Soccer vets approve of Canada's youth movement
National team coach Stephen Hart shows vision for the future
"You'll never win anything with kids."
Those were the infamous words of BBC Television commentator Alan Hansen in 1995 after Manchester United lost their opening game of the Premiership season to Aston Villa.
Turns out that Hansen, a legendary central defender with Liverpool during his playing days, was dead wrong.
United manager Alex Ferguson showed great faith in a talented group of youngsters — including David Beckham and Paul Scholes — and was rewarded for his efforts as the Reds overcame a 12-point deficit to overtake Newcastle United and claim their third Premier League title.
Like Ferguson, Canadian national team coach Stephen Hart hasn't heeded Hansen's advice, recently naming five uncapped youngsters to his roster for a friendly against Jamaica.
Goalkeeper David Monsalve and midfielder Massih Wassey, both 21, started for Canada in Sunday's 1-0 loss, while defender Nana Attakora (20), forward Randy Edwini-Bonsu (19), and midfielder Carlos Rivas (24) all entered the match as second-half substitutes.
Even though the qualifiers for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil don't kick off for another two years, Hart is already looking ahead. For the purpose of the Jamaica game, he experimented by picking a team that mixed youngsters and players with lots of international experience.
Giving youth a chance
Toronto FC midfielder Dwayne De Rosario is pleased that Hart is giving Canada's young players a chance, and applauds the Canadian coach for showing astute long-term vision.
"It's nice to see some of the younger guys, guys on the Olympic team, available and getting some experience," De Rosario told CBCSports.ca. "I think that's very crucial in terms of our future development for the national team."
Houston Dynamo goalkeeper Pat Onstad, another national team veteran, is also impressed with Hart's willingness to give Canada's young and uncapped players an opportunity to prove themselves.
Canada last qualified for the World Cup in 1986 and won't compete at this summer's tournament in South Africa. The earliest Canada can make its World Cup return is in four years, and Onstad thinks Hart is taking the right approach by calling on young players long before the 2014 qualifiers even begin.
"It's still a while before we get into competitive games, but now is the time to get those young guys in because in 18 months or so those guys may be part of Canadian team that will play in the World Cup qualifiers," Onstad stated.
Next step forward
According to the shot stopper, youngsters such as Attakora and Edwini-Bonsu could take the next steps in their international careers under Hart and help Canada qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
"I think a lot of these guys can be successful with the national team for a long time," Onstad stated.
Hart was named interim head coach of the Canadian national team last March after Dale Mitchell was fired. He took over on a full-time basis in December, and De Rosario believes Hart is the right fit tactically for Canada.
"You can see in the training sessions, in terms of formation and shape, players have a real understanding of what their jobs are and what their duties are," De Rosario stated. "He's done a very good job in terms of talking to the guys about how he wants us to play and how he wants us to approach the game."
Hart is also a coach who will listen to opposing points of view.
"The nice thing about Steve is that he's very comfortable in his role and he's comfortable with how he sees the game," Onstad said. "But at the same time his eyes are wide open in terms of listening to other opinions and taking bits and pieces that may or may not help the team."