Canadian men's soccer team has loads of fresh talent | Soccer | CBC Sports

SoccerCanadian men's soccer team has loads of fresh talent

Posted: Friday, January 18, 2013 | 07:38 PM

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Simeon Jackson, right, and his Canadian teammates suffered a humiliating 8-1 loss to Honduras last October. (Esteban Felix/Associated Press) Simeon Jackson, right, and his Canadian teammates suffered a humiliating 8-1 loss to Honduras last October. (Esteban Felix/Associated Press)

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Four months after a humiliating loss to Honduras in World Cup qualifying, and not a moment too soon, Canada is turning the page. There's a new man at the helm, albeit temporarily, and a plethora of fresh talent which is being thrown in at the deep end and expected to stay afloat. 
The future starts right here.

At times it will be uncomfortable. It may even verge on the embarrassing but it has to begin somewhere. 

There can be no turning back. What's done is done. The year 2013 should have been when Canada was in contention for a place at the World Cup. It should have been contesting the hex for the first time in a generation. It was but a single point away.

Four months after the humiliation in Honduras, and not a moment too soon, Canada is turning the page. There's a new man at the helm, albeit temporarily, and a plethora of fresh talent which is being thrown in at the deep end and expected to stay afloat. 

Colin Miller wasn't expecting the call. The former Canadian international had just agreed to take charge of second-tier FC Edmonton when the Canadian Soccer Association inquired as to his availability to coach the national team on a short-term basis.

Soccer is like that. 

"It's like a Scottish bus," Miller tells me, "you wait for hours - then two come along at once".

The former Rangers man has been this way before. He took over on an interim basis nearly ten years ago following the departure of Holger Osieck and before the appointment of Frank Yallop.

Once again his time is likely to be short. Miller will take command for the upcoming friendlies against Denmark and the U.S. Canada will also meet Japan in the Middle East in March but coaching duties have yet to be assigned. Despite the initial brevity of his appointment, Miller may have a significant impact on the shape of things to come.

Necessary experience

He has resisted the urge to throw the baby out with the bathwater - but only just. Miller's 22-man roster features only four players who saw action in last year's ill fated World Cup qualifiers. They represent the necessary experience if not exactly the spine of the team going forward. In contrast, 10 players have yet to earn senior international honours.

Dwayne De Rosario will turn 35 this spring as part of a squad whose average age is a full 10 years his junior. He has been and remains a talented competitor, a respected opponent and a fiercely loyal ambassador for Canadian international soccer.

But his time, as a player, is running short. We know it, he knows it and so does Miller. Part of the process, beginning with this camp and these games, is to try and identify his successor. Goal- scoring playmakers do not grow on trees - they are a rare commodity and the fact is Canada may not currently possess the next DeRo.  

In the meantime, De Rosario must play for himself and the future. Part of his responsibility is to mentor the next generation and teach them the ropes. The world of international soccer is a big leap from the club scene and young players need all the help they can get, particularly from those who have 'been there and done that'. 

In a similar fashion the likes of goalkeeper Lars Hirschfeld, midfielder Terry Dunfield and perhaps striker Tosaint Ricketts can assist the transition. Miller expects the newcomers to be "very hungry" but he will also know the veterans will be equally keen to impress and cement their places ahead of this summer's Gold Cup.

Competition for places is always welcome. But it must be genuine competition. The only way to tell if these youngsters are as good as they look is to give them an opportunity. By definition they are raw at this level and mistakes will happen. That is acceptable so long as they learn their lessons and develop accordingly.

Plausible future

Miller is not trying to reinvent the wheel. What he is trying to do is lay out a plausible future vision for his eventual successor. Anything other than back-to-back defeats against the Danes and the Americans may be seen as mildly encouraging.

The results, in one sense, will not matter. There are no trophies to be lifted or points to be won but the outcome should not be dismissed as meaningless. This will be a testing ground for the Canada of tomorrow at which international careers will be launched.

Not all will succeed. That's the nature of the business. But if just one or two overcome the nerves and achieve a passing grade before the month is out, Miller's time will not have been wasted.

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