Upcoming CanMNT Games Not About Winning

The winter camp is about turning a new page and increasing the experience for new Canadian players
by Henrik Lonne   |   Thursday, January 24, 2013

Made in Canada - coverage of the Canadian MLS, NASL & USL Clubs, CSL, PCSL, Canadian Championship & Canada National Teams

Last time Canada played Denmark was 18 years ago in front of 10,024 spectators. The setting was a covered SkyDome and the score ended with a 1-0 win to the defending European champions – though one guy in attendance still thinks the goal looked offside. The same guy, Geoff Bell, also provided me with scans of “Soccer Canada” a magazine published by the Canadian Soccer Association in the ‘90s.

I looked at the scans and noticed that things are similar to now. I saw that of the players that faced Denmark back in ’95, plenty are still involved with Canadian soccer at all levels – the obvious one being Colin Miller, who is leading the team on Saturday. Other names like Nick Dasovic, Paul Dolan, Bob Lenarduzzi and Mark Watson are also still heavily involved in the Canadian soccer structure.

Now, like then, the Canadian team faces a difficult task. While it is only a Danish League XI facing Canada and many of the players will earn their first caps, the Danish Superliga is ranked an impressive 16th in Europe.

The squad is heavy on young talent and, while few of these Danes have caps on the senior team, most have a lot of experience in the Danish national youth teams and the Danish system. As such, they know and are comfortable with the Dutch-inspired, possession-oriented 4-3-3 implemented by manager Morten Olsen.

Denmark's team is a poor man’s Netherlands, except the former does better because it, unlike the Dutch, has a stronger team unity. Had it been a full-strength Canadian team with the best available, I’d have given the Canadians a shot. But as Canada is in a rebuilding stage, I cannot see them winning. This should prove a good test and opponent for this young Canadian side.

Facing the US team on Tuesday will be no easy task either. While not at full strength, this American side includes World Cup veterans, established MLS players and youngsters expected to contribute in World Cup qualifying.

But results aren’t what should be expected from this Canada January camp. The team needs to start over and rebuild the program. While it can be disheartening to see players from the lower leagues of Scandinavian and North American soccer, availability is limited and these players will help the team rebuild itself. To move forward and get to Russia 2018 or Qatar 2022, Canada has to go back to square one, bet on youth – shown by the many 20 to 22 year olds in the squad – and build a solid foundation.

Part of this foundation will also be to reform the player development system. More focus needs to be placed on long-term player development and how kids aged 10 to 18 are developed. That will decide whether or not Canada goes to Russia or Qatar, not whether or not Canada wins or loses on Saturday and Tuesday.

It will be a long, tough road, but if the right steps are taken, it can happen.

UP NEXT: Canada vs Denmark, Jan. 26, Kino Veterans Memorial Stadium, Tucson, Arizona. 2:30 p.m., Sportsnet.ca.

Henrik LONNE

Copenhagen Business School
Club Domestic:
AGF Aarhus
Club Foreign:
Toronto FC
Born and raised in Denmark, the US performance in the 2002 World Cup dragged Henrik into the world of North American soccer. Subsequent trips to Canada made him a Toronto FC fan from abroad. The passion he now has for MLS outshines most European leagues.