Herdman discusses Canada’s Olympic draw

Harjeet Johal April 14, 2016 75
Canada coach John Herdman, right, addresses the Canadian press following Thursday's Olympic draw (photo:  Harjeet Johal for The Equalizer)

Canada coach John Herdman, right, addresses the Canadian press following Thursday’s Olympic draw (photo: Harjeet Johal for The Equalizer)

VANCOUVER, B.C – Canada’s journey to reach the podium at the 2016 Rio Olympic games will be difficult, but if they have the confidence and swagger of Coach John Herdman, they stand a better chance of achieving success and possibly an Olympic medal.

Canada, Germany, Australia and Zimbabwe will compete in Group G. The action kicks off on Wednesday, August 3 with Canada vs Australia in Sao Paolo. Canada will also play Zimbabwe in Sao Paolo on August 6 before traveling to Brasilia to play Germany on August 9. It will be crucial that Canada beat 95th ranked Zimbabwe as Germany and Australia will be tough opponents.

{MORE: U.S. to play France in Olympic group play}

Australia’s co-captian Lisa De Vanna got her wish as she predicted Australia, Germany, and Canada in the same group.

Canada’s renewed rivalry with Brazil would lead you to believe that Canada would have preferred to end up with Brazil as an opponent in Rio. The reds will have played Brazil five times between the start of December, 2015 and June 7, 2016. Could this be a strategy to outwit the hosts? John Herdman insists he wasn’t planning on getting Brazil, at least in group stage action.

“No I wasn’t, I was hoping for something a bit different because we’re learning from each other every time. I think we’ve got a little edge on Brazil. When it really matters we seem to come through against them. I have a feeling we’ll see them at some point.”

Canada will see The Matildas, led by gaffer Alen Stajcic. Australia is vastly improved and they were one of many teams that surprised at the 2015 World Cup. They held Sweden to a 1-1 draw, beat Brazil, and narrowly lost to Japan 1-0 in quarter-final play. Canada won’t be able to waltz all over 5th ranked Australia and John Herdman knows it.

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“You’ve seen the Aussies in the World Cup and they looked like a good team,” said Herdman. “They’ve got a great attack, solid defense, it’s a game that I think we are quite evenly matched. It’s a huge six point game for us.”

Germany will be a whole other kettle of fish. If Germany has locked up first place in Group G, perhaps you could see Silvia Neid rest some of her key players. On the other hand, Germany may have something to play for and Canada could face multiple challenges on all fronts. Germany is a football factory, they produce talented player after player. On the men’s side and women’s.

Despite not having retired players like Nadine Angerer, Celia Sasic, and Nadine Kessler, who announced her retirement due to injury only hours before the draw. Germany will be a monumental test for Canada’s young and veteran players. Silvia Neid is also stepping down as Germany’s coach following the Rio Olympics. She will want to make sure Germany wins every last match she’s involved with.

Taking all this into consideration, Herdman shrugged off the notion that Germany will be out of sorts and weakened.

“The Germans are never weak when it comes to tournaments,” revealed Herdman. “They’ve got a conveyor belt of players and that’s when they step up and thrive. We know what the Germany are going to bring. I’m looking to get Canada’s first ever win against them. Canada’s never triumphed, if there’s a time to do it with Sinc (Christine Sinclair) and the crew, this is it. That’s a huge goal for us.”

The goalkeeper tasked with stopping the likes of Anja Mittag, Alexandra Popp, Kyah Simon, Lisa De Vanna and Zimbabwe’s best players is unknown. Erin McLeod faces a long road to return to play as she undergoes ACL surgery and rehabilitation. Stephanie Labbe and Sabrina D’Angelo will battle to earn that first match at the Rio Olympics. Whether Herdman decides to rotate his goalkeepers or anoint one keeper as his number one has not been determined.

Herdman is hoping McLeod will be able to help Labbe and D’Angelo with advice and support as she looks to share her goalkeeper wisdom. McLeod’s recovery will take place in Malmo, Sweden with her club team FC Rosengard. Herdman already has an idea of when he’s hoping McLeod will be fully fit and recovered to return to the pitch.

