A long and treacherous road awaits newly minted Canadian men’s national team coach Octavio Zambrano, but his first step was flawless. Introduced at a press conference for the first time earlier this morning in Toronto, Zambrano said all the right things about where he believes he can take the Canadian program.
The 59-year-old from Ecuador inherits a struggling Canadian team in need of a fresh outlook. Canada is currently ranked 117th by FIFA, nearing the lowest it has ever been. The team has not scored at the last two CONCACAF Gold Cups, and in September crashed out of World Cup Qualifying.
However, if Zambrano can coach as well as he can talk, and his resume would suggest that he can, there may be hope on the horizon. In Zambrano, Canada gets a coach that appears to perfectly fit the criteria they set out when they began the search for Benito Floro’s replacement in September.
“I’m extremely excited, this is the pinnacle of my career, I intend to do my very, very best,” said Zambrano, later adding, “I feel that I have prepared all my life for this job. I am thankful and I will not disappoint.”
That preparation includes being the 12th winningest coach in Major League Soccer history, having managed both the LA Galaxy and New York/ New Jersey MetroStars (now the New York Red Bulls) and spending time as an assistant coach with Sporting KC. He has also managed in Europe and South America.
Zambrano won’t exclusively be in charge of the men’s national team. He will also oversee the program’s development pathway as a whole, all the way up from the U-14 level. This is similar to the role the John Herdman plays with the Canadian women’s national team.
“I think too often we have too many voices in Canadian Soccer,” said Canadian Soccer Association President Victor Montagliani, “I think it is important to have one voice.”
With Zambrano comes a new-look coaching staff that has plenty of experience. This includes Javier Livia, who previously worked for Liverno in Italy as an assistant coach. Interim head coach Michael Findley, meanwhile, will remain with the team as an assistant coach.
Zambrano says he has already been working closely with Findley, and they see eye to eye on a lot of things. Findley will remain head coach for Canada’s upcoming friendly against Scotland on March 22, while Zambrano will be in camp simply to observe and introduce himself to the players. He will then join the U-23 team for their pair of friendly games in Qatar on March 25 and March 28.
After these games, however, he wants to shift the team’s focus more locally. He wants the team to prepare more for opponents they face in big games, rather than European opposition.
“I believe we need to compete against teams that mirror what we face for [World Cup] qualifiers,” said Zambrano. “It is the Honduras, the Costa Rica, the Panama. Those are the teams, Mexico too, we need to make sure when we face them we have a very good chance of beating them.”
Zambrano said he was happy with the player pool that Canada Soccer has, but is aware that it can always be expanded. After the upcoming national team camp he will shift his focus to drumming up commitment among the ranks.
“I am confident that when I sit in front of these players I will say the right thing to make them commit,” said Zambrano confidently. “The team right now has quite a few of those players who are noncommittal. One of the most important things for us right now is to begin to engage with them.”
He says that he is also looking forward to the player pool benefits that the proposed Canadian league will bring once it is officially announced. He says that right now talented Canadian players aren’t getting enough high quality minutes.
“It is of the utmost importance that we have our own league,” said Zambrano, thanking those involved with putting the league together. “This will be a Canadian league, we will not rely on the MLS environment and what they decide. The people in front of the Canadian league will make decisions for the benefit of Canadian players. That’s a huge step forward.”
With words like that, Zambrano might just get Canadian Soccer fans believing again, or at least pique their interest. He has plenty of work to do before he can back up any of that bold language, but the early signs are positive that this could be the hire Canada Soccer has been needing for a long time.
Canada Soccer unveil new 2017 away kit
Zambrano’s hiring wasn’t the only announcement that Canada Soccer made during the press conference. They also unveiled the new 2017 white away kit from Umbro.
There is no denying the kits simplicity, as it is almost entirely white with just a few red accents. However, simplicity is not always the worst thing and this kit is a sharp new option for the national team. The kit is now on sale at CanadaSoccer.com.