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Canada should attract excellent candidates to replace Kenneth Heiner-Møller

Plus a roundup of the news around women’s soccer from this week.

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Canada v United States: Final - 2020 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Canada soccer dropped some surprising news this week, revealing that women’s senior national team coach Kenneth Heiner-Møller will depart at the end of August. That suggests his contract originally ran through the 2020 Olympics, and a one-year extension wasn’t agreeable to one or both parties.

Heiner-Møller gets a passing grade for his time with Canada, but not any higher than that. He managed to get Les Rouges to the World Cup knockout stage and qualify for the Tokyo Summer Olympics, but Canada is farther behind the United States than it has been at any point in the past decade. Heiner-Møller lost four games in a row at one point — including back-to-back 4-0 losses to Japan and Brazil — and has not won in his last four either.

His immediate replacement is not obvious. Assistant and Under-20 manager Rhian Wilkinson is clearly being groomed for the job in the future, but doesn’t appear ready yet after her squad’s extremely poor performances in Under-20 World Cup qualifying. Canada doesn’t yet have a professional league to bring up a successful club coach from. Canada Soccer will almost certainly have to look internationally.

But there’s good news for Canadian fans: ambitious coaches looking to further their careers should be rushing to submit their resumes, because this is one of the best jobs in world football. Fans and media don’t call for the manager’s head when Canada fails to beat the United States, capture an Olympic medal or make a World Cup semifinal, but the squad has the talent to accomplish those things.

The legendary Christine Sinclair is still an excellent player. Veterans Sophie Schmidt, Allysha Chapman and Diana Matheson are still solid contributors. Canada’s prime-age core of Kailen Sheridan, Kadiesha Buchanan, Shelina Zadorsky, Ashley Lawrence, Janine Beckie and Adriana Leon is the best the country has ever had around Sinclair. And the emerging young group of Jessie Fleming, Deanne Rose, Jayde Riviere, Gabby Carle, Julia Grosso and Jordyn Huitema appears to have an even higher ceiling. Fleming, in particular, is already one of the best midfielders on the planet, and she hasn’t even played a professional soccer game yet.

I think that this group has underperformed under Heiner-Møller, and it’s not going to take a genius to improve results with this group of talent. As long as the salary on offer is competitive, Canada shouldn’t have to worry about what kind of coach it can get to replace KHM. Several good candidates should be fighting for this job.

What we’ve been up to this week

Black NWSL players are tired, anxious, and still training amidst national turmoil | Bria Felicien

U.S. Soccer repealed its anthem policy for business reasons. The real work starts now. | Kim McCauley

The pros and cons from FIFA’s review of 2023 Women’s World Cup bids | Stephanie Yang

News from around the world

Report: Christen Press will not play in NWSL Challenge Cup | Cindy Lara, RSL Soapbox

Press is a make-or-break player for the Royals. I don’t think any other team in the world is more dependent on one player. With her in the lineup, Utah could have made a run to win the Challenge Cup. Without her, the competition is now just an extended preseason for new coach Craig Harrington to evaluate young players ahead of the 2021 campaign.

OL Groupe planning women’s soccer tournament for August | Steve Voght, Ride of the Valkyries

Most NWSL teams are expected to call it a year after the Challenge Cup, but OL Reign might go play its parent club in Lyon, as well as Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus.

Griedge Mbock Bathy out until 2021 with torn Achilles | L’Equipe

One of the world’s best defenders will be off the field for the next six months after getting hurt during individual workouts. This could present a huge opportunity to the aforementioned Kadiesha Buchannan, who’s probably now set for a starting role when Lyon resumes play.

Jill Scott to become player-coach with Man City women | Katie Whyatt, The Telegraph

We talk a lot about how to get more women head coaches into the highest levels of soccer, but the problem isn’t at the top of the pyramid. It’s the complete lack of a pipeline into coaching. I’m happy to see Jill Scott start preparing for her post-playing career while she’s still a good player for City, and I’d love to see more NWSL teams do this. I’ve had several NWSL managers tell me about players they think would make good coaches in a few years — why not get them started now?

VfL Wolfsburg signs super talent Lena Oberdorf | Der Spiegel

If you’re not familiar with Lena Oberdorf, you will be soon. The 18-year-old is making the move from Essen to perennial UEFA Champions League contenders Wolfsburg. She’s played in defense and midfield for club and country, and she’s expected to be locked-in first choice for Germany by the 2023 World Cup.