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    Lenarduzzi speaks


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    “It’s Called Football” hosted a fine, long-form interview with Vancouver Whitecaps’ president Bob Lenarduzzi this past weekend, and the man had a lot to say.

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    The full interview – conducted by Ben Rycroft, Chantelle Junker and myself – ran for over half an hour. It touched on everything from MLS expansion and the Voyageurs Cup to youth development and the overall governance of Canadian soccer.

    Here are a couple of moments that really caught my ear:

    Lenarduzzi is deeply immersed in the ‘Caps MLS expansion bid, but he also had a lot of good things to say about their current league, USL-1. It led me to ask him if the team might be better staying put – a decision already famously made by Montreal Impact owner Joey Saputo.

    “That one of that things that we have certainly internally discussed,” he acknowledged. “There does seem to be merit {to moving up], and certainly the brand of MLS, when you consider what happened in Toronto. I don’t think there’s a person in Toronto – [even] the most optimistic of soccer people – would have ever said you go from what was happening in USL to having a waiting list for 16,000 season tickets? And it’s wonderful that it happened. … But ultimately it’s long-term. You’d have an issue in the short term convincing people, okay, you can build this thing. Whether we go MLS or not, I think there’s a place for [the USL-1] level of soccer, but you won’t have the immediate impact that an MLS expansion would bring.”

    Ben Rycroft makes a point of asking all our guests what one thing they would change about the ways the Canadian Soccer Association runs the sport. Lenarduzzi shot straight for the top.

    “You’re not going to make me popular,” he sighed, “I actually think the governance of the game needs to change. The way we’re governed right now, the board is far too hands-on in the decision-making process. Their job should be to make decisions, and beyond that point they should provide the parameters, and then the people that they hire should be allowed to go out and do the job. And then if they don’t do well, then it’s on the employee’s head. But right now, I think there’s too much interference.”

    Lenarduzzi cited the much-praised hiring of Italian coach Carolina Morace to run the women’s national program as a good test case.

    “I’m still holding back on my excitement until I know that they’re actually going to provide the program with money … so she can put her coaching skills to work, and not sit idle between competitions.”

    Overall, it’s a good, relaxed conversation with a man – after all – who actually played for Canada way back in the 1986 World Cup. You don’t have to like or agree with Bob Lenarduzzi to benefit from knowing where he stands.

    Onward!

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