“She’s with her club so it’s the same as if Wayne Rooney was injured at Manchester United,” said Herdman.”He’d be there at the club, and that’s where Erin is. She’s got a world-class surgeon working with her. I think he’s worked on (Zlatan) Ibrahimovic before. She’s in great hands and we just wish her the best to get back for a speedy recovery. Hopefully she can put 2019 on her calendar.”

As for Canada’s roster at the Rio Olympics, you should expect to see the players who helped Canada qualify for the Olympics during the CONCACAF Rio Olympic Qualifying tournament in February, the Algarve Cup and Canada’s victories over the Netherlands on April 10 and 12. The Olympic roster is set at 18-players. Marie-Eve Nault, Kaylyn Kyle and Adriana Leon are still in the thinking, but it appears they are long-shots to be named to Canada’s roster.

Herdman explains: “I think we’ve said with any player, your career must tell a story. It’s important if you’re in those professional environments, what a platform they have to play every weekend. The gaps that we saw in 2015 are being bridged through their professional career. You’ve got to keep your mind open and the reality is who would have thought Erin McLeod wouldn’t be going to the Olympics. Nobody predicted that stuff. Who’d of thought Matheson would have been where she was prior? I think the good news for those player (is), we’re keeping our mind open. If their performances are strong enough and the crystal ball reveals things that we never predicted, anyone has a chance at this point that’s on our radar, and they certainly are.”

Are they on the outside looking in?

“I think any player that hasn’t been with the team through the qualification campaign, and Algarve Cup are certainly on the outside. Football is a funny game. Who’s to say Leon’s season at Western New York Flash is the best of her career? Our gap was goal-scoring, attacking threats, and that’s a player that can certainly have a good season and push forward. We’re in consistent communication with them and those players know that they still have an opportunity. That’s exciting.”

Yes, it is an exciting time for Canada Soccer. Youngsters Janine Beckie, Shelina Zadorsky, Rebecca Quinn, and Deanne Rose are showing that they can be part of the next wave of Canadian internationals on the big stage. Finding a mix and chemistry with veterans like Christine Sinclair, Diana Matheson, Sophie Schmidt and Melissa Tancredi will be vital. You can’t win a football match without scoring goals. Canada has struggled to support Sinclair, but the Rio Olympics could be the turning point.

John Herdman already has his to-do list sorted.

“Three tough matches, win them all, get out of your group, and lets see if we can hit the podium.”

  • Cc W

    Labbe may be the second greatest goalie playing after McLeod, but Canada is going to be in a tough spot without McLeod. They will also have to shore up that defense because both AUS and GER can score goals.

    • we stand on guard for theeee

      Considering Labbe isn’t even a sure thing to start in DC I’d say it’s time for Herdman to be a little more realistic.

      • Gary Diver

        Realistic is not in John Herdman’s vocabulary.

  • Oh Cantada

  • guest

    I don’t see Canada finishing higher than third in their group. Germany and Australia are better sides at this point. They might be hoping to cash in on the Manaus hoodoo if they end up matching up with the US in the quarterfinals.

  • Guest

    Haha he thinks that Canada and Australia are evenly matched. They are no where near Australia. Australia have a terrific midfield and a vast amount of great attackers who can really ping the ball around. Canada, well, they can hope that Sinclair finds some form.

    • Sinc is the new Wambach

      Canada has been hoping for a revival of Sinc since 2012. They don’t realize that she’s on the other side of the curve, going down.

      • Guest

        I think they realize that, but unlike the USA, they still need her and do not have anyone else to carry the scoring load for the team yet. She is really their only scoring threat, and Canada need her if they hope to have any shot of a medal at OG16. If not her, then who is going to do the scoring for CAN? Janine Beckie is not going to be able to do it all….

      • Gary Diver

        Part of the problem is the self-proclaimed hyped coming out of John Herdman’s mouth. He has said again and again the the Canadian system needs to find the “next Sinclair”. That is simply crazy talk. You don’t just find Christine Sinclairs any more than you find Martas. Unfortunately nobody in Canada has called him on his nonsense. Herdman will be hoisted by his own petard.

