Benito Floro

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Canada parts ways with manager Benito Floro; What’s next?

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Benito Floro is the latest Canadian national team coach to leave the job without a trip to the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.

The ex-Real Madrid, Villarreal, and Monterrey coach came close. Very close. Ultimately, though, the 64-year-old Spaniard found his fate the same as Stephen Hart, Dale Mitchell, and Frank Yallop beforehand.

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The thing about Floro’s failure, though, is that it feels entirely salvageable. Canada missed the Hex by one point in the toughest group to escape, with Mexico and Honduras. You could argue that if their Pot B groupmate was Panama or Trinidad and Tobago, they’re in the Hex now.

Mostly, what killed Canada is Floro’s insistence on a lone target striker when he really didn’t have that horse in his stable.

CARSON, CA - FEBRUARY 5: Mix Diskerud #10 of the United States controls the ball against Cyle Larin #9 of Canada during the first half of their international friendly soccer match at StubHub Center February 5, 2016, in Carson, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Larin (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Cyle Larin is a fantastic young talent, but didn’t have the facilitators with his national team to be left alone. There’s neither Kaka nor Matias Perez Garcia, as he has in Orlando. There’s Tesho Akindele, another striker, and Tosaint Ricketts.

Larin and Akindele aren’t the only ones who will be sticking around when Canada is, hopefully, staring at the Hex in four years time. Rangers defender Fraser Aird will be 25, and promising fellow Vancouver youngsters Kianz Froese and Marco Bustos will be 24. Doneil Henry, Manjrekar James, Samuel Piette… all could be in frame. Richie Laryea was the No. 7 MLS Draft pick in 2016. Not all will hit, but surely some.

The Vancouver Whitecaps have one of the better Academy set-ups in North America, and both Toronto FC and Montreal aren’t too far behind.

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Additionally, the caliber of players who are shining in NCAA Soccer but not finding the right professional home is a shame. Not that college should be be Goal 1A of talented Canadians, but those who wind up there need to take the next step in the right way.

Better post-college advisement of promising players like Kwame Awuah (UConn), Brian Wright (Vermont), Alex Comsia (UNC), Kamal Miller and Sergio Camargo (both Syracuse) should be a priority, too (They also need to sort out their plans for competing in America’s fourth-tier, but youth clubs have power in money).

So who needs to run the national team? This time, it needs to be a versatile tactical mind. Here’s Canada FA president Victor Montagliani (who is also the newish CONCACAF president).

“The reality of our situation is we do have domestic candidates but we also have to look elsewhere as well — as we have in the past, as we have in the present and as we will in the future. I don’t think we’re excluding anybody and specifically our own.”

The goal “is to build on the good things that have happened.”

What’s the best thing Canada could do? Don’t blow it up, and hire a man who’s done this job before, at this level. I’m not saying you have to land a CONCACAF hero like Miguel Herrera or Bruce Arena, but find a man who can put the right players in the right positions to win, is versatile enough to outfox a peer time-and-again, and go forward.

Either that, or hire a legend from a major European country who can convince anyone with any Canadian blood in him to come home. I’m saying, it’s been done.

Canada’s draw with Costa Rica shows its promise, but Floro sacrificed the Gold Cup for his long-term vision

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TORONTO, Canada — Is it possible that Benito Floro got it wrong at the Gold Cup, but is getting it right on the whole?

That has to be the hope of Canadian soccer fans, who watched their nation complete a second consecutive goalless Gold Cup on Tuesday after a 0-0 draw against Costa Rica at BMO Field.

Make no mistake about it: Canada is moving forward under Floro, the former Real Madrid, Monterrey and Villarreal boss. But in sticking to his systematic guns, the manager cost his team its chance at the knockout rounds.

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“Throughout the 90 minutes, we probably did deserve the win,” said Canada captain David Edgar, the Birmingham City man who is absolutely what a team like Toronto FC needs, by the way.

“It’s tough to take, again, not scoring. But from the defensive point of view, we’ve not conceded again and to teams that are ranked higher than us… It’s a draw against Costa Rica. They are a great team and we are moving forward and we want the fans to know that.”

Canada, honestly, was better than Costa Rica in a match where both teams needed the result, but it also needed a goal. Any win puts them through, and you need goals to do that. A 0-0 draw sends them home, but a 1-1, 2-2 or 3-3 draw gets them anything from elimination to a possible coin toss to straight through (depends how Group C plays out).

Floro bristled at the suggestion that Canada was a defensive team, and took umbrage with the theory — admittedly proffered by me — that he could’ve stood to risk more given the strength of Edgar and Sporting KC’s Marcel de Jong in the back.

“In our second half we changed our style of play to 50/50 because we need to finish the game because it’s not enough to dominate and to win clearly against Costa Rica, but this is not our style,” Floro said.

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That might not be that style, but playing that style scared the you know what out of Costa Rica, especially once Russell Teibert entered the game and electrified Canada’s attack. In fact, Teibert played like the No. 10 Floro maintains he doesn’t have.

“I hope you understand me, don’t think I am opposite of your opinion,” Floro said. “What matters is how many chances do you have with a formation. How many do you not have?”

He asked why we didn’t call Jamaica, Costa Rica or El Salvador “defensive” for scoring 0 or 1 goal against his side. And that’s easy: because Jamaica scored in every game.

“We need to help, to support our players because it is very important for us to have a good feeling in how we’re working hard,” Floro said. “We played all our games with no fear.”

