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Much was expected of Canada at the CONCACAF U-20 Championship in Jamaica. [url=http:/
Much was expected of Canada at the CONCACAF U-20 Championship in Jamaica. DaNorris Searcy Jersey .The young Canadian soccer team had performed well on a pre-tournament tour of Europe, returning home unbeaten against quality opposition. The squad had never lost two games in a row.And while coach Rob Gales team was denied two of its top weapons — midfielders Dylan Carreiro of Dundee and Fraser Aird of Glasgow Rangers — when their Scottish teams refused to release them for the tournament, there was good depth. Teenage striker Cyle Larin went No. 1 in the MLS SuperDraft during the tournament. Ten players on the roster were on the books of Canadian MLS clubs, with several having already made their first-team debut.Gale had faith in his squad, having worked with many of them for the last three years. But he knew that not many had played much competitive soccer in the leadup to the CONCACAF event. And five games in 12 days would be a big ask in the heat, humidity and uneven pitch in Montego Bay.Plus Canada had not taken part in the world under-20 championship since it hosted the event in 2007, exiting without scoring a goal or registering a point. And rival teams were making strides in CONCACAF, which covers North and Central America and the Caribbean.Despite a good start, the tournament quickly went south. The Canadians were eliminated from contention Monday when they lost 2-1 to Cuba and Honduras beat Haiti 3-2.All our kind of worst fears about what potentially could happen or affect the players have come to fruition, unfortunately ... Its been a poor display of who we are as a group, said Gale.Where these boys have been fantastic in the past in tournament football, for any number of reasons and the boys are struggling themselves to put their finger on it, this week, at this moment of time, they didnt have the energy and the resolve and that character to get themselves out of moments of a game that would turn the course, he added.Canada opened on a positive note, downing Haiti 3-1. A 2-0 loss to two-time defending champion Mexico was perhaps not unexpected.A 3-2 loss to El Salvador on a stoppage-time goal was a dagger through the heart. Then the bottom fell out with the loss to Cuba, with Canada conceding the opening goal on a flubbed clearance. When Honduras beat Haiti later that day, Canadas dream of reaching the U20 World Cup were shot.Canada (1-3-0) wrapped up play Thursday with a meaningless game against Honduras.Panama and Mexico topped their groups to reach the final and automatically qualify for FIFA U-20 World Cup in New Zealand this summer. The second- and third-place teams in each pool will play off to see which two teams join them.For Gale and his staff, its time to review and reconsider. Their job is long-term development and this tournament, however painful, has been a learning step for their young players.The good news for Gale is that his players responded in the second half of games.For Gale, Thursdays finale outing was about sheer effort and pride, that has been lacking in some individuals and also as a collective, at times, when the going got tough in the conditions, the heat and everything else.Obviously theyre down and theyre disappointed that they havent represented themselves as they would have wanted. But youre as good as your next game and in football you have to get back on the horse. And if they want to make a career out of it, theyre going to have many many difficult moments and its how you respond.Gale was encouraged by the opening win over Haiti. He knew the margin of victory could have been more had his group retained its focus but he saw it as a lesson learned.Mexico was next, the toughest game on the schedule. The Mexicans were well-rested after a 9-1 romp over Cuba.We refreshed the pack but unfortunately a couple of players had just tough tough days at the office, said Gale. To be fair to the boys, they dug in again. The second half we were much much better.Down 1-0, they had chances to tie it up but were punished on a late counter-attack.Mentally, the team was in good spirits going into the El Salvador game. There had been positives against Mexico.But extreme heat took its toll on a Canadian team inexperienced at this level and in the conditions. Watching from the sidelines, Gale could see his team stray from its game plan just minutes into the contest.It becomes not about football then, its about digging in — the heart and desire to work you way through it.Down 1-0 and 2-1, the Canadians rallied to tie the game, only to fall victim to a 94th-minute goal off a set kick.It was just a mental lapse, said Gale. Very disappointing ... But with a young group of players, that happens in football.Against Cuba, an unfortunate individual error led to a fifth-minute goal and the Canadians were behind the eight-ball again.Down 2-0 at the half, the Canadians cut the lead to 2-1 and had chances to score while the Cubans played a delaying game that descended into farce. The stretcher comes on seven times, Gale said with disgust.Unfortunately thats the reality of CONCACAF, he added. Any time you give a team oxygen