So what happens now?

Two months ago, with as much hype as has ever been attached to Canadian soccer, our men’s national team (regarded by many as our strongest ever) marched into our National Soccer Stadium in Toronto, took the field against a patchwork Jamaican squad in front of  the largest pro-Canadian crowd ever assembled for a soccer match and… played to a disappointing 1-1 draw. Last night, in the midst of internal turmoil and dissension, and knowing that they’d been mathematically eliminated from World Cup qualification, a patchwork Canadian squad turned in an encouraging 2-2 draw against the heavily-favoured Mexicans, in front of a crowd of a few thousand Canadian diehards and 10,000 rabid Mexicans at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton.

There it is, in a nutshell. From the highest hopes to “here we go again”, in less than two months.

But this time, it seems different. This time, we’ve seen high-profile players speak out against the manager and the CSA — from Dwayne DeRosario and Jim Brennan to, most recently, Julian de Guzman and Tomasz Radzinski (who donned a “Sack the CSA” t-shirt for a post-match interview last night). Many of us in the Voyageurs have been calling for Dale Mitchell’s head and demanding a structural change within (if not complete overthrowing of) the CSA — and the anger is palpable. But Mitchell is determined not to go and, as always, the silence emanating from the CSA is deafening. So, leave it to one of this country’s few soccer talking heads, Gerry Dobson, to inject a bit of sanity into the fracas:

Sacking the CSA is not a viable option. If you know anything about the sport, then you know that FIFA would simply suspend Canada if there is any outside interference. To think otherwise is naïve. We’ve seen FIFA’s act before. The CSA is not blameless for this debacle. Yet neither are the players nor the coaching staff. It was a collective failure.

He’s right, you know. Generally I’m the sort of person who thinks that managers/coaches are given too much credit for victories and too much blame for losses, in all sports, because ultimately, it is the performance of the players that determines the outcome of the contest. And the players have, thus far, provided us with three losses and two draws. Now, were Mitchell’s choices of formation and tactics questionable? Oh yeah. Should he remain the manager once this campaign is officially over? Nope. But without making it seem like I’m defending him, let me just say that in this country, where we have so few (if any) soccer “heroes”, it is a little unfortunate that the man who has scored more goals for Canada than any other in history will forever be vilified by supporters because of his inability to perform in a position the CSA should have never given him in the first place.

But yes, Mitchell and the CSA definitely have plenty of blame to share in this mess. And yeah, okay, so maybe we won’t be marching down Metcalfe Street in Ottawa and burning the CSA’s offices… but this debacle of a campaign has provided the final confirmation that the current structure of soccer in this country does not work, and never will. Period. The writing is on the wall and something needs to change. If nothing else, this campaign has mobilized the supporters of Canadian soccer like never before and if we can get our act together, then things will be much different in the run-up to 2014… and if they aren’t, then chances are, we’re destined for another round of heartbreak, no matter how promising our talent may be.

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