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    CHRONO SPORTS

  • Wednesday, July 12, 2000

    Old dog, new kicks

    Veteran Onstad enjoying rebirth as Canada's No. 1 'keeper

    By SCOTT ZERR -- Edmonton Sun

     There's still a little game left in Pat Onstad's old bones.

     Not that the former Edmonton Drillers goalkeeper should exactly be ushered out to pasture, but at 32, Onstad is creeping up on the golden years of life as a professional soccer player. He is, after all, the senior statesman of Canada's national side, a once-retired ballstopper who made his debut back in 1988 when Team Canuck took on Bermuda.

     Most of his current teammates were in their early teens back then. Now they're listening to hip-hop while the greybeard wishes for a bit of peace and quiet.

     "I don't hear any Rod Stewart or Elton John. None of that stuff comes up anymore. They've got something on in the background here I don't even know what it is," laughed Onstad as he made his way to Canada's training camp in Alliston, Ont., to prepare for Sunday night's World Cup qualifying clash against Trinidad and Tobago at Commonwealth Stadium.

     "There's not a player left from that ('88) team other than maybe Craig Forrest. There's been a lot of faces in and out and at the same time, I've been in and out of the program too, so it's nice to get a fresh start again."

     He has seen many faces come and go from the scene over the past 12 years. Someday it will be his turn, but for now ...

     "It's kind of nice to be along for the ride. Push this old man along in a wheelchair and keep him happy," he chuckled.

     Onstad was finished with football in 1995 until the Drillers called upon him for their fledgling indoor squad, and it's been a career resurrection ever since.

     The recent months have provided Onstad with his highest level of recognition as he landed the starting job for Canada, replacing the injured Forrest, as well as leaving behind the Rochester Raging Rhinos of the less-prestigious A-League for a spot with Dundee United in the Scottish Premiership.

     Hardly a concern

     This particular stint with Canada, which lasts through their July 23 qualifier in Panama, has cost the 27-cap veteran some valuable pre-season time with United, but that's hardly a concern with his nation's World Cup status, not to mention a 15-game unbeaten streak, at stake.

     "A lot of people say it hurts your club status and I agree to a certain extent, but I've only been over in Europe for a short time now and the bottom line is if I'd have never played for Canada, I never would have got to Dundee in the first place," explained Onstad, who had surgery to repair tendinitis in his left knee midway through last season.

     "I haven't played for Dundee and they haven't given me the opportunity, so my priority is definitely with the Canadian national team. Being away these two weeks certainly hurts my chances to start the season, but I'll just bide my time and wait for my opportunity. Once I get it, hopefully I'll hold my spot."

     The Vancouver product will certainly maintain his No. 1 position with Canada for a while longer. He took over from Forrest for the qualifying playoff series with Cuba and kept a pair of clean scoresheets. Onstad will get the call for at least the next two matchups - the most critical being the home-field advantage tete-a-tete with T&T.

     True sports passion

     Being a good Canadian, Onstad can't help but liken his situation to a notion within this country's true sports passion.

     "Goalies in hockey win games, but I think in soccer it's the absolute opposite," said Onstad.

     "When you get to World Cup qualifying, goalies can lose games.

     "It's not necessarily about making the big save, but making no mistakes. For some reason, I've always thrived on big games and hopefully that continues on."

     And Onstad can ill-afford to make any misjudgments with Dwight Yorke eyeing the net.

     "On any given day, he might be the best striker in the world and it's a great challenge that we're all looking forward to," he boldly stated.

     "(T&T) has got some fantastic players with fantastic talent, but at the same time, I think we do too. We may not be as offensive as they are, but as a unit I think we're just as strong a team."

     TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO

     A who's who ...

     Dwight Yorke - Among the very best strikers in the world. The highest paid and possibly most dangerous member of the English Premier powerhouse Manchester United.

     Stern John - Became a teammate of Canadian midfielder Jim Brennan with Nottingham Forest after leaving Columbus of MLS. Returning to national team lineup after ligament injury.

     Russell Latapy - T&T captain plays with Canuck defender Paul Fenwick with Hibernian in Scotland. Nicknamed the "Little Magician," the skilled playmaker was the subject of a recent bidding war with Ipswich Town apparently offering a 2 million pound transfer fee.

     Gary Glasgow - Forward has two goals this season for MLS's Kansas City Wizards. Reviews call him a first-time finisher who has good one-on-one skills.

     Shaka Hislop - Will be battling injured Canadian 'keeper Craig Forrest for No. 1 spot with West Ham.

     CANADA

     A who's who ...

     Jason De Vos - Canadian captain and defensive rock is a teammate of Pat Onstad's with Dundee United. He was national team's best player in Edmonton last summer at Canada Cup.

     Paul Peschisolido - The fiery forward can be team's most potent offensive spark if he controls his often troublesome temper. Has 36 international caps; plays for Fulham in English First Division.

     Carlo Corazzin - Surprisingly, Canada's top producer during Gold Cup title run is unattached after contract not renewed by English Third Division side Northampton Town. Leads Canada with 43 caps.

     Jeff Clarke - Has become dominant midfielder in recent outings, earning him tryout in Denmark with OB Odense. Currently listed with A-League's Hampton Roads.

     Martin Nash - Onetime stalwart with Edmonton Drillers, he became an invaluable super-sub for Canada at Gold Cup. Has earned 17 caps; toiling with Rochester of A-League.



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