And that’s right, but do you think they understand that they’ve sacrificed their Gold Cup for a long-term goal that could still elude them? Floro said Canada needs to add a first and second division of just Canadian teams, and that its youth teams all play the same style.

source: Getty Images
Haber. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

Canada’s Gold Cup is over, prematurely, some might say. Floro rightly pointed to absences, which is also correct. Will Johnson, Atiba Hutchinson and Doneil Henry almost certainly flip the script on one of these matches.

Knowing that, it makes it even harder to stomach Floro’s lack of risk. Costa Rica coach Paulo Wanchope said he knew Canada would play direct to its No. 9 (Marcus Haber) and Floro kept it loyal. Canada’s tournament ended with Tesho Akindele on the bench, and both Teibert and Cyle Larin getting just over 20 minutes each to make an impact. Any one of them running off of Haber for even 45 minutes could’ve been the tipping point.

Even the anti-Jurgen Klinsmann crowd recognizes the coach’s willingness to take breaks from his long-term possession and flair-based vision in order to grab a result at a meaningful moment. This was one of those moments, and Floro wouldn’t deviate.

So there’s no reason to think Floro’s ideas won’t work long-term, but in the short-term there’s reason to wonder why he didn’t adapt when the tournament demanded it.

FC Dallas’ striker Akindele plans to decide between Canada, USMNT by Gold Cup

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Tesho Akindele’s 2015 is picking up where 2014 left off, as the FC Dallas youngster continues to impress after his Rookie of the Year campaign last year.

Akindele, 23, was a first round pick out of the Colorado School of Mines, where he set the school record for goals with 76. He was also born in Calgary, Alberta, and was raised in Thornton, Colorado, giving him the opportunity to represent either the United States or Canada at the international level.

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Canada coach Benito Floro recently said that he’s “99.9 percent sure” Akindele is going to choose his side.

But the youngster, who has 2 goals and 1 assist in six FCD matches this year, said that he hasn’t decided. He participated in January camp for the U.S., and said he’ll decide in time for the Gold Cup.

From MLSSoccer.com:

“I’ve been in contact with [Canada] lately, so that’s about it,” said Akindele, who has two goals and one assist in six appearances this year. “There’s a lot of big stuff coming up for everybody with the Gold Cup, so I think by then it will be finalized.”

Akindele has spoken with the US staff since the January camp, where he felt he fit in well on the field.

“I talked with them a couple of months ago,” he explained. “I told them I just wasn’t sure, that I would talk with them later.”

The use of the Gold Cup as a timeline would seem to tip the scales for Canada. Jurgen Klinsmann is likely to pick a strong squad for this summer’s tournament, and Akindele has a far better chance of making Canada’s roster than the States.

Canada’s corps of strikers includes Caleb Clarke (Vancouver), Cyle Larin (Orlando City), Tosaint Ricketts (Hapoel Haifa) and Marcus Haber (Crewe Alexandra).

Canada’s Floro: 2015 Gold Cup goal is at least the semifinal

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Canada is still winless since 2012 after picking up another draw on Tuesday, this time 1-1 against Moldova in Austria (Tosaint Ricketts scored).

The Canadian team tied Bulgaria by the same score on Friday, a goal from Atiba Hutchinson ending a 958-minute goal scoring drought.

Yet even before failing to find the win column again, and with a FIFA ranking of just 110, head coach Benito Floro has been very forthright with his expectations for the nation going into its next big competition: next summer’s Gold Cup.

Here’s what Floro said the plans would be for the team once the pair of friendlies concluded:

Adding that from that point forwards the staff, and team will be “focused on the Gold Cup and to prepare the team to qualify for the semi-final and final.”

An ambitious goal, it has to be said. But for a man of Floro’s credentials in the football world, it comes as no surprise that he backs himself to succeed.

Creditable CV or not, for a Men’s National Team that has failed to get out of its group in either of the last two tournaments, and that failed to score a goal from open play in either of those editions of the confederation championship – the guarantee of a final-four finish in 2015 will likely come across to Canadian supporters as quite the statement to be making at this point.

Canada’s last win came in a 3-0 defeat of Cuba in October 2012, so a semifinal would be quite the accomplishment. The nation last found the semis in 2007, and went out in the quarterfinals (2009) before back-to-back group stage failures.

But Floro knows he needs to aim high for a nation that hasn’t seen the World Cup since 1986, when it went 0-3. And if that means raising expectations beyond what may seem reasonable, there are worse things he can do.

19-year-old Rangers midfielder to choose Canada over Scotland

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It looks like all Benito Floro needs to do is offer a full cap to Rangers midfielder Fraser Aird to ensure the 19-year-old’s future is Canadian.

Born in Toronto but much-desired for Scotland’s upcoming U-19 tournament,  The Daily Record said Aird is thinking Canada as he waits for Floro’s call ahead of next month’s friendlies against Moldova and Bulgaria:

“I’m waiting to find out if I’m 
named in the squad. It hasn’t been announced but if I’m in it then it will be a big honour for me to be involved with the first team.

“I need to speak to the gaffer and decide what is best for me. I’ve done well here but the biggest achievement you can have in your career is playing for your country.

“I just need to wait and see what happens with the squad.”

The midfielder has scored six times for Rangers in Scotland’s third-tier as they’ve continued their rise back towards the top flight after a banishment to the lower levels. Rangers will play next season in the Championship. Ally McCoist has pushed him in the direction of Scotland, apparently to no avail.