Herdman: “We want it as badly as the United States”

We caught up with Canada men’s national team coach John Herdman at BMO Field, who spoke about his team’s progress ahead of the upcoming match against the United States.

Attacking midfielder Ballou Tabla has been going through some ‘growing pains’ after his move to Barcelona B, and his recent loan to Montreal Impact. Herdman will wait for Tabla and stated that “everyone knows what Tabla can do on the right team, and there’s gonna be a club somewhere to get the best our of him”. Tabla’s teammate Shamit Shome is also one who has been making waves. Herdman admits, however that it’s “difficult to crack the line up. He’s done well this season but has to beat the likes of Davies, Kaye, and Arfield”. 
Tough competition is what beat out the likes of Ryan Telfer, who declared for Trinidad and Tobago. Herdman explained that it was a combination of inconsistent performances and the competition of Hoilett, Cavallini and Millar that made the coach opt against selecting him but wished him luck in international play.
Herdman noted the differences in his team’s approach to the two Nations League matches versus Cuba, (winning 6-0 the first, and only 1-0 the second) stating that he had to implement some rotation in the squad in order to give international experience to players who traveled thousands of kilometers in order to represent Canada.

The Canadian Premier League presents for Herdman a new pool to fish for Canadian talent. On Calgary’s Cavalry FC’s goalkeeper Marco Carducci, the national team head coach remarked “we’re looking at the Canadian Premier League as a pool where there’s a ton to select from, in order to fill gaps depending on need”. He added “If you play, you’re more likely to get selected than sitting on the bench somewhere in Europe”

The big question ahead of the match against the United States tonight is how well does Canada stack up against the CONCACAF giants? “We want it as badly as them. We’re looking to crack the top 6 in the region”.  Then, he throws down the gauntlet challenging his men, “This is a have where Canada’s national men’s team steps up and show their quality”

But the national team coach urges on the crowd to provide an assist: “It’s crucial for fans to come out to this game, and pack it in. By getting to the hex (top 6 teams in CONCACAF, measured by FIFA points) we can attract better opposition. Our fans can get guys over the line, and beat the United States for the first time since 1985. Unlike in the women’s game, there’s no psychological barrier when we play the US”.

To get into the top six, Canada needs to amass significant points. Canada currently sits only 5 points behind El Salvador, and 37 behind Honduras. Positive results against back-to-back matches against the United States would mean leapfrogging one or both of those Central American powers.

Herdman pointed that Canada needed to be tested, which happened in the last Gold Cup against Mexico and Haiti. Those two matches tempered the Canadian side.

Canadian soccer fans are hopeful that Calgary native and Chelsea defender Fikayo Tomori will declare for his native country. This hope was reduced when he was recently called up by Gareth Southgate for England’s matches against Bulgaria and Czech Republic. Luckily for Herdman, however, he did not feature in either match and was has left the door open for Canada. 

Herdman is all too aware of Tomori’s “plan and ambition: when he’s ready he’ll give us a call”.

Herdman noted that the Canadian soccer program at the youth level is doing well, with the Under-17s and Under-15s making it to CONCACAF’s top 4. “If we unite, we can be top 4 and we’ve shown that in the youth level and I feel we’re on the brink of doing that at the senior level”, he concluded.

By: Rocco Fasano/@CatenaccioNA
Photo: Mark Blinch/CP