Canadian Corner: Putting the Gold Cup success in perspective

CanadaGold Cup (Reuters) 


Discerning Canadian soccer fans can be forgiven for being a tad bit ambivalent about the Canadian national team’s success during the preliminary round of the Gold Cup.
We’ve seen the movie before after all. A plucky Canuck team surprises the critics (and terrifies the bookies) by playing attractive, winning football at the CONCACAF championships. It leads some neutral observers to suggest that the country may be poised to make a long awaited breakthrough.
In 2000, the Canadians actually went out and won the whole thing. Two years ago Canada was the talk of the tournament and who knows what would have happened if Atiba Hutchinson’s extra time goal was allowed to stand in the semi-final against the U.S. (as it should have).
But every Canadian fan knows that there is a second part to the movie.

There Canada crashes back to earth and fails to make a significant impact in the region’s World Cup qualifying campaign. In 2000, then head coach Holger Oisek cautioned Canadians about the pitfalls of pre-booking their tickets to Germany.
“This is the Canadian World Cup team, not the Canadian Gold Cup team,” he said after the historic win over Colombia. “We haven’t achieved our goal yet.” That goal was never to be achieved.
Two years ago, Canadians tried to stay positive as interim head coach Stephen Hart handed the keys to Dale Mitchell, the man who somehow managed to lead a host team to a scoreless exit from the FIFA u-20s the previous summer.
Two points from a possible 18 in qualifying was worse than anyone would have imagined. Another cycle was wasted. More promise was wasted.
So as we sit here today watching a Hart lead team (some posters on the Voyageurs supporter group’s web page are trying to hang the nickname “the Hart Foundation” on the team – at least partially in an effort to get Hart to stick with the team) surprise, we do so with a more cynical viewpoint. It’s hard to get the stench of the failed ’10 World Cup campaign off after all.
Even if Canada were to win this strange version of the Cup what would it mean? We understand that the top teams are, to be charitable, using experimental line-ups. We know all too well that the dream of a World Cup spot is gone for another four years. Logically, we know that we’re not really supposed to care about this Gold Cup.
But yet when the games start the emotions take over. We are fans and we want to win. We want to see proof that this team was good enough to qualify. We need a little bit of hope to get us through the next couple years.  
In the end it doesn’t much matter what Canada does in this Gold Cup. With the pressure almost non-existent and the comfort of playing the tournament in the US, the Gold Cup isn’t much of a predictor of World Cup success – at least when it comes to Canada. Wins this week will have no affect on how Canada does in 2012 when this whole roller-coaster ride starts again.
Except for maybe one thing. Success here could convince Hart to stay on full time. The players seem to want to play for him and, even though he lacks name brand appeal, he does something that no other Canadian coach has consistently been able to pull off.  He wins. Whether he could continue to do so without the interim tag remains to be seen, but it is pretty clear that he deserves the chance to find out.


Duane Rollins is SBI's Canadian Soccer and Toronto FC correspondent and is creator of the Canadian soccer site The 24th Minute.

  • mexicanbluefish

    I feel bad that no one has commented yet on Canada’s sensational page-turning story of…

    Oh Canada.


  • Felix

    The Canadian national team is one of the bigger enigmas in international soccer in my opinion. It’s not a team stocked full of world class talent, but it has alot of good players who are based in Europe. And how they time and again look so pedestrian in WCQ is beyond me. I know the go-to reasons for their inconsistency, but it just never makes sense to me.

    A good Canadian team making waves in a actual World Cup would be good for CONCACAF.


  • Thomas513

    Duane – always enjoy reading your work here and on the 24th minute. I am lucky enough to get CBC and that allows me some opportunity to follow Canadian football. Good luck on saturday.


  • BellusLudas

    What makes CONCACAF more competitive, makes US more competitive. Therefore, I am all for our Northern Neighbors raising the bar.

    I think it may also be possible that a good Gold Cup showing could encourage Canadian financial support of the youth development programs that have for so long been needed.


