Herd­man aim­ing to build win­ning cul­ture

Cana­dian men’s soc­cer coach strives to ‘deepen the mean­ing of what we’re do­ing’

Windsor Star - - SPORTS - NEIL DAVID­SON

While he works on build­ing a win­ning team on the pitch, Cana­dian men’s soc­cer coach John Herd­man is also look­ing to knit his play­ers to­gether off it.

In the buildup to Tues­day’s CON­CA­CAF Na­tions League qual­i­fy­ing match against Do­minica at Toronto’s BMO Field, Herd­man had as­sis­tant coaches Ja­son deVos, cap­tain of Canada’s vic­to­ri­ous 2000 Gold Cup team, and Paul Dolan, a mem­ber of Canada’s lone World Cup team from 1986, speak on “the mean­ing of the shirt.” He had of­fi­cials from the mil­i­tary speak to the play­ers “about the im­por­tance of their uni­form and the code of their uni­form.” Herd­man also brought out a 1968 na­tional team jer­sey, from the first year the Cana­di­ans switched to their now iconic red from the pre­vi­ous blue.

“We’re start­ing to lay a real solid cul­tural foun­da­tion and open some things up that the play­ers may not have been ex­posed to be­fore,” Herd­man said Fri­day. “We know we have to deepen their mean­ing of what we’re do­ing and why we’re do­ing it.” Cana­dian MMA fighter Elias Theodorou, ranked 13th among UFC mid­dleweight con­tenders, has also been lined up to speak to the play­ers.

At the team’s train­ing base north of Toronto in Al­lis­ton, the play­ers have a so-called per­for­mance room, com­plete with work sta­tions and tablets so they can study train­ing ses­sions and tac­tics.

Given the list of Canada coaches since 2000 in­cludes Hol­ger Osieck, Colin Miller, Frank Yal­lop, Stephen Hart, Tony Fon­seca, Ben­ito Floro, Michael Find­lay, Oc­tavio Zam­brano and Herd­man, it is no won­der that the Cana­dian team cul­ture has been less than solid. Canada, ranked No. 79 in the world com­pared to No. 177 for Do­minica, opened its CON­CA­CAF Na­tions League qual­i­fy­ing play with an 8-0 win over the No. 201 U.S. Vir­gin Is­lands. Do­minica tied No. 153 Suri­name 0-0 in its opener.

The Cana­dian ros­ter in­cludes teenagers Jonathan David (KAA Gent, Bel­gium) Alphonso Davies (Van­cou­ver White­caps, bound for Bay­ern Mu­nich), Alessan­dro Busti (Ju­ven­tus re­serves), Liam Mil­lar (Liver­pool FC un­der-23), Zachary Brault-Guil­lard (Olympique Ly­on­nais) and first­time call-up Bal­lou Tabla (FC Barcelona B team).

The Do­minica con­test is one of four qual­i­fy­ing games that serve as an ap­pe­tizer for the 2019 de­but of a com­pe­ti­tion show­cas­ing teams from North and Cen­tral Amer­ica and the Car­ib­bean. The tour­na­ments are seen as a way to move away from mean­ing­less friendly matches and to en­sure all con­fed­er­a­tion mem­bers get mean­ing­ful games.

John Herd­man

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