American striker Abby Wambach's comments Monday are stirring up plenty of debate on both sides of the border, but the most interesting reaction may be that of Canadian head coach John Herdman. Wambach told Yahoo!'s Dan Wetzel she started audibly counting the seconds Canadian keeper Erin McLeod held the ball during the controversial 4-3 win the U.S. recorded over Canada in women's Olympic soccer, and that may have spurred the referee's decision to award a rare indirect free kick against McLeod that led to the Americans' third goal. Herdman was very critical of the officiating (as were some of his players), and that may have spurred FIFA's decision to investigate post-match comments. When Canadian Press reporter Monte Stewart asked him about Wambach's comments on a media conference call Tuesday, Herdman was largely complimentary of Wambach, but said he wouldn't tell his players to do the same in future matches.
"If Abby has done that, good on her," Herdman said. "Wambach's a great player, she's a pro, she knows how to win matches."
Herdman said he didn't know about Wambach's counting, but he found it to be in keeping with what he knows of her.
"I wasn't aware Wambach was counting off the seconds to the ref," he said. "She's a quality player who'll do whatever it takes to win.
Herdman said he can appreciate Wambach's will to win.
"It shows the type of character she is, that she'll do anything to win matches," he said. "She's found a loophole."
He said Wambach's dedication is admirable.
"Our players can learn from that."
However, he said he wouldn't tell his players to carry out similar tactics.
"I certainly won't be asking my players to do that."
That's a bit of a fine line Herdman's walking, between diplomatically saying nice things about Wambach and not endorsing her tactics. It's worth nothing that Wambach, along with several of her American teammates, wasn't exactly complimentary of Canada after the match, so on balance, Herdman's probably a little nicer here than she was; he's still not completely praising her, though. On his part, that's probably smart, as FIFA's investigation could wind up suspending him for Thursday's bronze-medal match; Herdman didn't say anything here that should provide investigators with more ammunition, so if he's suspended, it would likely be over his post-match comments. For his part, Herdman said he's unaware of the details of the investigation, but he's going to keep his focus on the upcoming bronze-medal game.
[Slideshow: Canadian disappointments in London]
"I'm not absolutely clear about what's being investigated," he said. "As a coach, my job is absolutely to focus."
Herdman said he's proud of what the Canadians accomplished against the U.S. despite the loss.
"They achieved something last night without achieving something," he said.
He said it may take a little while for him to completely get over the loss.
"There's an emotional thing here, that's going to take some time."
However, Herdman said he and the team are already focusing in on preparing for Thursday's bronze-medal match against France, a game where he's already guaranteed a victory.
"The players, they're in a space where they're ready to move forward," he said. "We're here to see the flag rise."
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