It made me feel like part of the team right away. We are looking forward to the next few weeks and trying to get back to the top of the table. We have the team, now is the time to "just do it."
Bye for now.