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.
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.