  • x

    He just said his GK plan for 2019 is a 36-year-old potential ACL returnee who was never the best in the world at the position to begin with. This might be the dumbest sports thing I’ve heard since the NFL season ended.

    • guest

      Well he’s been pretty hell bent on never admitting an American player is actually better than the Canadians.

      • x

        I guess they lose because of poor coaching.

        • guest

          I’m sure he’d find a way to argue that losing is never their fault and is always some combination of the other team using highly illegal tacticts/the refs/any other lame excuse to avoid accepting that they’re really not as good as they think they are.

  • Rdalford

    Interesting funding for OG training news out of Australia.
    from Matildas site
    “Football Federation Australia (FFA) has announced that the Westfield Matildas have received a boost to their Rio Games preparations with additional funding assistance from the Australian Sports Commission (ASC) based on the Matildas’ medal-winning potential.”
    Read more at http://www.matildas.footballaustralia.com.au/article/westfield-matildas-receive-rio-games-boost-with-ais-camps/bq5xbx7s5dzfz5pmdsqpgmq4#KgEwvCJLfZCVgaMe.99

    It appears that Australia WNT will hold a series of 5 camps in May (May 1-4, May 16-19) and June (June 13-16, June 20-24, June 27-30) using 16 domestically based Australian WNT players. Then starting July 1st Australia will pull full WNT squad together for a month long camp in preparation for OG in August.

    Good to see Australian Sports Commission providing the additional funding since there had been some concern about Australian WNT funding for friend;its etc.
    NWSL teams will be without the Australian WNT players in July, but credit to Australian WNT coach for clearly laying out prep plans now so NWSL teams have a couple of months lead time to plan/adjust.

    • AUS not available this year

      It means NWSL will not see much of AUS players until late August. I feel sorry for teams that imagined they’d have some starters from the AUS side.

      • Rdalford

        Australian players in NWSL are not being pulled into the May and June camps (the Australian coach stated the professional players playing overseas are excluded from the May/June camps) so they should be available for NWSL teams for first 10-11 weeks of NWSL schedule then return in late August after OG.

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  • MurderOnZidanesFloor

    Its good for Canada that they get to play Zimbabwe between Germany and Australia, means they can rest players before the Germany game, whereas the German’s will have to send out a full strength side against Australia. Still going to be difficult to get anything from that game though and they’ll really want to avoid coming 3rd and playing the US or France in the next round.

    • Tom F

      sorry to change subjects on you, but any forums around on the web on England’s NT? It be interesting to see what their fans think on their not so good performances in their last couple of Uefa qualifiers.

      • MurderOnZidanesFloor

        Unfortunately I don’t think there is anywhere. I desperately wish there was somewhere like EQ for the English national team and the FA WSL, but I guess WoSo just hasn’t reached that level of popularity here yet.

  • dw

    If you’re not in the top 2 in your group (and even if Herdman doesn’t want to admit it, CAN is not), then you need to thump the tomato can and nick a draw to ensure moving on. If not, well next plan is to keep your losses close in scoreline. Simple as that.

    • Gary Diver

      So in the end Canada’s fate may depend on how badly they can run up the score on Zimbabwe? It may be like Germany’s thumping of Ivory Coast in WC15.

      • AlexH

        I think Canada is good enough to have a punchers chance against Australia and Germany. The Canadians are on a mini-roll right now so if they can get it together and stay focused they could wind up in the top 2.

        • Gary Diver

          A betting pool for predicting the 1-2-3 group outcome for Australia, Canada, and Germany would be interesting.

          • AlexH

            Interesting you should mention that. Betting syndicates seem to have had a disturbingly easy time fixing soccer matches. Given that the players and match referees barely scrape by, one would think that fixing woso matches would be easy.

            Does anybody know if the gambling culture has yet to embrace woso. There may have been a line here in Vegas for last year’s WWC but nobody made a big deal out of it.

          • Gary Diver

            If nobody is watching the shop, we know what happens.

