December 7, 2009
Plenty of Hart in Cup drive
By GARETH WHEELER, SUN MEDIA
With all eyes on last Friday's World Cup 2010 draw, the Canadian Soccer Association was making inroads to ensure it's part of the 2014 Brazil party.
The decision as to who will lead Canada on the road to 2014 has been made, and it's a familiar face.
Almost eight months after being named interim caretaker of the Canadian men's team, Stephen Hart will have the label dropped when he officially is named head coach today.
Hart always has been the logical long-term replacement after Dale Mitchell was fired last March. The reins now go to Hart to do something which Mitchell failed miserably at -- taking the team to the World Cup, where Canada embarrassingly has been only once, in 1986.
Although the search for the new head coach didn't bring in a big foreign name like many had hoped, there is plenty to like about Hart.
The Trinidad and Tobago native and former U-17 Canadian head coach always has been popular with his players, his ability to get the Canadian team to perform well with relatively little preparation time (semifinals of the 2007 Gold Cup and quarter-finals in 2009), and his experience at various levels in the Canadian soccer stand out on his resume.
Is Hart the right man to lead the team toward World Cup qualification?
That's hard to say. Canada's biggest problem has been not enough games at the senior level and an inefficient development program.
That's not to say Canada isn't developing players, but is not developing a system for a team to succeed instead of individuals.
Canada's most recent European camp produced a pair of shut-out losses to Macedonia and Poland last month, which weren't positive results by any stretch of the imagination. But it's a start.
The men's team was all too inactive in 2009.
While Hart has had his team playing a more attractive, controlled brand of soccer, more games are essential to determining how tactically sound a coach Hart is and how his players will buy in.
Hart's relationship and knowledge of Canada's young players bodes well, as it's the players who'll inevitably determine how good this country will be.
Setting a clear direction for the program from the top down will be a priority for Hart, giving young players reassurance it is moving in the right direction.
But Hart will need help from the CSA proving that.
The slow-moving decision-making process at the CSA always has been a source for negativity, and most likely the reason it took so long for Hart to be named permanent head coach in the first place.
Nonetheless, today's announcement gives Hart, the current technical director, more than enough time to fully prepare for a legitimate run at World Cup qualification.
Other proposed changes and budgetary questions will be answered at the news conference, with both CSA general secretary Peter Montopoli and president Dr. Dominic Maestracci present, fresh from the CSA's end-of-year board of directors meetings in Montreal this past weekend.
The budget is all-important to how many games, including on Canadian soil, will be played in 2010.
A number of games ideally will be played at BMO Field, with a grass surface finally in place.
No announcement of opponents will be made today, but there will be one regarding a planned schedule.
Other updates expected today revolve around the reconstruction of the CSA constitution aimed for 2011, including proposed changes to the board and executive, with governance falling in line with the Australian soccer and/or United States soccer models, two teams that have qualified for the 2010 World Cup.