Just under nine months ago Stephen Hart stepped down for the position of Head Coach of the Canadian Men's National Team. His resignation came after his team crashed out of World Cup qualifying thanks to a crushing defeat in Honduras. It surprised no one to see Hart exit following that 8-1 defeat.
Since then the Canadian Soccer Association and its leaders have offered some big promises and spent nine months looking for his replacement. The CSA promised to scour the World for the best candidate for the job and to hire someone who could help lead the men's program into a new era, a more successful one, similar to what John Herdman had been tasked to do with the women's program.
On Friday morning in a downtown Toronto hotel Canada Soccer Association President Victor Montagliani confirmed that they had found their man as he announced Benito Floro as the new head coach for the men's program.
Floro has a contract that will take him through two rounds of World Cup qualifying which includes options along the way. The CSA did not set out a firm expectation for their new coach but it was clear that the goal is to progress towards making a World Cup in the not too distant future.
Along with getting results with the senior team Floro will take charge of the Under-23 squad when they take part in Olympic Qualifying. He will also be tasked to work with the CSA's Technical Director Tony Fonseca to impart his vision to all levels of Canadian soccer.
Floro brings with him an impressive resume that spans over three decades and has seen him spend time in charge at clubs like Real Madrid and Villarreal. He has all the qualifications you would expect of someone taking over a National Team but more than that he brings with him an understanding of the game from around the World which he has developed over the course of his travels coaching in places like Spain, Japan, Mexico, Ecuador, and Morocco.
When Floro speaks about the game you get the sense that the 61-year-old has spent much of his life as a student of the game. Even though his English and French are far from fluent he can communicate well enough to make it clear that he has a vision for how the game should be played. His vision was not a style of play though, it is not about formations, it is about doing everything he can to ensure that they 11 players put out on the field can win regardless of the opposition or the condition. His goal is to win every match that he coaches regardless of how difficult some of the matches in CONCACAF can be.
Neither the CSA nor Floro were willing to set out what the goals for his time in charge are going to be but considering that the CSA likely had to break open the cheque book for this hire the expectations should match. As Montopoli stated in the press conference it is a results based business and when you invest a fair bit of money in the coach it is logical to expect results in both the short and long terms.
Floro enters the job with some knowledge of the CONCACAF region from his time coaching in Mexico but he feels that having an in depth knowledge of the region is not that important. It is his responsibility to know the next opponent perfectly and to scout them. To do that it is not necessary to know all of the teams in the region at once. What he lacks in knowledge of CONCACAF he makes up for in studying his opponents and the experience of leading teams into a variety of environments all over the World.
The question was asked of Floro why he chose to come manage Canada at this point in time. His answer was a simple "Why not". Even the most loyal Canadian soccer fan could have offered him a long list of reasons why a coach might not want to take on this role. Floro was up for the challenge though despite having watched a number of Canada's matches in the last round of World Cup qualifying and their friendlies this year. He is not coming into the job blind and if he has watched Canada playing then he knows just how big of a task he has on his hands.
The good news is that Floro likes a challenge and stressed that when he takes on a long term project, like this will be, he does not abandon it when things do not work out after a game or two. The good news is that even if he decides it is time to rebuild the roster that process is already underway and fans are already expecting the program to have to take a step back as the current generation of players move towards the ends of their careers. The stage is set for Floro to build the program from the ground up since there is not much left to tear down.
It remains to be seen who will be helping Floro take on that task. The only member of his coaching staff that is currently set is his son Antonio Floro who will take on the role of an assistant. Floro has time to build his coaching staff as he will not take over the position until the 1st of August.
In the meantime, Floro will be heading down to watch Canada take part in the Gold Cup. He will remain on the sidelines while Colin MIller coaches the squad but the event will provide him with the chance to get to know the current coaching staff, get a closer look at some of the players available in the pool, and see CONCACAF opposition up close.
There is no word yet about when his first match in charge will be but hopefully the CSA will be adding some friendlies to the schedule for the late summer/fall.
So by hiring Floro the CSA backed up their talk from recent months by not only bringing in a coach with a strong resume but one who brings with him a vast knowledge of the game. The hiring comes with all kinds of positive signs of change in the direction that Canadian Soccer is heading and fans can rightly be optimistic at this point in time.
It should be a tempered optimism though as there are still some question marks about Floro and how he will do in the role. No coach is a guaranteed success in a new job so it will take time to fully evaluate what Floro brings to the table but the signs are possitive.
There are some questions about the fact that he has never held a job for more than four years and that he has never managed a National Program but there is no reason that either of those concerns should prevent him from being successful. Managing at the club level in Spain, or in soccer in general, often comes with a high rate of turnover and for every Sir Alex Ferguson or Arsene Wenger out there is dozens of managers who wind up looking for a new job every season or two. That is the normal way of things in the business but things tend to be different at the international level as coaches are often given at least one World Cup cycle to prove their worth. For Floro that would be the 2018 Qualification which does not kick off for some time yet so barring a complete failure he is going to be given the chance to lead this team for an extended period of time.
The Canadian coaching job is also not the first international coaching position that Floro has been offered as he actually turned down the chance to coach Spain back in 2004. He has served as Technical Director at Real Madrid, worked on the FIFA Technical Group at the 2012 Club World Cup, and has serves as a Professor of tactics and strategy of football at the National Spanish School. He is more than just a coach and that is exactly what Canada is in need of.
If you, like myself, have had your optimism drained by supporting the Canadian Men's National Team over the years this hiring has all the indications of one that should give you some restored faith the the program might yet get back on track. Now we just have to hope that Canadian Soccer doesn't once again prove to be a cruel mistress by dashing that optimism against the rocks.