  • Will

    Agreed, let’s hope Hart stays. There’s still a place at the next Confederation Cup on the line, no?


  • rlw2020

    i hope canada can build on this. it is great seeing packed stadiums and all the buzz in toronto, montreal and vancouver.

    for the US having a non-hispanic rival in concacaf would be great too. some day…


  • MensreaJim

    As a Can-Am I would love to see them do well, especially since I am not confident that our present team can handle 3 tough games in a row. As long as it’s not Guadeloupe.

    And of course, a stronger CMNT would be great for the region and for us.


  • gerald

    The winner this year does not get a confed spot, that’s for the 2011 winner


  • Will

    No confed cup either? Pride it is then. De Guzman’s agent asked to have until the end of the Gold Cup to decide. He is still taking offers from Europe. I don’t think anyone will match TFC’s offer, but anything close to that and he will go back to Spain.


  • michael

    I don’t know what it says if Canada wins the Gold Cup if they can’t even get into the hexagonal, because for me that is more important of a step than this tournament. USA and Mexico didn’t send their proven players and Costa Rica isn’t as good on grass as they are on grass-mat, so where does that leave Canada?

    Qualify for a World Cup and we can talk. On paper, they should.


  • John

    There are so many behind the scenes reasons for Canada’s failed WCQ attempts. Namely the

    CSA. I also have to blame some players. The just don’t put the effort in playing those important games.

    I always have hope when we start WCQ, but then the team plays so poorly it’s demoralizing to us loyal fans. It’s like some of the players don’t care.


  • JoeW

    1. A win of the Gold Cup is a win of a FIFA-sanctioned tournament at the senior level. No matter who you are, that’s a good thing. Now, it may not be the Confed Cup or especially the WC. But it still matters and it’s nothing to get cynical about.

    2. I would argue that part of the reason Canada has often done well at this tournament helps you understand whey they’ve been so disappointing in WC qualifying. So many key players are in Europe, until recently their domestic talent didn’t face particularly good competition, the Canadian Association has always been poorly organized and stingy. So for WCQ, teams come together without the opportunity to train like some of the US teams 10 years ago (think of a 2-3 week residency camp in some cases), from different teams and playing styles, not enough depth to offset an injury to 1 or 2 key starters. And so they go on the road and stink it up. But with the Gold Cup, they get two-three weeks together of playing and practice, it’s in the Euro offseason so no excuse for not showing up and the injured get healthy. Plus it’s in the USA which means no hard road games (not like Costa Rica, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Jamaica or especially Mexico).

    Canada is a team that benefits from having some time together (because they otherwise often aren’t very cohesive and don’t have 1-2-3 offensive players who can carry the team if they’ve got an off-game–which often explains why Canada may not make it out of the first round and into the Hex in WCQ by losing to teams they shouldn’t).


  • Aljarov

    The other thing this tournament can do is help ensure better seeding for Canada ahead of future draws. After all, Canada has been badly burned in that department many times lately.


  • JCC

    If Hart stays on, I see Canada’s chances of qualifying for the 2012 World Cup go up. I think Hart is the right man for the job and hopefully he stays, if the CSA doesn’t screw it up. The fact that he’s had Canada playing attractive and effective soccer in two consecutive Gold Cups proves that Hart brings out the best in his players. Also with Toronto and Vancouver in MLS, it gives younger Canadians more options for a career in professional soccer at home.


  • TO

    I think if we can get three MLS teams and 4 or 5 more USL teams then we can keep a good nucleus of players on this continent and hopefully that will give us the depth to grab that 3rd world cup spot from time to time. Canadian players going to Europe to play on second or third tier leagues makes it very difficult to formulate any kind of familiarity and team atmosphere. MLS has to raise the salary cap so that Canadian players will stay here for the money and better competition.


  • Cody

    I love reading all of Duane’s stuff about Canadian soccer. It makes me feel so much better about the situation in the USA.


