ALSO ON SLAM!
Monday, July 24, 2000
Don't blame the coach
Holger Osieck, meet Harry Neale.
Being from Germany and all, and so deeply into soccer you probably haven't had time or inclination to watch Harry on Hockey Night in Canada. But being coach of Canada's national soccer team, you might appreciate his most famous quote.
Harry was coaching the Vancouver Canucks, who kept finding ever more ingenious paths to defeat. Harry summed it up this way:
"We can't win at home, and we can't win on the road. My failure as a coach is that I can't think of anywhere else to play."
Strike a chord, does it, Holger?
In their last four matches, your lads have scored one goal. It came against Cuba, a team so deep down in world rankings only well-diggers can watch.
Yesterday, one week after losing 2-0 at home to Trinidad and Tobago, they played to a scoreless draw in Panama, in effect jumping into the hole they dug at home and pulling the dirt in after them.
Yes, it is mathematically possible that they can still finish in the top two in their group and advance to the next round of World Cup qualifying in CONCACAF, the FIFA division you pronounce like you've got a chicken bone lodged in your throat.
All they have to do is win in Port of Spain, where T&T stunned Mexico 1-0 yesterday; win in Azteca Stadium in Mexico City, where the Mexicans lose games about as often as the ruling party loses elections; and beat Mexico and Panama in Canada.
Problem is, winning even one of those matches will require the scoring of a goal. You know: dent the twine, put the ball into the back of the old onion bag, out-guess the keeper?
And, given that Panama is supposed to be the weak sister of this group and your offence looked like it couldn't put a ball into the ocean dropping it from a rowboat, the possibilities seem, well, remote.
Which raises some interesting questions, not the least of which concerns your very self.
When Soccer Canada axed Bob Lenarduzzi for not qualifying for the last World Cup, you were brought in and given more or less carte blanche to rebuild the program. But if Canada is eliminated in this round it will be three years before there's anything meaningful to pursue.
Would you really be prepared to hang around that long in a country that has no domestic professional league and has to scatter its players to the four winds, then haul them back for international matches?
If a job offer comes from Germany or any country where the game is more than an afterthought, could you ignore it?
Your best scoring threat, Carlo Corazzin, and your best defender, Mark Watson, face that dilemma now. They've both got solid offers in Europe -- if they agree to step out of the national program and concentrate on their careers.
Corazzin is 28, Watson 30. They love the national team and they've served it well. But these are make-or-break career moves. Will they toss them away if the World Cup dream is on hold for another four years? Should they?
That 15-game unbeaten streak and the Gold Cup win were good building blocks, but they were a tad overblown. Only a coin flip got them into the Gold Cup playoffs, and there's still no pure scorer here or on the horizon.
In reality the national program is no further ahead now than it was with Lenarduzzi. Not your fault, as it wasn't his. You can't wave a wand and get a scorer. And until you do, no matter who coaches, the program is hooped.