          • Lorehead

            Christine Sinclair rather prominently suggested they might have. That said, from what I’ve heard, the syndicates want to fix things nobody cares about in games nobody’s watching.

      • dw

        Canada’s fate is mostly out of their hands barring a big upset. Either NZ or Columbia have to get to 4 points to advance. And if they do then Canada or China could be in trouble.

    • Lorehead

      Double-elimination is a much better system. Everyone has to actually play to win.

      • Gary Diver

        Double-elimination sounds like a good idea, especially when you only have 12 teams. And as you say, no sleeping walking games would occur.

  • Tom F

    Canada’s a team that surging, they beat Brazil recently at the Algarve Cup final as well as defeated a good Netherlands side in couple of friendlies last week. Don’t know why he decided start his B team at the Concacaf final, but loosing caused him to be stuck in obviously the toughest group at the OL. Noticing too, that he found his answer to the US Pugh in 17 year old Deanne Rose, who looked very quick coming up the flanks.Here would be his best lineup

    gk……………….Labbe

    Belenger…Buchanen…Zardowki…..Rose

    Matherson…Lawrence..Scmidt,,,,,Scott

    ……….Beckie…………..Sinclaire

    I hate to bring up the race card, but Herdman can start now as much as 5 black players(if you include the swift winger, Prince. Why hasn’t the US progressed as fast in bringing more minorities into the top levels?

    • play to win not to appease

      Who is the Cup holder? Maybe just selecting the best line up without regard to race is the better approach.

    • Guest

      Desiree Scott on the wing and Ashley Lawrence as a center mid? How would that work?

      • Tom F

        I didn’t see the actual configuration but those were the 11 out there when they played the Nederlands in a friendly last week. Here’s the full game
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0yH5aePvwWw
        just figure I show this cause the Dutch are one of the few teams that could give the US a run for their money due to their lightning fast fwds

        • Guest

          The Dutch are not in the OGs

        • MurderOnZidanesFloor

          I watched this match the other day, Canada played with a 433, Rose and Beckie either side of Sinclair up front, Matheson/Scott/Schmidt in midfield and Ashley Lawrence played left back (she was actually class there, full of energy and better on the ball than you’d get from Chapman).

    • Gary Diver

      Being able to run fast doesn’t necessarily make you a great soccer player. Herdman played Jessie Fleming in WC15. Fleming has just turned 18 and she already has 22 caps with the national team. But at the WC she looked like a little kid scurrying around like a super fast ant. As Henry David Thoreau pointed out: “It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is, what are we busy about?”

      • Tom F

        Fleming was a bit overrated(but at 18 she’s obviously got time to improve) But I was really impressed with the speed that Canada brought in at the Dutch friendly. They started 5 different players as opposed the US/Concacaf final. This year Sinclair has picked up her scoring pace again, but that’s in part because of the new swift wingers (like Rose & Beckie)that feed her the ball.
        Giving the mass popularity that woso got in the US(a rich country with a pop of 330 mill.) and that we finally got rid of our ‘past their prime’ players. I don’t see anybody competing with the US anymore, so who’s 2nd best actually become more interesting.
        Canada is trying to head there, but again, that Herdman didn’t want to reveal his cards in his last encounter with the US, he’s hoping to spring a trap on us at the OG

    • Guest

      Pugh is much more than just a swift winger. I haven’t seen anything from Fleming, Prince or any other young Canadian attacker that even remotely compares to Pugh. Canada doesn’t have the horses to compete with the US. their best plan of action was how they played at CONCACAF. Play numbers behind the ball and come on strong late. The US is essentially better than Canada at every position.

    • Lorehead

      Pay-to-play at the youth level. The United States is the only country in the world that’s found a way to make soccer unaffordable.

      • Gary Diver

        The issue of lack of minorities in US women soccer hasn’t been a big issue for some reason. Some people here claim that as long as USWNT wins nobody cares who is on the team. I guess winning is colour-blind. Winning trumps everything else and who can argue with winning?

