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  • What went wrong and who can we blame?


    One day later and it still doesn’t make a a lot of sense. For months we’ve been told that the Canadian women were legitimate darkhorses to go deep in the World Cup. Anyone that questioned that logic – not that there were many that did – had the preparation results thrown in their face.

    Only two losses in 14 games, with 11 wins. Make it four losses now and out of the World Cup in less than a week. The storylines in traditional media went from “Ah shucks aren’t these Canadian gals special,” to “Canada once against historically terrible at Soccer, but NHL free agency starts today.”

    In some ways it might have been better to not have qualified.

    So, the question needs to be asked: What the hell went wrong?


    The answer to that question depends on your perspective. However, we can basically break it down into three different possible positions. You either think it’s Carolina Morace’s fault, the CSA’s, or the players.

    The arguments:

    Carolina Morace

    Suddenly she doesn’t seem like the genius we’ve been told she was. She demanded to have full control over the team in the preparation and it’s difficult to see how she didn’t get just that. Twice in the last six months the women set-up shop in Europe for an extended camp. They played tournaments in Cyprus, China and Brazil. Money – real money – was spent.

    In short, this is Morace’s team, prepared in her way and, as such, she needs to take responsibility for their performance.

    Two months ago, I asked whether Morace should be fired if Canada failed to advance from the group in Germany. In that article I concluded the following:

    “If Canada goes three and out the CSA would absolutely be justified in showing Morace the door. Getting into the quarters but no further should buy her another year to lead the team to London. The only result that should make Morace untouchable is a semi-final berth.”
    That was written with the assumption that failure to advance would come after a hard fought and tough loss to France. No one imagined the capitulation we saw yesterday. In the most important game of Morace’s career, her team was out performed in every aspect of the game – and that includes coaching.

    The CSA and Morace agreed to stay together through to the end of the Olympics. There is enough positives to keep that commitment, but it is more than fair for the CSA to demand real results from her in London. Let’s remember that this World Cup was the first major international tournament that she has qualified for as a coach – a record that includes her failure as coach of the Canadian u20 side that did not go to Germany last year. Football is about results. It’s time we objectively focused on Morace’s results, rather than her cult of personality.

    The CSA

    Old habits die hard and the CSA makes an easy and predictable target. And, the organization does need to share some of the blame. They hired Morace. They agreed to the plan that she put in place and they are responsible for the system-wide problems that continue to bedevil the sport.

    However, Peter Montopoli was not in the dressing room at half-time against France. It’s not the Board of Directors fault that the team caved at the first sign of adversity, or that the coaching staff appeared to make no meaningful adjustments.

    If you are a blind defender of Morace and the women, you could make the argument that the CSA caused the team too much distraction by failing to live-up to promises about control. And, maybe you’re right. However, it’s time that those accusations were backed up with facts – identifiable and provable facts.

    Your Sack the CSA t-shirt will be four years old this September. A lot has changed in the organization since that night. There still needs to be more change, but blindly blaming everything on the CSA is starting to become a bit too easy.

    The players

    Like the men in the disastrous 2010 qualifying campaign, the players need to take a lot of the responsibility. The best defence of Morace is that the players forgot everything she taught them at the first sign of adversity. Ultimately, they were the ones punting the ball up the pitch. Even Christine Sinclair, the warrior that she very much is, has to be questioned. She must have known that she couldn’t perform anywhere near her capabilities. That was clear; she was invisible.

    Old habits die hard and the combination of years of Even Pellerud, winning focused youth clubs and, in many cases, NCAA punt and chase can’t be fully flushed out in three years. In some cases the players just aren’t good enough. That’s a harsh reality that isn’t pleasant to face or nice to talk about, but one that needs to be understood.

    There is a fourth level of blame that hasn’t been talked about – the pro clubs (Vancouver gets a slight pass here, but not fully). Morace, like every other national team coach – men or women – before her has talked about the need for a pro league in the country. We all know what prevents that. However, an argument can be made that the three biggest pro clubs should all be in the pro women’s game too – and not at the W-League level, but rather at WPS. Yes, it’s struggling now, but the Canadian teams do well financially and would help stabilize it. If there were three fully professional women’s teams in Canada it would go a long way to making the players better and that, in turn, would make the national team truly competitive.

    The only positive that can be taken from the way this World Cup has turned out is that it didn’t happen in 2015. We have four years to make sure there isn’t a repeat performance.

    In the days ahead we will look at what needs to happen.

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