Hart named men's national soccer coach

Men's national soccer coach Stephen Hart made it clear Monday that his goal is to get Canada back in the World Cup mix.

Men's national soccer coach Stephen Hart made it clear Monday that his goal is to get Canada back in the World Cup mix.

"I'm only looking forward," Hart said at a news conference. "I'm not worried about what happened before. I'm planning to get on with business."

Hart has served as interim head coach since Dale Mitchell was let go last spring, a few months after Canada posted a weak 0-4-2 record in qualifying for the 2010 World Cup.

The Canadian Soccer Association removed the interim tag from his title Monday and announced a search will begin early next year for Hart's replacement as technical director.

Hart, who will hold both titles for now, said there could be changes to the roster. He said he's prepared to field the best possible team — regardless of age — and that above all else he's looking for commitment.

"You know what, I want players that want to play for Canada," Hart said. "That's the first priority — do you want to play for Canada? Once you have made that decision, then we can move ahead.

"My objective [is to] offer you the opportunity, extend my hand and if you want it, commit to Canada and come on board."

Hart owns a 9-7-2 record as head coach and led Canada to the semifinals at the 2007 Gold Cup tournament and the quarter-finals of the 2009 event.

He is also well-respected by the players, something that could help beef up the pool of prospective talent. 

 "It's no secret that we lack depth in many positions," Hart said. "The objective will be to try and find those players, give them the opportunity to prove to me that they should be selected."  

Hart, 49, played professionally in his native Trinidad and Tobago, and was selected to Trinidad's national team in 1980. He moved to Canada later that year to attend Saint Mary's University in Halifax.

Hart, who has held several positions with the CSA, said he wants to build the foundation ahead of the start of the qualification process for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

"I want to make it clear that it will be our objective to focus on the CONCACAF qualifications in 2012," Hart said. I have no qualms about experimenting, about using the CONCACAF Gold Cup competition [in 2011] to prepare towards this. This for me will be my goal."

Those thoughts were echoed by CSA general secretary Peter Montopoli.

"The objective is that we've put this in Stephen's hands and it's qualification for the FIFA men's World Cup," Montopoli said. "There's no doubt about that.

Canada last qualified for the World Cup in 1986.

Hart was also a candidate for the job when Mitchell got it in 2007. He said he feels the timing is right now that he has a few more years under his belt.

"I thought it would be a great challenge to put a new team together and try and qualify," Hart said. "I felt that if I didn't jump at it now … I don't think I would have done it later on. So I accepted the challenge and look forward to it."

Montopoli said the CSA is trying to line up friendly matches against countries who will be competing against the U.S., and Australia at the 2010 World Cup. He feels potential opponents might like to play Canada since the team may use similar styles or concepts.