Jump to content
  • If Canada fails at the Gold Cup, does Stephen Hart get fired?


    ccs-3097-140264008676_thumb.jpgThat question was posed by Jerrad Peters of the Winnipeg Free Press last night on Twitter, and it's a decent one. After all, we've seen coaches at all levels get sacked for much less.

    In this case, it depends on exactly what you would define as "failure" in this year's Gold Cup, as well as what your expectations are for Hart and the men's national team ahead of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup.

    So, from where I sit, does Hart stick around after the Gold Cup? Abso-bloody-lutely.[PRBREAK][/PRBREAK]

    My vehemence here reflects not only my personal opinion, but what I perceive as the reality of the situation. Since getting the full-time gig as Canada gaffer at the end of '09, Hart's said the same thing any time a microphone has been stuck in his face: It's all about qualifying for the 2014 World Cup. He was no stranger to the CSA prior to his appointment (having served as Canada's interim head coach twice) so his singular focus surely has the support of his bosses.

    Anything and everything till 2014, then, is about picking a squad, building chemistry and demonstrating on-field development. The surprising 2-2 draw with Ukraine last winter and last month's 1-0 win over Belarus were nice results, sure; but for Hart, the emphasis was the same: pick, build, develop.

    As for the Gold Cup? It's going to fall under the same umbrella. Wins would be nice, but building towards 2014 is the real goal.

    Those already sharpening their knives are, perhaps, deluding themselves into believing this is a tournament Canada has a realistic chance of winning. To recap, Les Rouges find themselves drawn into a group with the U.S., Panama and Guadeloupe.

    Even the most optimistic Canada supporters aren't banking on a result against the Yanks on American soil. Panama is right about at Canada's level, and should provide a stern test. As for Guadeloupe? Yeah, they're a non-FIFA-ranked French protectorate... but they did beat us at the 2007 Gold Cup (didn't stop us from nearly making the final, though).

    Even if Canada does sneak out of its group, it will most likely find itself in a quarter-final showdown with Mexico or Honduras. Mexico is Mexico and Honduras... well... yeah. They're Honduras.

    "But Canada beat Mexico in the quarter-final in 2000, when we won the whole thing!" you may be saying. Sure. But there's a reason games like that are called "huge upsets" -- it's because more often than not, they don't happen. (Plus, Craig Forrest has been retired for a number of years now.)

    Considering the transitional mode the team is in, I'm honestly expecting right about the same result as 2009; a quarter-final loss (though dear God, not to Honduras on a dodgy penalty, please). Does that qualify as a "failure"? Again, if you're delusional enough to think this is Canada's tournament to win, then maybe.

    But is it enough to thrust the team into full-on, fire-the-coach panic mode? Not a chance.

    See, I'm of this weird mindset that people -- coaches, players, executives -- need time to grow into not only their individual roles, but into the team they find themselves a part of. That's an anomaly in our A.D.D.-riddled, instant-gratification universe, I know. Yet when coaches get the axe not because of gross incompetence, but because of a supposed need to "shake things up", I can only shake my head and sigh.

    Barring the highly unlikely scenario wherein Canada gets trounced 5-0 in all three Gold Cup round-robin games, there's absolutely nothing to be gained by turfing Hart.

    There is, rather, plenty to be lost:

    • All of the goodwill built up amongst the team's young players, who Hart is widely regarded as having excellent relationships with? Out the window.
    • Any sense of cohesion and system-adherence the team has built up under Hart? Gone.
    • Any recent gains made at the CSA's executive level in terms of compromise and productivity? Done like dinner, as the hunt for a new men's national team head coach would surely plunge the national body into another intractable, bitter dispute at a time when, frankly, there's plenty else to think about (good and bad) in Canadian soccer.

    Don't get me wrong; if Jose Mourinho or Guus Hiddink or someone of a similar pedigree suddenly said "hey, what the hell" and decided to give the Canadian men's national team a chance, it'd be very difficult to turn them down. But they ain't coming, kids. The Canadian men's team is not high on the list of glamorous pet projects for globe-trotting dilettantes.

    Yes, Carolina Morace was a terrific "get" for the CSA, and has done marvelous things with the women's national team. But anyone with a passing interest in Canadian soccer knows full well that comparing the men's and women's program isn't apples and oranges, it's apples and tractor-trailers. Or cacti. Or... the point is, they're quite different.

    There's no men's team equivalent of Morace hiding out in the global soccer foliage somewhere, waiting to pounce on the opportunity to guide our team -- which has just shit the bed in the Gold Cup, remember -- into World Cup qualifying.

    So, fire Hart? Sure, if you believe the best way to head into World Cup qualifying is with a disenchanted, disjointed squad playing under a new manager who only got the job due to a power vacuum created by his predecessor's involuntary departure.

    Yeah, that does describe Hart's ascent to a tee, I know. But that was 2009, not mid-2011. If you believe Hart never should have gotten the full-time job in the first place, that's certainly a point that can be argued.

    But he's had over two years to grow into his role, and barring something catastrophic (much more catastrophic than a few less-than-ideal results at the Gold Cup) he's the man to lead Canada into qualifying for Brazil 2014.


  • Create New...