        • Lorehead

          There are several black, mixed-race and Latina women on the team, although most are light-skinned women with white mothers. I think the problem is a lot further down the pipeline. In the Portland area, a lot of the Hispanic parents essentially have their own parallel youth system, and in fact more than one. There are several barriers to their families participating in most of the formal ones, some economic, some cultural, some to do with people not having the right papers.

          In Hillsboro, you will see a few Latinas practicing on the Liberty High School field with FC Portland ($1,600 minimum plus fees and travel, a lot more for the ECNL first team), but if you drive down to the M&M Marketplace where a lot of Mexican families shop, they’ve built a futsal court and play there. Drive west to Forest Grove, and they had their own outdoor league for a while with the teams named after clubs in Latin America. These days, there is a club over there that participates in the formal system, FC West, but it needed to crowdsource its trip to a national tournament, and it recently had one of its boys’ teams disqualified from the state championships, apparently because of a problem with an ineligible player.

          • Gary Diver

            Just an observation. On WC19 roster, we had Sidney Leroux, Shannon Boxx, and Amy Rodriquez. I don’t remember anyone ever saying anything about being a minority other than Sidney Leroux mentioning that a girl came up to her during the VT and told me that it meant so much to her to see someone who “looked like her”.

            Fast forward and now we only have Crystal Dunn and young Mallory Pugh. The only point I want to make is that role models do seem to play a big part in shaping how young women see their futures. Think about what that young black girl told Sidney Leroux.

          • Lorehead

            I don’t know what Christen Press called herself on her census form. It’s so irrelevant to her play that I’ve never heard of anyone even asking her. But she’s said she has some of the “dirty south” running through her veins.

          • Gary Diver

            I guess Christen Press is a very private person. I know she comes from a close, wealthy family, but the actual make-up of her family seems to be a mystery. I thought I’ve read her mother is white and her father has been referred to as “exotic” whatever that would mean. Nowhere does it seem to be stated explicitly. And you are right, it is irrelevant to her play on the field.

          • Lorehead

            She’s posted a few pictures of him on her blog, and he has brown skin. That’s why I counted her above. Still, the average melanin level on the USMNT is a lot higher, even with a coach who’s trying to import players from Europe (of whatever skin color, he doesn’t care).

          • Esk22

            Her grandfather was a prominent African-American radiologist and civil right activist from my hometown:
            http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/07/29/AR2010072905677.html

          • Lorehead

            Thank you. I did not know that!

      • Gary Diver

        There is a big barrier to WoSo that has no easy solution. In nearly all sports, the ultimate goal at the youth level is to be good enough to play professionally. With youth women soccer, the ultimate goal is to be able to play on the USWNT. With the limited number of slots, the probability of young women reaching the ultimate goal is essentially zero. Psychologically this has to weigh down on the whole system. People are motivated by hope and when there is no hope a lot of talented people lose interest and drop out.

        • HOFCToDi

          That’s bull.

          ncaapublications.com/p-4368-2013-14-ncaa-sports-sponsorship-and-participation-rates-report.aspx

          1981-82 Participation Study – Women’s Sports
          Division I
          Soccer – 22 teams, 520 athletes

          2013-14 Participation Study – Women’s Sports
          Division I
          Soccer – 325 teams, 8,843 athletes

          • Gary Diver

            I am sorry if I gave the impression I was concerned about the participation in college women soccer. I am not and as you point out it has made remarkable advances in the past 3 decades.

            I was thinking about why the minority participation on USWNT and NWSL is so low. If one had nothing better to do one could determine what fraction of NWSL players are either black or Hispanic, but my guess is that it would be much lower than the 20+% that is the US population. It only matters if you care about the numbers, but every once in a while somebody alludes to the apparent lack of blacks and Hispanics in US women soccer.

          • HOFCToDi

            Hispanics like Sophia Huerta on the Chicago Red Stars?

            Hispanics like Ashley Sanchez on the U-17/U-20 USWNT?

          • Gary Diver

            There are some minorities, but the role model factor doesn’t seem to be as important in women soccer and it does in other women sports. The minority soccer players never seem to mention the fact that they are minorities and certainly don’t promote themselves (except maybe Sidney Leroux) as role models for minority young women interested in soccer.

