sstackho Posted October 21, 2008 Share Posted October 21, 2008 Geez, shouldn't you Ottawa Voyageurs have posted this two days ago? THE BEAUTIFUL GAME Sports There's Madness in the Mitchell Method Richard Starnes The Ottawa Citizen 1025 words 18 October 2008 Ottawa Citizen Early C7 English Copyright © 2008 Ottawa Citizen This week, England coach Fabio Capello told his players there would be no more long balls while he was in charge. No more hacking the ball up the middle and hoping for the best. What he demanded was keeping the ball on the ground, making the passes slick, the control tight and creating the space to play the game with speed and precision. Are you listening, Dale Mitchell? If Canada's coach had followed even one piece of this mantra, we might not now be floundering around at the bottom of our qualifying group, embarrassing fans across the country by our abject failure to make the World Cup finals in South Africa. No matter what he might say today, Mitchell's style does encompass the long ball. He has told me it should be at least part of the ammunition a team has tucked in its attacking gun chamber. If you watch the way Canada has played since Mitchell was put in charge, there has been precious little slick passing, woeful exhibitions of ball control, far too little moving off the ball to create space. No wonder he has won only three times in 13 tries -- twice against St. Vincent and The Grenadines and once against Martinique, neither of which is exactly an international powerhouse. I know it is easy to blame the coach. But that comes with the job and this is a coach -- widely considered not to be the first choice for the position when he got it -- who has been unable to get the job done. I will say Canada looked a good deal better in a 2-2 tie with Mexico on Wednesday. But I put that down to individual players being determined not to be embarrassed again rather than a serious change in tactics. Tomasz Radzinski, the elder statesman in this squad, was particularly impressive. He ran, he worked, he found open space, he used his speed, he even cajoled his teammates as if he were the coach. This is a man who was dumped by Fulham last year and is now playing in Belgium. Any lower-end English Premier League team would be wise to give him a call. Back to Mitchell's woes. He says he will not offer his resignation even though serious cracks have begun to show in the dressing room. Long-time international Jim Brennan is refusing to play for his country again while Mitchell is in charge, and there has been an equally serious rift with one of our best -- attacking midfielder Dwayne de Rosario. The Houston star obviously can't abide the Mitchell method and, in return for his public criticism, he was left out off the squad for the Mexico game. My most powerful memory from this qualifying flop has been watching Julian de Guzman, a midfielder talented enough to be voted player of the year last season by his Spanish La Liga team Deportivo. The best midfielder ever to pull on a Canadian shirt became a picture of frustration. His job was to be the playmaker, the man who controlled the pace of play, the man who made the midfield tick. But time after time after time, he was left holding the ball under pressure with nobody to pass to, no colleague moving into the space that Capello talks about. Uncountable were the number of times he was forced to push the ball back, often as far as his goalkeeper. That is a fundamental flaw in any game plan, and it never changed. In theory, Canada has the most talented midfield in its history. De Guzman, Atiba Hutchinson and de Rosario are wonderful players. But they have to be able to work within a well-designed structure and Mitchell, I am sad to say, has failed to provide it. But we should not lay all the blame at his door. The Canadian Soccer Association must accept its share. Mitchell tells us he knows how little cash there is to go around for all the international teams the CSA is meant to be promoting. That may be. But we are all tiring of that argument. If there is insufficient money to get to where we want to, why does the CSA keep telling us the top priority is getting Canada to the World Cup finals? Having a wonderfully robust recreational soccer army in this country -- well into the 800,000s -- is one thing. Advancing the standard of the game is quite another. Here are a couple of suggestions. CSA general secretary Peter Montopoli is primarily a marketing man. He needs to use these considerable skills to find extra funding and then to steer it in the right. Canada will not progress without a coach with considerable international experience. If I asked Montopoli how much money there was for the right coach, he would rightly tell me if you have to spend the money to get the right results, that's what must be done. Former CSA boss Colin Linford tried that once before with Brazilian Rene Simoes and the association board turned its back. Simoes was subsequently hired and fired by Jamaica and replaced by John Barnes, former English international and Celtic coach. Here's a name of two I will throw out: - Glen Hoddle -- former England international and England coach; - Guus Hiddink -- presently with Russia, formerly with South Korea and Australia to name a few; - Gerard Houllier -- one-time Liverpool boss now with the French FA. These men may be expensive, but if you want to win you need the best, or as close as you possibly can to it. The only proviso is that the CSA board sits hands off the man. He is here to coach the team and only to coach the team. Do not, repeat not, embroil him in the internal politics. It's a killer. Richard Starnes' Beautiful Game column appears Saturdays. Send comments and suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org . or email@example.com . For daily soccer news go to Richard Starnes' blog at ottawacitizen.com. Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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