Between the Canadian women’s national team’s unprecedented bronze medal at the Olympics in London, to the men’s team’s utterly mortifying 8-1 loss and elimination from World Cup qualifying at the hands of Honduras, the Canadian Soccer Association’s centennial year could not have had more emotional contrast.
But as much as the women’s Olympic bronze was a resounding triumph, it was the men’s agonizing loss to Honduras that is more indicative of the state of the beautiful game in the Great White North.
As far as the development of soccer players is concerned, except for four professional clubs – Toronto FC, Vancouver Whitecaps, Montreal Impact and FC Edmonton – Canada has extremely little to offer. Without a professional soccer league that it can call its own, Canada’s success on the international stage will likely be intermittent at best.
The women’s team has had success, but only because women’s soccer is relatively new and largely underdeveloped worldwide. Without a league of its own, women’s soccer in Canada will eventually undergo the same sort of stagnation and disappointment that has plagued the vast majority of the men’s program’s one hundred years.
The creation of Canadian professional soccer leagues has to be the first priority for the long term.
In the short term, the Canadian men’s team still needs to compete. There’s already another Gold Cup to fight for next summer and the focus now for the CSA is to find a replacement for departed head coach Stephen Hart.
One candidate is former Montreal Impact boss Jesse Marsch, as sources told Goal.com last week that the Racine, Wisconsin native has formally expressed his desire with the CSA to become the next head coach of the Canadian national team.
And he would be a perfect fit.
Marsch’s experience as an assistant coach with the U.S. national team under Bob Bradley and familiarity with national team preparation and the ins and outs of U.S. soccer, along with his experience of coaching the Impact and his knowledge of the Canadian soccer landscape and awareness of its difficulties and hurdles, would make him a great asset.
Despite the challenges of leading an expansion side and being at the helm for the very first time, Marsch had a successful first season with the Impact, leading the team to one of the better seasons ever posted by an expansion side. Given the results he was able to attain and the many trials he was able to overcome, Marsch certainly deserved to stay on for another season. However, because of “differences in philosophy” Marsch and the Impact eventually “parted ways” after the season’s conclusion.
It’s unclear whether this seemingly premature decision to have Marsch leave the Impact after one season and replace him with what is expected to be a European coach will pay dividends or backfire, but the decision certainly created a shock wave of criticism in the Impact's world.
Marsch was a very popular figure amongst the fans and media for being exceptionally articulate and professional, but especially for having made a genuine attempt to learn French. Many coaches who come to Montreal promise to learn French upon their arrival, but never actually do so. Yet Marsch delivered on that front and in doing so he showed that he deeply cared about the city and its fans. He was always very respectful and honorable in his work.
Considering Canadian soccer’s current plight, perhaps making World Cup 2018 will be beyond this country, but at the very least, someone has to bring some fight back. The 8-1 loss and elimination in Honduras was gutless and shameful, and results like these desperately need to be avoided in the future.Anyone who has attended Impact games this season will have undoubtedly, at some point or another, been captivated by Marsch's routine during the singing of the national anthems. Standing alone and away from his bench, he would turn to the crowd and fix his gaze upon the Canadian flag in a soldier like stance.
Marsch’s charisma, hatred of losing, and fighting mentality is just what Canada is in desperate need of.
There is, and likely won’t be, a more suitable candidate available.