          • HOFCToDi

            Get off your high horse.

            Girls IMG Academy 150
            Top Ranked Prospects
            2016 – Mallory Pugh
            2017 – Ashley Sanchez
            2018 – Brianna Pinto
            2019 – Kennedy Wesley

            ALL MINORITIES

          • Gary Diver

            I am not on any high horse and acknowledge you have made some sound observations.

            I am not denying that there aren’t some talented young minorities coming down the road. Just want to see more role models make it to the “big leagues”.

          • HOFCToDi

            List the NWSL coaches who would rather sign Europeans than develop ethnic minorities from the NCAA.

          • Gary Diver

            Good point.

          • HOFCToDi

            You realize a professional basketball league exists for women?

            nebula.wsimg.com/28d57b7b134d9c22a277d36d8ce5d35d?AccessKeyId=DAC3A56D8FB782449D2A&disposition=0&alloworigin=1

          • Gary Diver

            I do and follow it a little, but unfortunately it is a secret to most of the male-dominanted sports sites.

          • HOFCToDi

            What the hell does that have to do with role models? WNBA players can’t be role models to minorities?

          • Gary Diver

            I guess what I am saying is that the minority situation for women soccer in NWSL and USWNT has room for improvement. Not bad, but could be better.

          • HOFCToDi

            Women have the right to choose what sport they wish to pursue, not what you dictate.

          • Lorehead

            Well, 20% of the Olympic roster would be three or four players, and barring a strike that it seems unlikely the judge will allow, Christen Press, Crystal Dunn and Mallory Pugh all look like locks, with a few others having an outside chance. Sydney Leroux and Amy Rodriguez would have had a good chance if they weren’t taking a year off to have babies.

        • AlexH

          I have no problem with pay to play if they focus solely on players that have a shot at a scholarship. Unfortunately the pay to play clubs make their money from accepting kids that have no chance but they convince parents that they do.

      • HOFCToDi

        I did not realize that high schools banned soccer altogether.

        • Lorehead

          Of course not, but how many women on the USWNT or American girls in NCAA D1 played only for their high school, and not a pay-to-play club? The new development academy system is actually going to forbid girls from playing for their high schools, as it has boys.

          • HOFCToDi

            You complain about this but not about soccer federations that syphon money from women’s soccer programs to men’s soccer programs which is far more egregious.

          • Lorehead

            Huh? Since when?

        • Gary Diver

          Some people may have issues with USWNT, but the growth in US high school and college-level soccer over the past 30 years has been a truly remarkable success story. The numbers going back to 1991 (first US WC win) show that in the past 25 years the growth of women soccer in the US has been nothing short of phenomenal. Hats off to the ladies!

      • Tom F

        absolutely true. The elite, select ECNL charges $3000 an year, and they got a league schedule to go along with tourney’s, so several thousands $$$ more on traveling. Plus add a couple of summer camps & ODP, and parents could easily be spending in the 5 figure mark by year’s end.

        • Lorehead

          Oh yes, and at that point, it’s not really about getting your darling daughter an athletic scholarship any more. It’s rich parents buying them something really nice. The problem is, it’s not nearly as good as the German system for any little girl whose parents can’t or won’t spend that kind of money on soccer.

  • Gary Diver

    “The goalkeeper tasked with stopping the likes of Anja Mittag, Alexandra Popp, Kyah Simon, Lisa De Vanna and Zimbabwe’s best players is unknown. . . . Herdman is hoping McLeod will be able to help Labbe and D’Angelo with advice and support as she looks to share her goalkeeper wisdom. . . . Herdman already has an idea of when he’s hoping McLeod will be fully fit and recovered to return to the pitch.”

    Odd statements? The article doesn’t explicitly say “McLeod will be lost for the Olympics”. Can there be any doubt?

  • Warrior

    Don’t discount t Zimbabwe. Lots of talent there.

    • Gary Diver

      I hope you are not “betting” on them to win.