The Canadian Soccer Association decided to terminate his contract with immediate effect in order to, in the words of President Dominic Maestracci, "move the program in a new direction."
The question is, will we go in the right direction?
Canada ranked No. 94
I suppose you could argue that the only direction we can go is up, as Canada has slipped to No. 94 in the FIFA world rankings. While I don't think much of FIFA's ranking system, which is not a true reflection of a country's ability, it is still an indication of where we are right now. If we had managed to get through to the final round of World Cup qualifying, we would certainly be much higher than 94th, that's for sure.
So who is going to take us there? Who is going to be given the broken pieces of the men's national team and be asked, "Here you go, can you fix this?"
The early favourite would appear to be Stephen Hart, the technical director of the CSA and the man many of the players feel should have been given the job in the first place.
It is hard to argue against that, if you consider that the men's team played some of its best soccer under Hart. The players like him and they respond to his methods. The reality is, he should have been given the job in the first place.
The Board of Directors for the CSA dropped the ball when they appointed Mitchell before the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup. There was absolutely no need to make that appointment until after the tournament was over. Mitchell couldn't attend the 2007 Gold Cup because of his commitments with the U-20 team, and Stephen Hart was named to coach the team in his place.
So why not wait until both tournaments were completed, assess how both teams, and more importantly, both coaches did, and make the decision then? Had the CSA done that, they would have given the job to Hart on the spot, rather than hand the reins to Mitchell.
Dale is a good guy
Truth be told, I feel sorry for Dale. He is a genuinely nice man who has done nothing but his best for Canadian soccer. He certainly doesn't deserve the torrents of abuse he has been subjected to over the last few months.
He was one of the most talented players this country has ever produced and someone I looked up to as a youngster learning the game. But his record as a coach doesn't make for great reading, and unfortunately in soccer, coaches live and die by results.
While it is tempting to start talking about Hart as the next coach of the men's team, I'm not sure that is the right way for us to go. He has a big job on his hands right now getting the provincial associations, and by extension, the major clubs across the country, to implement the CSA's long term player development plan, and perhaps he should be left to carry on the work he has already started in that respect.
Who will replace Mitchell?
So whom does that leave? I think the CSA should cast its net as wide as possible in their search for our next men's coach. Open the job up to qualified coaches from around the world. Better yet, hire a head hunter to actively recruit a coach with a track record of overachieving with a limited pool of talented players.
Dreamers mention someone like Guus Hiddink, who is very much beyond our reach financially. But if you don't ask you don't get, do you? Who knows, someone like Hiddink might see it as a challenge.
One thing I would like to see from the new coach, whomever it might be, is this - don't select anyone over the age of 30. I was tempted to say 28, but 30 is about the right cut-off point. My reasoning for this is simple, really.
The qualifying process for the 2014 World Cup starts the day the new coach is named. Not in 2012. Right now. In order to build a team that can take you through to the World Cup, you need players with international experience throughout your team. Young players need to play games to get international experience. If you give players enough time to gel as a team, say two to three years, when the actual qualifying gets under way in 2012, they will be ready to get the job done when it matters the most.
Anyone over the age of 30 right now will be over the age of 33 in 2012, and over the age of 35 when the World Cup kicks off. If we want to have a chance of making it to the World Cup and actually being competitive there, we are going to need much more than what a bunch of 35 year olds can bring us.
Get a proven coach in place, and give the young guys a chance to gain some international experience by lining up some games for them to play. Then maybe we will be heading in the right direction.
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