Editorial – For those who aren’t aware, once again, it’s the start of a new era for the Canadian Men’s National Team program. The 2018 season started off with a bang without even playing a single game as it was announced that Octavio Zambrano would be relieved of his duties and that he would be replaced by John Herdman, who had been in charge of the Canadian Women’s National Team since 2011.
CanMNT in 2018: Schedule, Optics, and Fresh Ideas
Many Canadian soccer fans questioned the move as the men’s program had just completed one of their more successful seasons in recent memory finishing with a record of 3-2-1 under Zambrano which included a 2017 Gold Cup quarterfinal appearance for the first time since 2009.
The CSA and Zambrano’s camp have been keeping quiet about the situation. Many to this day, including myself and others close to the situation, yet to have all the facts. Despite the silence, it’s been speculated that some of the reasons for Zambrano’s dismissal range from missing meetings, going on expensive scouting trips, criticizing the CSA and not meeting expectations at the 2017 Gold Cup (Strange, no?).
An interesting story but it’s in the rear-view mirror for now as the 2018 season for Canada has already kicked off on the pitch with a 1-0 victory against 120th ranked New Zealand.
The friendly match came with a few good stories, number one, of course, being Herdman gets his first victory in his first match in charge. Liam Millar, 18, made his senior team debut and didn’t look out of place by any means and was a real threat throughout the match. Lastly, Tosaint Ricketts’ goal not only gave Canada the win but he now sits tied with Alex Bunbury for fourth all-time in goals scored for Canada with 16, six back of record holder Dwayne De Rosario.
Surprisingly, the victory itself wasn’t the number one headline for Canada and it’s supporters but rather how coach Herdman has separated himself from previous coaches in such a short time period. Midfielders Samuel Piette and Jonathan Osorio both mentioned that every player has bought into the new boss’s playing style and that the team’s mentality has to change in order to be successful.
One of the things that Herdman did that really surprised me was he met or spoke on the phone with most of the players to get their thoughts on the program. It surprised me because Osorio mentioned that it was the first time a coach of the national team had reached out to him which led me to believe that Zambrano, Floro or possibly other managers had never done this while in charge.
But what’s next for the men’s team in 2018? With the first match out of the way, Herdman and his men will now turn their focus to the CONCACAF Nations League qualifying in September. Four matches will be played against four opponents as Canada’s goal will surely be to finish in the top six in order to qualify for League A of the Nations League and secure a spot in the 2019 Gold Cup.
Canada’s four opponents are as follows: U.S. Virgin Islands, Dominica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and French Guiana.
Here are Canada’s records against the nations they have drawn:
U.S. Virgin Islands: N/A
Saint Kitts and Nevis: 1-1-0
French Guiana: 1-0-0
So what can we expect from the National Team against the opponents? If history is any indication of how this qualifying campaign will go, I would say Canada looks pretty set to win all four matches. However, as someone who’s followed the team from a young age, it is important to never underestimate your CONCACAF opponent, especially on the road where Canada has struggled.
As of right now, it’s not ideal for Canada to not see the pitch until September but it does give Herdman and his staff plenty of time to scout and determine who they want in the squad for important qualifying matches.
That’s all for now.