Winter of discontent

Head coach Dale Mitchell puts Team Canada players through their paces at Foote Field yesterday....

Head coach Dale Mitchell puts Team Canada players through their paces at Foote Field yesterday. (Sun Media/Robert Taylor)

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:58 AM ET

Dale Mitchell is not looking too far past this evening's World Cup qualifier against Mexico at Commonwealth Stadium.

He shouldn't. Especially since Canada's head coach is pretty much a dead man walking.

Mitchell's tenure with the senior men's national team has been nothing short of disastrous.

Many questioned why he was even given the job in the first place, considering he was in charge of the Canadian team that failed to win a game - or even score a goal - in last summer's Under-20 World Cup.

"We're all disappointed with the results so far," Mitchell said.

"The players are frustrated, the fans are frustrated, but I think the effort has been there. We've just been unable to get the results."

TWO GAMES LEFT

With Mitchell at the helm, Canada lost three of the four previous qualifying matches eliminating any hope of advancing to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. And they still have two games left to play.

"I think at this level, you have to be complete," said Mitchell. "We haven't been complete. We've played well in parts, but we haven't done enough to get the goals in certain situations, and the other teams have been able to punish us for the mistakes we've made."

In order to get through to the final round of qualifying, Canada needed to finish at least second in their four-team group, also featuring Honduras and Jamaica.

But after tying Jamaica in Toronto to begin the campaign, they went on to lose three straight - rendering tonight's game meaningless.

"I think our first responsibility is to ourselves and to play hard," Mitchell said. "I think the guys have done that in all the matches and we plan on doing that again (tonight).

"We don't have a win yet, and here in Edmonton we'd like to show the home fans that we are capable of winning games in this group.

"We also have a responsibility to Honduras and Jamaica to put out our best team possible and get points."

They will be hard-pressed to get a win against the Mexicans.

Canada's best team won't be on the field. Julian De Guzman didn't make the trip from Spain, where he plays with Deportivo La Coruna, due to an injury.

The Canadians will also be without midfielder Dwayne De Rosario, and forward Rob Friend.

The Mexicans, meanwhile, in an ironic twist, need the victory to secure their spot in the next stage of qualifying and will field a full lineup - with the exception of captain Rafael Marquez, who is suspended for the contest and returned to Barcelona.

When the draw was originally set up, Canada was hoping this game would be meaningful just to them with Mexico having already clinched a spot in the next round.

"It's amazing how fast things change in the qualifying process," Mitchell said. "They (Mexico) won three home games, had nine points and everything looked good.

"All of a sudden with one loss if things don't go well for Mexico (tonight) they have to go to Honduras and get something.

"It's a task they probably won't be looking forward to, so there is some pressure on them for sure."

Due to the poor results there has been dissension in the ranks of Team Canada's players.

Veteran defender Jim Brennan vowed never to play with the national team as long as Mitchell is coach. De Rosario was also critical of the team's tactics.

Others have decided not to voice their concerns in the media - although it's obvious they have some.

Mitchell isn't the only one to blame, although he'll undoubtedly take the bullet once the qualifiers are over.

The Canadian Soccer Association has to share some of the responsibility.

INTERFERENCE

Citing too much interference by the provincial associations that continue to play a major role in the decisions affecting the national team, some critics have called for a complete restructuring of the system.

There also seems to be some hesitancy when it comes to hiring a coach outside of the association.

Mitchell is the latest in a large group of Canadian head coaches who played on 1986 World Cup team - the only time the country has ever qualified for the event, although they didn't score a goal there, either.

Hiring Canada's next coach from the same pool would probably only continue the cycle of futility.

"In any soccer country there is probably a lot of stuff goes on outside of what happens on the field, and in many cases it's more than what happens in Canada," Mitchell said.

"There is a bit more focus on the games because of the group we had. And when you don't get the results, that's when things start to surface and get out there.

"It's the frustration of not being able to qualify. It's part of the game."


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