Canadian women's soccer coach tries to temper expectations after bronze medal

Canada's women's soccer team might have won bronze at the London Olympics, but coach John Herdman said there will likely be some unfavourable results ahead.

Younger talent invited to upcoming camp

Forward Jenna Richardson is among those trying to crack the senior squad. (Arnulfo Franco/Associated Press)

Canada's women's soccer team might have won bronze at the London Olympics, but coach John Herdman said there will likely be some unfavourable results ahead.

With an eye on the 2015 World Cup and the 2016 Rio Olympics, Herdman is pleading patience with fans as he brings some new, young talent into the team.

"The team will have to take a step back to move forward again," Herdman said on a conference call. "We're going to have to dampen down the expectations of the public knowing there's a bigger picture."

Herdman announced his 27-player roster for an upcoming camp that features a mix of returning players and youth players who are getting their first call-up to a senior women's camp.

Star striker Christine Sinclair headlines the 12 players from the London Olympic squad who will attend the Dec. 12-20 camp in the Vancouver area.

Herdman said 60 per cent of his team from London will be over the age of 30 by 2015 when Canada hosts the World Cup, and it's crucial to start investing in the young players coming up, even if it costs the team temporarily on the score sheet.

"We're going to have to expose a lot of young players, very young players, to the international game, and give them caps and playing minutes, which means we may not be able to get the results that you'd want," Herdman said. "But in the long term it will help us be in a much stronger position in 2015 and 2016."

The coach who was hired after Canada's disastrous last-place finish at the 2011 World Cup said there's a big gap in the women's soccer system in this country. Few players on Canada's youth teams are moving onto the senior women's side.

"If I go with a team that's 30-plus into that women's World Cup and Olympic Games, all I'm going to do is compound the problem," he said. "I'm going to have to take a real helicopter view and make sure that we pave a pathway, so the next coach in 2019 and 2020 isn't in the same situation as I'm in now."

Without Sinclair

Of the nine young players attending the camp, five were part of this year's under-20 program — Sabrina D'Angelo of Welland, Ont., Adriana Leon of Maple, Ont., Christabel Oduro of Brampton, Ont., Jenna Richardson of Vancouver, and Shelina Zadorsky of London, Ont.

Four played for Canada at the U-17 World Cup this year in Azerbaijan — Kadeisha Buchanan of Mississauga, Ont., Summer Clarke of Richmond, B.C., Ashley Lawrence of Caledon, Ont., and Nichelle Prince of Ajax, Ont.

Herdman said veterans such as Sinclair and Rhian Wilkinson will play key roles in developing Canada's young talent.

"Those players are absolutely crucial, I think they do realize that they're important now to help leave a legacy," Herdman said. "Some of the senior players may recognize they may not be in the squad in 2015 or '16, but I imagine some of them are prepared to hang around to make sure that they solidify the team's foundation."

Herdman used Sinclair as an example. The team captain will miss the Four Nations tournament next month in China while serving a four-game suspension for an incident after the Canada-U.S. semifinal at the London Olympics.

"She's banned for the games, but she's on the phone desperate to be there, she wants to be in that environment, she wants to be able to support from a leadership perspective the culture that's been created with new players," Herdman said.

"It speaks reams for her, but it gives you an insight into the mindset of our players that they know they know that they have an important role of transitioning our new fledgling team through."

The Canadian Soccer Association announced plans Tuesday to present the 29-year-old Sinclair, a native of Burnaby, B.C., with a plaque commemorating her national-record 23 international goals this year.