Rudi Schuller: CSA shows ambition with Floro hiring

The Canadian Soccer Association stepped outside of its comfort zone when it hired Spaniard Benito Floro to helm the men's national team, which is a good thing.
It may have taken nine months, but the Canadian Soccer Association has responded resoundingly to that awful 8-1 loss in Honduras.

The keepers of the game in our fair country have come under fire for not swiftly replacing Stephen Hart, the ill-fated head coach of last year's World Cup qualfying failure who nobly fell on his sword within days of the national team's worst defeat in decades.

In the meantime, loyal soldier Colin Miller, who first served as an interim bench boss for his nation back in 2004, once again took the reins on a temporary basis, further bringing the CSA into criticism for continuing on with the "old boys network" that has ostensibly run (and ruined) the game for nearly a generation.

For its part, the CSA maintained throughout that it would take its time to find the "right" candidate to take over a men's national team program in shambles and without any real sense of direction. Impatient fans and observers took the Association's steadfast stance as evidence that not much has changed in the upper echelons of the domestic game despite a howling need for a shake-up.

On Thursday, that shake-up was teased through leaks and Twitter posts, and on Friday the CSA announced that it had hired former Real Madrid boss Benito Floro as the new head coach for its men's national team.

To say that Floro's hiring is a deprature for the spendthrift CSA is a massive understatement. In fact, this is about as radical a step that the Association could reasonably be expected to take,

No, Floro isn't Jose Mourinho or Guus Hiddink, but within the realm of a team that is consistently ranked alongside the likes of Gabon and Estonia, it's just about the most glamourous "get" that Canada could hope for.

But will glamour translate to success?

That is the million dollar question, and one that can't be answered for a number of years.

In the meantime, what Floro's pedigree does is signal to the world -- and more importantly to the domestic soccer community -- that Canada is taking itself seriously. With all due respect to Miller and to Hart, a charismatic and charming man who always took the time to accomodate this writer, Floro's CV is one much more befitting of a national team's manager.

Much has been made of Floro's stint as Real Madrid boss in the early 90's, along with his stops at Villarreal and Monterrey, but the real benefit of those previous gigs is that the 61-year-old should be able to command instant respect.

Appearances are everything in a first impression, and at first glance Canada is finally a serious soccer nation. If you don't think something like that is important, consider whether the likes of Jonathan de Guzman or Asmir Begovic would have given more thought to representing the Maple Leaf if they knew that the gaffer cut his coaching teeth in the hostile confines of Camp Nou and Estadio Azteca.

Every little bit helps.

The reality is that no one knows how successful Floro's tenure will be. The Spaniard comes with big promise and big question marks -- this is a man who's never helmed a national side and seems to shift around from team to team a little too frequently for a program seeking stability.

He's also got very little experience within CONCACAF, and any longtime observer of the sport in this region can give you a laundry list of quirks that make this confederation a unique challenge.

But one thing that's for certain is that the CSA has shown that it is finally ready to give its men's program all the tools needed for success. For the first time in a long time -- maybe ever -- the message is that the CSA is ready to truly go for it.

With big risks come big possible rewards.

It's an exciting time to be a fan of Canadian soccer.