Soccer

Mitchell out as Canadian men's soccer coach

Dale Mitchell was fired as the head coach of Canada's men's soccer team on Friday.

Dale Mitchell has been fired as the head coach of Canada's men's soccer team.

"We are committed to the future of our men's national team program," Canadian Soccer Association president Dominic Maestracci said in a statement Friday. "We have made this decision to move the program in a new direction."

There was no immediate word on a replacement for Mitchell, 50, who had served as the national team's head coach since May 2007.

Reports surfaced late last week suggesting Mitchell might be removed from the job, but the CSA denied them. The decision to let him go was made last weekend by the association's board of directors.

CSA general secretary Peter Montopoli said an interim coach could be appointed, perhaps leaving the door open for assistant coach Stephen Hart to lead the team at this summer's Gold Cup, as he did two years ago when Mitchell was tied up with the under-20 team at the world championships.

The move to fire Mitchell comes more than five months after Canada suffered a 3-1 loss to Honduras in a World Cup qualifier, a result that officially eliminated the Canadian team from contention for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

"At the end of the day, the team reached a level of two points in the [semifinal] grouping and I think everybody felt they were going to the next round," said Montopoli. "And it certainly didn't materialize."

Canada finished with a 0-4-2 record.

Asked why Mitchell had not been fired immediately after the failed World Cup campaign, Montopoli said the association wanted to review "the whole scenario."

"I guess when you're not part of the next round, you have the luxury of time," he added.

Mitchell was named Canadian coach May 17, 2007, and leaves with a record of 3-7-5 at the national helm.

He took over the national team after being in charge of Canada's under-20 side for five years. Under his tenure, the team qualified for the FIFA U-20 world championships in 2003 and 2005, but it also suffered a major setback when it failed to score a goal and lost all three of its games at the 2007 tournament staged in Canada.

Mitchell came from the Vancouver Whitecaps of the A-League, where he progressed from an assistant to head coach and was named A-League coach of the year in 2001.

Mitchell's contract runs through 2010, meaning the cash-strapped CSA will have less money to spend on the field.

He leaves a team just as he found it, ranked 94th in the world by FIFA. Only the neighbours have changed. In 2007, the Canadians were sandwiched between Libya and Ethiopia. Today, it is Mozambique and the Congo Democratic Republic.

His time as coach of the senior national team wasn't without controversy.

Some players, including veteran defender Jim Brennan, weren't happy with how Mitchell managed the team on the field. The Toronto FC captain, who was used sparingly in Canada's unsuccessful World Cup qualifying campaign, declared last October that he would no longer play for Canada as long as Mitchell remained as coach.

A former striker during his playing career, Mitchell played for the Vancouver Whitecaps and Portland Timbers from 1977-1982 in the now-defunct North American Soccer League. He also spent time with the Montreal Manic and went on to play in the Canadian Soccer League and the Major Indoor Soccer League before retiring in 1994.

Mitchell appeared in 55 games — including one at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico — and scored 19 goals for the Canadian national team from 1980 to 1993.

A native of Vancouver, Mitchell was inducted into the Canadian Soccer Hall of Fame in 2002.

Canada's next game is a friendly in Cyprus on May 30, followed by the Gold Cup in the summer.

With files from the Canadian Press