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Monday 15 October 2012

The Cavellini Debate – Will He See the Pitch?

    Nineteen-year-old Lucas Cavellini joined the Canadian National Team as a replacement for the suspended Olivier Occean - who saw an unjust red card in the second half of action against Cuba on Friday.

    Occean’s red, which was as much for getting hit in the face and shoved to the ground as it was for a push of his own and a minor kick out after being decked by a pair of Cubans – it was more likely a make-up/sympathy call for the beleaguered and short-handed Cubans who had seen a man dismissed minutes earlier for a rash tackle - will be unavailable, and hence, Stephen Hart has reached out to the youngster as reinforcement.

    The question on the lips of Canadian soccer fans all day has been, what role, if any, Cavallini will play in Tuesday’s crucial qualifying match in Honduras?

    It is a multi-faceted conversation, one which is likely being delved into as much to pass the nervous time before kickoff – rather than stare into the abyss of progression/elimination – as to ascertain whether he will factor into the action. 

    It comes down to three possibilities: he will either sit on the bench, come on as a substitute, or, patience please, start the match.
    Beginning with the third option, Cavellini being handed the start, it may sound crazy but this could be a cunningly devious choice.

    The youngster could undoubtedly play a role defending from the front - his efforts in closing down the American side in March’s CONCACAF qualification tournament was admirable, despite picking up an eighth minute yellow card that had many a heart-in-mouth for the remainder of the affair.

    If he was given that first half to harass and harangue the Hondurans at every opportunity he would undoubtedly bring an energy to that role that would serve the side well.

    Honduras will likely not have had an opportunity to see much of his game and that slight air of mystery could be advantageous. Though still developing, he could provide a physical battle for Victor Bernardez and whoever lines up beside the behemoth in the middle of the Honduran defense.

    It would be a difficult task to entrust to the inexperienced man, but the ability to change the focus of the attack later in the match by replacing Cavallini’s physicality with the pace of Simeon Jackson and Tosaint Ricketts or the more subtle play of Iain Hume could catch the Hondurans off guard, providing Canada with a window within which to strike.

    There, too, is something to be said for the impetuousness of youth; the ability to approach a task unburdened by the paralyzing self-doubt that affects those older, more experienced heads who can over-think a situation.

    Cavallini has the ability to score himself, as he did when given a chance late in the match against the US to seal the result, and were he to snag a first half goal in Honduras it would offer some respite to what will be a nervy afternoon.

    To start him and have him score the opener would be considered a masterstroke of selection – and make the young man an instant Canadian legend - but that perhaps is a decision too bold to truly be considered.

    Remember, that inexperience can cut both ways with the emotion of the occasion leading a young player to a rash decision and thus leave his side short-handed for the remainder of the match.

    Then, should he play the role of a substitute?

    This option sounds tidy and simple. Fresh legs, youthful energy, just what one wants in the final minutes of a match. But it is easy to forget that this will not be your normal atmosphere or your standard end to a match.

    Should Canada find itself in a position to move on to The Hex, Honduras will be throwing everything at the Canadian side, who will in turn be defending as though their lives – as their qualification surely will – depend on the result.

    It would be ludicrous - and very unlike Stephen Hart - to entrust that final half-hour, which will undoubtedly be the tensest thirty minutes of qualification thus far – to such an inexperienced player.

    Ultimately - perhaps sadly for those fans in need of a hero - it is most likely that Cavallini was called upon to be a warm body; to sit on the bench, only to be brought on in desperation, if a necessity due to injury or in the dying throes of the match, in an attempt to throw caution to the wind in an offensive assault for a needed goal.

    Cavellini joined the squad to make up the numbers, but he will benefit from the experience, could prove useful in desperation, and most conveniently, being based in Uruguay, was close enough that travel and time zones would not be too much of an obstacle to him being of any use whatsoever.

    At times of great need the mind wanders, it dreams of solutions to nightmarish problems not yet materialized, fantasizes “if only this or if only that” in an effort to distract from the harsh reality of the situation.

    Soon Canada will know if this campaign ends or goes on.

    The question of Cavallini and the debate of how to best use him in tomorrow’s qualifier is just such a distraction for those fans counting down the minutes.

    Whatever the outcome, he has at least provided unsettled fans – and writers - with a much-needed momentary distraction.

    Nineteen hours to kickoff…

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