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The English Canuck

Started on 6 September 2014 by GCB / First Post
Latest Reply on 13 September 2014 by GCB / Last Post
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Thursday June 21, 2007
Soldier Field, Chicago

CONCACAF Gold Cup 2007 Semi Final

Canada 2
(Hume 76, Hutchinson 90+4)

United States 2
(Hejduk 39, Donovan 45+1 pen)

***********************

“I can’t believe they changed their minds,” yelled Atiba Hutchinson as we gathered back together near the Canadian dugout, “I thought they’d screwed us for sure!”

“Screw ‘em!” shouted another of my team mates, Paul Stalteri of Tottenham Hotspur, “We’re back from the dead so let’s show them no mercy now, boys, we’re so close!” As the Coach, Stephen Hart, and his team edged over towards us, I glanced over my shoulder towards the referee and his assistants. Surrounding them were American players angry with the decision that had just allowed us back into the game. Back into the tournament.

“Were you offside?” laughed our experienced reserve goalkeeper, Pat Onstad, as he handed Atiba a drink bottle.

“No way, man,” answered the Canadian hero, “When Ali played it forward, I was on. I was only off when the defender deflected it towards me. Perfectly good goal.”

“Shame those idiots couldn’t see it in the first place,” added Stalteri, “Then there’d be no controversy, would there?”

Listening to the delighted conversations around me, I tried to focus myself. From a position of despair an hour ago, we were back from the dead and in with a great chance of making it to the Gold Cup Final for the first time in a long, long time. The thirty minutes to come, I thought nervously, were probably the most important thirty of my career.

“Look at them,” exclaimed the Coach, interrupting my thoughts, “They’re finished. Their legs have gone and now their minds have gone too. All you guys have to do is keep going like you did in the second half, keep going for the throat and they’ll buckle. Come on, boys, you can do this.” With a yell from the team, we slowly made our way back onto the pitch listening to the desperate American voices protesting to the referee, or our players even, that their place in the Final should already be secure.

“You ready, Chip?” asked Iain Hume, the scorer of the first Canadian goal that had started the comeback. “Let’s have these lot, we f****** owe them.” I nodded at my fellow English Football League player and smiled as the referee blew the whistle and we were back underway.


Thursday June 21, 2007
Soldier Field, Chicago

CONCACAF Gold Cup 2007 Semi Final

Canada 2
(Hume 76, Hutchinson 90+4)

United States 2
(Hejduk 39, Donovan 45+1 pen)

***********************

As Extra Time kicked off, the atmosphere inside Soldier Field was definitely deflated as the American supporters, so close to a Gold Cup Final until the controversial 94th minute leveller, sat back in a nervous silence. For my fellow Canadian players and I however, we were now playing with the momentum and it showed. In the opening period, we came close on several occasions as Humey, Atiba and I all tested Brad Friedel in the U.S. goal. Despite our domination though, we could not beat the veteran keeper and the referee blew the whistle with the scoreline stuck at 2-2 - fifteen minutes from a penalty shoot-out.

Gathering quickly at the halfway line, Stephen Hart made his way over to our little huddle.

"Come on boys, we've got them," he declared, "We just need to take one of these chances." His eyes glinting with excitement, he continued. "We're going to make a change. Sam, you look shattered, you're coming off ..."

Our right back, Sam Johnson, looked a little angered by the decision and glared questioningly at the coach. An experienced player, now aged 34, Sam had played for Canada since the age of 20 and had made 103 international appearances. Although his career was beginning to dwindle now at Toronto, there was no doubt that Johnson's experience was still vital to our cause after spells at a string of elite European clubs including Borussia Dortmund, Valencia and Marseille.

"We're going to bring on Julian and look to finish them right now. This is our chance, lads, let's not rely on the shootout. These lot are desperate for penalties, they're finished. Go out there and end this now!" With a roar of approval, we broke apart to edge back into our half for the resumption as Julian De Guzman stripped off and got set to come on. However, Johnson was still looking unimpressed with the decision. For some reason, he glared at me as the game restarted.

As the Coach had pointed out, U.S.A. were out on their feet and, to the dismay of their manager, were retreating deeper and deeper in a desperate bid to hold on for fifteen more minutes. Dominating the ball and territory, we were swarming around the American penalty area now and the extra midfielder in De Guzman was giving us extra options. Once more, Friedel rescued his country several times with one astonishing save on 115 minutes when he stretched to his left to palm away Hume's goal bound free kick.

"Keep at them!" yelled Hart on the bench as the time ticked away, "There'll be one more chance!"

As the fourth official signalled for one final minute of injury time, that chance came. Julian De Guzman and Iain Hume linked up down the right hand side and the substitute raced forward with the ball at his feet. Sensing an opportunity, I darted for the far post, wrongfooting Oguchi Onyewu for a second, before spinning to the near post as Julian drove the most perfect cross he could muster into the space. As the ball bounced perfectly onto my right foot, time seemed to stand still as I felt my eyes widen at the prospect of such a golden chance. Catching the ball beautifully with my right foot, I flicked it goalwards past the outstretched fingertips of Friedel ...


Thursday June 21, 2007
Soldier Field, Chicago

CONCACAF Gold Cup 2007 Semi Final

Canada 2
(Hume 76, Hutchinson 90+4)

United States 2
(Hejduk 39, Donovan 45+1 pen)

***********************

... and clipped the far post before bobbling off to the side of the goal where a desperate American defender smashed it out for a throw in.

Holding my head in my hands, I sunk down to my knees in disbelief. I had made what I thought was perfect contact with the goal at my mercy and a place in the Gold Cup Final at stake but the ball had swerved millimetres too far to the left and the chance was gone. Moments later, as the whistle blew and penalties were confirmed, I looked over to the Canadian supporters massed together and saw that many of them had their hands over their heads as well.

"Come on, Chip," called Humey, "We've still got a chance, mate. Chin up!" as he jogged towards the Canadian huddle near the halfway line. Trudging towards my fellow team-mates, I felt the disappointment swirling around and, although they were showing sympathetic looks, I could tell that deep down I had just blown their big chance - and they all knew it too.

"Right, lads," stated Stephen Hart, "This isn't over, we were so close there but it wasn't to be." I felt a few eyes glance towards me as I stared at the ground. "Look at them, they're still shattered. We've still got the advantage here. Come on!" A half hearted roar of approval from the team as fluids were taken on board and Hart began speaking to players about taking a penalty.

"Chip?" he asked, placing an arm on my shoulder, "You up for one?"

Raising my head, I swallowed hard. With my pride broken a little, I decided that I would take a spot kick to try and make up to my team, my fans, my country. However, as I was about to answer Hart, a drawling voice made me think again.

"You're not giving him a penalty are you, Coach?" said Sam Johnson, "He's already f**ked up one big chance." Glaring at him, I tensed my fists but he continued on. "He's not even a real Canadian, is he? Spent his life over in England but he wasn't good enough for them. Wouldn't surprise me if he missed that chance on purpose."

Another coach held me back a little as he sensed danger.

"Go and sit down, Sam," demanded Hart, "You're making an idiot of yourself." Turning back towards me, Hart's eyes implored me to take a penalty. "Well, Chip? Fifth penalty?"

My penalty record for Canada was impressive. Seven penalties taken; seven penalties scored. With fifteen goals for my country to my name, I would be expected by all to step up and take one. But Johnson's words were haunting me.

"Sure, boss," I lied, "I'm up for one."

You are reading "The English Canuck".

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