U-20 CMNT Loss to Cuba Shows Road Ahead

Loss to Cuba at the CONCACAF U-20 Championship raises questions and challenges regarding the men’s program
by Henrik Lonne   |   Thursday, February 21, 2013

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Being a fan of Canadian soccer can sometimes resemble being in the ’93 movie ‘Groundhog Day’. The day ends up being the exact same as the last one.

By all accounts, the defeat to Cuba was a story heard so many times before. A few players showed moments of individual skill, but ultimately lost because of defensive breakdowns and poor decision-making in the defense. It is dangerous to judge young players on a specific match, but the performance does fit into the story of the Canadian men’s soccer program.

Most of the players play in the academies or reserve teams of various European clubs, with only two players signed to MLS contracts. There are also some in the MLS academy system and Allan Zebie at FC Edmonton. Should the Canadian MLS teams have fought harder to have more of these players under contract? It is hard to say.

The Vancouver Whitecaps have already made the playoffs in their young MLS history, with Montreal coming close at joining them, but they have done this with a very limited Canadian presence. In the nation’s biggest city, we have seen many more Canadians suit up for Toronto FC, but we all know about the lack of results there.

In general, fans of Canadian soccer should be happy when a Canadian steps on the pitch for any MLS team. But exposing players to a level that they aren’t ready to perform at yet is not the way to develop talent. Would the Whitecaps or the Impact suffer drastically by giving Russell Teibert or Karl Ouimette a bit more playing time? I doubt it. Would the young Canadians at TFC benefit from experiencing success, and not being assigned the herculean task of improving the club’s performance? Surely.

Canada faces great obstacles – like player and coaching development, support for the team from soccer loving Canadians and lack of playing opportunities – that it’ll need to tackle if it is to move forward as a soccer nation. The challenges are many and for this reason exactly, there is no easy fix.

Replacing the Canadian Soccer Association or hiring a big-name foreign coach will not transform Canada into a powerhouse. Organizational reforms and hiring a talented coach that can contribute to moving the program forward can certainly help and can be part of the solution, but they have to be a part of a broader change in how soccer is approached in this country.

Nevertheless, Canada is still alive in the tournament and play Nicaragua on Friday, where a win could put the team in the quarterfinal and keep the chances of qualifying for the U-20 World Cup alive. The result against Cuba wasn’t the end of the world, but it is still only at the beginning of a long journey towards Canadian success in soccer.

Henrik LONNE

Nationality:
Denmark
College:
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.
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