Style of play hurts Canada

GARETH WHEELER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:18 AM ET

Many questions have been asked over the years across Canada as to why we can't win in soccer.

The usual excuses of lack of funding, apathy, the governing body and climate are typical answers.

The reason Canada doesn't find consistent success internationally is because there is no defined Canadian way of playing soccer.

Like Canadian culture, our style is a mixed bag, influenced by the multiple ethnic groups and nationalities.

For the nation, the cultural diversity works; for soccer, it doesn't.

If you had to pick one way to describe the way Canadian soccer is played, it would be some kind of hybrid-British style -- defending at all cost and counter-attacking when possible, otherwise known as 'Kick and Run'.

It's the unattractive, old school British way of playing. Even the English have changed for the better.

The British influence within the Canadian Soccer Association and provincially, the Ontario Soccer Association is there for all to see.

But for whatever reason, whether philosophical differences or political nonsense, good soccer minds of other nationalities within Canada have been left out of the equation.

The issue isn't systematic, but problematic nonetheless.

Former national team member Carmen Marcantonio thinks the various ethnic communities haven't stepped up and been active enough at the decision-making level.

"New ideas haven't come and change hasn't been made quick enough-- there is great opportunity there to create something through ideas," Marcantonio said.

Marcantonio, with vast coaching and playing experience in this country, points to the United States as a prime example of a country that has changed its soccer identity, taking the facets of both the European and Central American game.

So without new ideas, the outcome has been predictable; the technical skill of Canadian players hasn't markedly improved.

Cue the arrival of Carolina Morace, the CSA's hire for head coach of the women's national team.

The idea is to have the former Italian international use her coaching and playing pedigree to dictate the way soccer will be played by all women in Canada. She'll have to fight through the fragmentation of ideology of the provinces, but the idea is there.

Morace plans on having an active role at the U-17 level and is taking the reigns of the U-20 program. The formation may change because of personnel, but the style of play will not.

Along with consistency, Morace's focus will be on improving the technical ability of the women in ball possession and movement off the ball.

Just like the men, it's too apparent in major competition that our women aren't technically sound enough to compete with the world's best. When Canada gets the ball, it rarely knows what to do with it.

Canada's early success in women's soccer was more about the lack of quality competition than anything else. The rest of the world now has caught up.

The Canadian program will be strengthened with Morace instilling an Italian style of play -- being defensively sound but also strong and organized with the ball.

Italian coaches are superior with the technical side of the game. It's like a science -- every movement is well thought out. These sorts of intangibles are lost in the development in Canadian soccer.

Canadian teams widely are successful at youth tournaments around North America and the world. That's because winning trumps development.

"Canada has great athletes -- among the best, but we get passed by other countries during the formative years, between 14-17 years of age. Becoming technically sound only comes from training every day in a professional environment," Marcantonio said.

Tactics breeds consistency. It's no coincidence that the men's team, with a group of skilful players, resorted back to a system of kick and run when the going got tough in World Cup qualifying. It's no coincidence the U-20 men's team struggled to create a shot during the U-20 World Cup.

So next on the agenda is for the men's program to find there own Carolina Morace. While Dale Mitchell is the caretaker for a program with lofty ambitions, it's going to take time to find the proper leader who will come in and change the culture of how soccer is played by Men across Canada.

Maybe another Italian coach will do?


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