What do the Seattle Seahawks and Canadian Women's Soccer team have in common? More than you might think.
They toil for two very different teams but when John Herdman met Pete Carroll, they had a lot to talk about
After a disappointing sixth place finish in the World Cup — largely due his team's inability to score — head coach John Herdman had questions than needed answering.
How could he get more out of his team, especially on offense? And what could he be doing differently?
"I knew after the World Cup I had some deep reflection to do," said Herdman, speaking on the sidelines of the pitch at the Fortius Centre in Burnaby where Team Canada is currently training.
The soul searching led to a surprising place — the office of Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll. The meeting was brokered by chiropractor Gerry Ramogida, who happens to work with both teams.
At first glance a 64-year-old American coach of highly paid male football athletes and a 40-year-old Brit coach of mostly amateur female Canadian soccer players might not appear to have a lot in common.
But there was one touchstone between the two men.
Both were coming off heartbreaking losses — Carroll in the Superbowl XLIX, and Herdman in the World Cup quarterfinals.
He was just like your dad
And both were in the midst of plotting a bounce back.
"He had one hell of a loss in the Superbowl final," said Herdman. "You have to surround yourself with people who've experienced things like that, who can ask the hard questions."
While in Seattle Herdman observed how the Seahawks design and coach special teams. He was intrigued by the parallels between the set plays he was running — not so successfully by his own admission.
And then he and Carroll's got to talking.
"He was fantastic," enthused Herdman. "He was just like your dad, relaxed, sharing his wisdom."
Herdman says Carroll helped bring clarity to the one big roster issue he was struggling most with most.
Give the rookies a chance
"One of the dilemmas in my mind was do you stick with experience, with what you know? Or do you give more players opportunity?" said Herdman. "And he said, look, you've got to give the rookies a chance."
"He sort of pointed us in that direction and now you're seeing some of the fruits of that labour."
Sure enough the youth movement has taken hold of the National Team. There are currently five teenagers in camp, including three barely old enough to drive. Midfielders Jessie Fleming and Deanne Rose are 16, as is fullback Kennedy Faulknor.
Half of the players in camp — 11 out of 22 — are age 23 or younger.
Herdman's endgame isn't just about encouraging the youth. It's about finding a mix of players who gives the team more offensive flair.
For too long captain Christine Sinclair has been the only consistent goal scoring threat for Canada, and the lack of balance has been a problem.
"As a team gets more dangerous, with more players being able to put the ball in the back of the net, it takes the pressure off myself and it makes other teams focus on other players," said Sinclair. "Hopefully it may open me up some more."
The final roster for Team Canada's CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament in Texas next month will be announced Feb. 25.
A first or second place finish at CONCACAF, which is likely, puts Canada through to the Rio Olympics.
Canada won't be a medal favourite at the Olympics, with a current world ranking of 11th. But if Herdman's gamble pays off, the team might find itself in a position to defend the surprising bronze won in London in 2012.
And Pete Carroll might find a thank you card in his mail.