  • Tony

    I really hope Canada can become a force in CONCACAF. I don’t have any ties to the nation but having better (and more consistent) competition can only do the US good when we venture out against the rest of the world. Plus, better talent coming out of Canada should (in theory) help the quality of MLS. So come on Canucks, pull it together!


  • Peretz48

    While I’m not Canadian, I have Can-Am friends. They are so disgusted with the CSA. The lack of organization and continuity is the primary reason for Canada’s failures. If they ever get their act together, watch out. With Toronto in, Vancouver to follow, and probably Montreal after that, there will be three Canadian MLS franchises. While it’s certainly nowhere near the number of U.S. teams, it’s sufficient to establish a working group of depth players to compliment the frontline Euro contingent. Plus I’m sure the youth programs in those clubs will help raise the level for all youth programs, and in so doing produce a more consistent stream of competitive players for the pro ranks. Keeping Hart on long-term will provide some much needed stability for the national team. Now, if they can just bring in some savvier people into the CSA the gloom will start to dissipate. Short term there will be some problems, but long-term the situation looks much brighter.


  • Dudinho

    Hire Bruce Arena like we did in 98 hell play to your strengths and defend like crazy on the road get someone who knows how to win in concacaf and you’ll make it to. maybe even bob bradley when we let him go.


  • Mr. Derp

    Duane, before you start the conspiracy theories about Atiba’s goal-that-should-have-been, don’t ignore that in the 1st half, Canada also got a favor with the deliberate-handball-that-should-have-been.


  • John

    Mr. Derp,

    If you really want to nit pick then Bocanegra should’ve been sent off for the two footed studs up late challenge on De Guzman.


  • M

    Mr. Derp,

    If you really want to nit pick then Bocanegra should’ve been sent off for the two footed studs up late challenge on De Guzman.

    And DeRo should have been sent off for a deliberate head butt to a US Player


  • squizz

    If qualifying for the World Cup is all that matters, then consider the bump in ranking we’d receive from doing well in the Gold Cup (considering that the points are weighted especially heavily in this tourney, as opposed to friendlies).

    And consider that, had we been ranked higher leading into the draw for Stage 2/3 of 2010 qualifying, we could have avoided the group of death, and potentially made it to the hex.

    Sure, there’s no immediate payoff to winning the Gold Cup (other than, as another poster wrote, having won a top-level FIFA tournament). But the long-term impact would be immense. So even if the World Cup is the only prize that matters, writing off the Gold Cup entirely is just silly.


  • Scott A

    Mr. Derp,

    If you really want to nit pick then Bocanegra should’ve been sent off for the two footed studs up late challenge on De Guzman.

    And DeRo should have been sent off for a deliberate head butt to a US Player
    Game, set


  • Duane Rollins

    I can’t believe no one has pointed out my error…Asia…in 2000 we would have been pre-booking tickets to Asia, not Germany.

    That’s why you shouldn’t write at 1 a.m.

    RE: the disallowed goal in ’07

    No conspiracy theories, it was just poor officiating (shocking in CONCACAF, I know). You do have to admit that it was an odd call though considering the Canadian wasn’t actually in an off-side position when the ball was played either time and it clearly went off the US player. But, anyway. They still would have had to score another one or win the PKs. The better US comeback here though is the fact that Canada crapped the bed for the first 60 minutes of that game. Had they played just a little bit better off the top the disallowed goal may not have mattered.


  • Jammer

    It’s hard to celebrate when you aren’t going to the World Cup. But the gold cup is the next biggest tournament for North American teams, why would you say that people are not supposed to care about it? That is a crappy attitude. And unlike the world cup, this is one you actually have a chance to be the champion.


  • Rick

    Canada has an excellent chance to get through this game the victors. They have already shown and laid down the framework and formula for success, they just need to see it through again Saturday night and play to the level we saw in 2007.


  • alex

    Peretz48 , you pretty much said it all. I can only hope that with a couple of MLS teams hopefully showing up in the future, the CSA will have nowhere to hide and the heat will be on.

    As it stands they already suffered through loads of bad press in the last cycle.


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