On a day when the U.S. Men’s National Team thought they’d have all the headlines in North America, Canada Soccer came down from the top rope. They announced Monday night that, effective immediately, John Herdman will take over as head coach of the men’s national program.
The move comes as a significant shock, since Octavio Zambrano was only named coach in March 2017. Nonetheless, it looks like Herdman (who had coached Canada’s women’s team since 2011) will be in charge for the foreseeable future.
Herdman has been working in international soccer as a manager since 2006, first as coach of the New Zealand women’s team and then of Canada’s. He’s never been at the helm of a men’s national team, though.
As far as FIFA pedigree goes, Herdman has plenty on his resume. He led New Zealand to the Women’s World Cup in 2007 and 2011, and he took Canada to the quarter-finals when they hosted the tournament in 2015. He was also in charge when Canada won bronze at the London 2012 Olympics.
One of Herdman’s assistants, Kenneth Heiner-Møller, will take over as head of Canada’s women’s program.
This is an incredibly strange move, given how promising Zambrano’s short tenure was. The men lost just twice in the eight games they’ve played under him, posting good results against Costa Rica and Honduras at the Gold Cup last summer.
The timing is also interesting, since we expect Canada to be holding a winter training camp at some point in the very near future. This likely explains why we haven’t heard much about it yet, though.
Overall, I’m intrigued. This could be very good for the men’s team; Herdman worked wonders on the women’s side. Still, it’s weird that Zambrano was let go (Canada Soccer isn’t saying why, either).
Herdman will inherit a young player pool with lots of potential, with players like Raheem Edwards and Alphonso Davies at his disposal. He’ll need to find a way to fit a lot of talented attacking players into one side, though. That’s a challenge any manager would struggle with.
With this news, we’ll probably see some friendly matches announced soon. Canada are probably already looking ahead to the next Olympic qualifying cycle, which is scheduled to begin in Oct. 2019