Morace's ambitious training regime all for naught
Carolina Morace had an ambitious vision when she was hired as the head of coach Canada's women's soccer team, one that would see her players on the podium at both the FIFA Women's World Cup and the 2012 London Olympics.
Now, the 47-year-old Italian finds herself under the gun six months from Olympic qualifying, after Canada went 0-3 at the Women's World Cup, the team's worst-ever result.
Morace proposed an overhaul of the national women's soccer program when she was hired in 2009, outlining an ambitious training plan presented to the Canadian Soccer Association that year.
She envisioned creating a team in the U.S.-based pro league Women's Professional Soccer stocked with Canadians, with the goal to keep her players together in top-level competition.
She also proposed sending groups of Canadian players together to European teams.
These goals were never realized. Instead, the Canadians arrived in Germany on the heels of a four-month training camp in Rome. The staff and players said it wasn't the perfect solution, but the best one available. Canadian players had been scattered around North America playing on different schedules with college and W-League teams.
"That was a necessity and not the preferred way, but the only way in the end was to create a centralized program because we had essentially run out of time," said Andrea Neil, an assistant coach and former national team standout.
Morace has butted heads with the Canadian Soccer Association seemingly from Day 1, and earlier this year announced her resignation following the World Cup citing a lack of control over the women's program. Her players threatened to boycott games in support, but a week before the World Cup opened, she signed a contract through the London Games.
"I think everybody has to be positive and come together, this has to be the start point of the team," Morace said of her relationship with the CSA. "We did too well in these two years that maybe somebody thinks that we will win the World Cup, but the reality is not that. To be one of the best teams, everybody has to be the best, not just the player, not just the coach, all has to be the best."
The players will head home for three weeks off before resuming their training programs. They'll then gather in Vancouver in September to begin preparations for the Olympic qualifying event.
Morace already has concerns about the qualifying tournament, which takes place in January, as it's months later than other regions will have held their qualifying events. It won't be easy that late to find teams to play in the build up.
Morace's plan for the women's program included soccer-specific training for a group of Canadian players she saw lacking in power and speed. She also addressed issues such as injury prevention, scouting, coaching development, and bringing girls into the national team fold as young as 13.
"It's not like things in our country link together, it's kind of minestrone soup and that's what Carolina has been struggling through to try to mesh together certain aspects, but it hasn't always been well-accepted across the board," Neil said.
Morace has also focused on remaking the style Canada plays, instilling a philosophy of maintaining possession in a team previously known for it's long-ball kick-and-run style. But the Canadians didn't play at this World Cup as the coach had envisioned, looking unorganized and scrambly most of the time.
The team's disastrous performance couldn't have been easy to stomach for Morace, who made 153 appearances for Italy's national team, scoring 105 goals. She became the first woman to score a World Cup hat-trick in 1991 against Taiwan.
"It's a terrible blow for any team to get knocked out at this point. And there's such a fine line between success and failure. Here the line hurts, but you have to regroup and move on," Neil said. "It's been all-consuming for a very long time, there's been a lot of water pushed uphill for a very long time, so I would say life balance has been lost for a very long time.
"Everybody here thinks backwards on what could we have done in this scenario and that scenario, and I know for a fact that she looks backwards as well."