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Moral Victories, Demoralizing Losses Define Summer for Canadian Soccer

Canada took a step forward in terms of soccer development, but missed a chance to take a leap with the world and country watching.

Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

As predicted Canada soccer had a historic summer of 2015, but missed a chance to solidify its future. While off the field the program was destined for success, they were unable to make any history on the field.

Going into this summer, Canada Soccer had a pretty big safety net attached. Regardless of how the respective teams faired Canada was hosting its first ever Women's World Cup and Gold Cup game.

In doing so Canada exits summer 2015 with a long list of moral victories and reasons to consider it a step forward to the program. The reality is, one sure has to squint hard to see any sort of progress taking place.

A women's team that inspired a nation three years ago bumbled their way to a predictable quarterfinal loss against a beatable England side. Along the way they showed a relapsed dependence on Christine Sinclair who only had so much left to give.

Making the quarterfinals was what most expected of a group that is still a step behind the planet's best. But the way they were eliminated left something to be desired, and constituted a missed opportunity for the team to truly make some noise for soccer on the domestic front.

The noise that was made at the tournament was by the supporters, who showed up and were electric for most of the competition's games, but especially those involving the Canadian team.

This was important when considering the fact that Canada is looking to bid for the 2026 men's World Cup tournament. Proving that they can host a top FIFA event gives them a nice foundation on which to build that bid.

Unfortunately, summer 2015 also meant the men's program proving they are still years removed from qualifying for a World Cup on their own.

With expectations and optimism rising around the program Canada had a heartbreaking 2015 Gold Cup, going winless and goalless. The tournament will be remembered for a stunning misses, a goal conceded in injury time and another called offside at the worst possible time.

Going into the tournament, Floro set the bar high, saying that the team was good enough to reach the semi-finals. Instead he was left explaining why they couldn't even score a goal.

A greater goal was once again accomplished at the Gold Cup, however, as Canada showed well as a viable host for future tournament games, as both El Salvador-Jamaica and Canada-Costa Rica had good atmospheres. It proved Toronto at least can draw a crowd regardless of the team playing.

The men's team didn't have a much better showing statistically at the Pan Am games, where they also failed to win or qualify for the medal round, conceded six times and scored only once.

The positive is that they had chances to score a lot more. Hanson Boakai, Chris Mannella and Mo Babouli, among others, demonstrated that they are top talents for their age as Canada showed flashes of a strong attack.

The next generation were also evident on the women's side of the Pan Am games, which might have been the highlight of the summer for the Canadian program.

Taking an incredibly young side into the tournament, with an average age of just 18, the team was competitive against the region's best. They finished just short of the podium, but proved that Canada has a better future in women's soccer than anyone cares to admit.

Even that, however, wasn't pretty as they only scored in two of their four tournament games. Like the men's team they seemed to be cursed, missing plenty of prime opportunities.

Missed opportunities will unfortunately be the resounding theme coming out of the summer for Canada. The women missed a chance to do something special on home soil, the men missed a chance to qualify for the Copa America Centenario, while both missed out on Pan Am games medals.

All of this brought uneven ground to what should have been a leap forward for Canada Soccer, and ending up being a stumble. Once again the program's play made its path forward all the more difficult.

But the path forward will continue in next month, whether or not Canada can successfully travel it or not.

The 2015 Gold Cup has few optimistic about the team's chances of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, but they could change at least a few minds with a dominating performance against Belize in September.

The Pan Am games made it hard to be overly confident about the U-23 team that will play in Olympic Qualifiers in October. However, that team still has a chance to turn heads and qualify for a Rio 2016 and prove that the future of Canadian soccer is bright.

The women's team often looked painfully out of ideas during a pressure packed World Cup tournament, but will likely be younger and brighter when they start their own Olympic qualifier. They will almost certainly get a chance to defend their first even Olympic medal.

What was supposed to be the "Summer of Soccer" in Canada turned out to be a collection of moral victories off the field, and demoralizing victories in the actual games. But it leaves Canada in a good place to hopefully receive more promising results in the next couple of months.