Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Scorched Earth - Time to Move On?
Canada once again lost a game they could have won last night, this time in the form of a 1-1 tie with a Panamanian team that Canadian head coach Stephen Hart constantly warned was better than most gave them credit for.
The Canadians, despite themselves, were minutes away from advancing at the CONCACAF Gold Cup, until Luis Tejada scored in extra time after a chaotic scramble that was symbolic of Canada's disjointed effort in this tournament. The scoreline says it was a tie - in reality it was a loss on a number of levels.
Firstly and most obviously it cost the Canadian team a chance to play another game and for a team that does not get nearly enough chances to do so this will be the largest price of the night. While moving on to have a chance to play for the championship would have been nice just the opportunity for coach Stephen Hart to look and evaluate players in competitive play would be worth far more.
Truthfully though one more opportunity to see what was happening on the field would not have revealed much more than was already obvious about our core talent - they're just not good enough.
The loss will undoubtedly have people calling for Hart's head as is the norm in this situation but it be a harsh move as Hart is involved in a fight with one hand tied behind his back. The job of the national team coach should be to assemble the best players he can, give them a tactical plan and then execute that plan. He should not have to worry that technically his players are incapable of performing technically at an international level.
For Hart this is not the case.
As the saying goes you can't make a silk purse out of a sows ear - or in this case you can't play attractive, high pressure, possession soccer with players that lack the pace, technical ability and most worryingly aptitude to do so.
Our so called best players were mediocre, not just technically, at best and while one or two of the "journeymen" did mange to raise their game the players expected to form the core of the squad and lead by example failed to do so.
Think not? As always in situations like this an easy measurement to make - how many of Canada's starters in any of these games would have started for the opponent in the given game. The I think you will agree list would be short... very short.
That brings us to the next steps - is it perhaps time to "throw the baby out with the bath water" and start anew? For the financially challenged Canadian Soccer Association, is both literally and figuratively not in the books to jettison the coach so that leaves us looking at the program itself and the players. Who among them should be there in the future and who should perhaps move or be moved on.
Realistically looking at the play of this current squad we are now looking at 2018 not 2014 as our next opportunity to accomplish the ultimate goal of qualifying for the World Cup. This means it is time to start looking beyond this generation of players or at least the older ones in the group and really start looking at the next crop.
Before we do that however we need to have to understand that we need a plan, both competitive and technical for our current crop of U17s (and to a lesser extent U20s) to give them a chance to be successful and not fail them like we have the current and recent generations of players.
We owe them and long suffering Canadian soccer fans at least that much.