or life, where theyre ahead, they can wind it down and it can cost you.Under that extra pressure, players started second-guessing themselves, said Gale.Finding the character and heart when the going got tough just deserted us here. And thats tournament football. It can happen.This is the first cycle of players Gale has had since under-16. Now the plan is to grow a squad from the under-14 level.Jamaica is a valuable, if painful, lesson. Theres no immediate and short-term fix, said Gale.The young Canadians are talented but lack experience under pressure, the coach says.Missing Aird and Carreiro, his longtime captain, did not help.If there was one thing that we needed a little more of at this tournament, it was character, said Gale.He notes with frustration that Carreiro had not played a minute at Dundee during the tournament.I think thats disgraceful for a coach to hold a player back from international football and the experience and to not play him at all.Aird played sparingly at his club during the tournament.Still, Gale says there are no excuses for what happened in Jamaica.We havent performed and adapted as well as other countries in key moments of key games. And thats been the difference.Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter Torrey Smith Jersey ." One game is checked off, 15 remain and the next one to get crossed out could come Tuesday night when the defending champion Heat host the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference playoff series. Jarius Wright Panthers Jersey . Unfortunately for the Cleveland Cavaliers, James Harden was in the building. . They actually finished with a better record in ‘07 than they did in ‘06 but only marginally, going from 61 victories to 66.SAN JOSE, Calif. - Nick Bjugstad was given fair warning that he could be part of the shootout gang. It helped get him into the right state of mind.Bjugstad scored twice during regulation and added the winning goal in the shootout as the Florida Panthers won their fourth straight in San Jose, beating the Sharks 3-2 on Thursday night.Knowing what youre going to do is the main thing, Bjugstad said. You dont think too much. Youre just trying to put the thing in the net.Florida coach Gerard Gallant said the decision was made easier because of Bjugstads productivity during the game.He was hot, Gallant said. I thought wed go with him. He was putting the puck in the net, and he hit a couple of posts, too.San Joses Patrick Marleau tied it with 33 seconds remaining in regulation, taking a pass from Joe Thornton and firing it past Roberto Luongo, who had stopped Marleaus penalty shot earlier in the third period.I was just trying to get it on the net as quickly as possible, Marleau said. I knew hed be at the near post, so I was looking for a spot.Luongo stopped 28 shots and won for the fourth time in his last five games against the Sharks. The Panthers swept the season series.Logan Couture ended a season-worst eight-game, goal-less streak with a power-play tally for the Sharks, who played at home for the first time in two weeks.Antti Niemi made 26 saves for the Sharks, who failed to win for the third time in their last four at home.Im pleased with the point, Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. It didnt look so good with a minute left. We were back on our heels a little bit in the third period.The Sharks opened a six-game homestand after becoming the first NHL team to play 16 of its first 21 games on the road. Thhe Sharks, who have scored two or fewer goals in seven straight, fell to 2-3-1 at home. Jarius Wright Jersey. .Bjugstad opened the scoring 24 seconds in, redirecting a shot by Dmitry Kulikov past Niemi. Kulikov, playing after missing four games because of a knee injury, earned an assist in his third straight game.We got the first goal out of the way right away, Bjugstad said. Kuli made a great shot, and I was able to get my stick on it.The Sharks tied it early in the second period. Couture tapped in a loose puck in front of the net after Luongo blocked a couple of pokes by Joe Pavelski.Bjugstad scored with under three minutes to play in the second period on a power play. His slap shot from the top of the right circle flew past Niemi.Florida scored a power-play goal in a season-best fourth consecutive game.Those goals change games in this league, Bjugstad said. Its a big point for us to make sure were scoring goals on the power play and that were playing well on the penalty kill.The Panthers improved to 4-2-4 on the road and won for the second time in three games played in California. The Sharks are 3-6 in their past nine.NOTES: The Sharks had killed 19 of 21 penalties until Florida scored in the second period. ... Panthers D Erik Gudbranson recorded a point for the first time in 10 games. ... The Sharks were held to three shots in the third period. ... Florida F Jonathan Huberdeau has four assists in his last three games. ... Thornton has an eight-game point streak. ... Bjugstad recorded his third career multi-goal game and second in three contests. ... The attendance of 17,331 was the Sharks second non-sellout at home this season following a 177-game (205 including playoffs) sellout streak. 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