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.
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