Canada Soccer to name new general secretary before announcing Herdman's successor

While a successor to John Herdman as Canada soccer coach likely won't be named until next year, interim coach Mauro Biello has already put up his hand.

Canada Soccer said Wednesday that its board has decided the men's coaching position will be filled after a new general secretary is announced.

"The search for the federation’s top operational leader is currently underway, expected to be named by the end of this year," the organization said in a release.

Herdman announced in late August that he was stepping down as Canada coach to take over Major League Soccer's Toronto FC on Oct. 1.

Biello, assistant head coach under Herdman since 2018, will serve as interim coach until a new permanent coach is hired.

"I've told the board of the CSA (Canadian Soccer Association) that I want to put my name in the running for this job," Biello told The Canadian Press. "I know that I'm getting this audition at the moment and I know what this job entails and what I'm going to be judged on.

"So for me, I would like that opportunity and I'm going to work towards it now in these next two (FIFA international) windows."

There are important games ahead, particularly in November.

Biello, appointed interim head coach in late August, is preparing for Canada's Oct. 13 friendly against Japan in Niigata and the CONCACAF Nations League, which serves as a Copa America qualifier. The U.S. is hosting the South American championship in the summer of 2024 with 10 CONMEBOL teams plus six best CONCACAF teams as guests.

"For me, this October window, it's an opportunity to reconnect the group, regain some of that cohesion with the team," he said. "And then prime them, get them ready … (for) this important (Japan) game to be ready for that November window which will be crucial for us going into 2024."

In preparation for those matches, Biello has already been in contact with the Canadian team's leadership group and was working on filling vacancies in the coaching staff, with some members expected to join Herdman at TFC.

Biello said while Herdman is preparing to take over at Toronto, his door has been open as needed.

The 51-year-old Biello is a former Canadian international, winning four caps. At club level, he was a longtime player with the Montreal Impact, now known as CF Montreal, and went on to coach the side.

Biello, who has been with the club as a player or coach since its inception in 1993, took over from Frank Klopas as Montreal's head coach in August 2015. He was fired in October 2017 after Montreal failed to make the playoffs, finishing ninth in the Eastern Conference.

Biello's son Alessandro, part of the CF Montreal youth system, is a Canadian under-17 international.

Former national team captain Jason deVos took over as Canada Soccer's interim general secretary in April. The Canada Soccer Hall of Famer left his position as the governing body's director of development after the resignation of Earl Cochrane.

“It was important to provide today’s updates around the timing and hiring of some of the key positions on our senior leadership team, which will help bring further stability and continuity to Canada Soccer," deVos said in a statement. "One of the key responsibilities I’ve had since coming on as interim general secretary, has been to modernize our federation and making sure we are set up for success well into the future.

"Today ensures we are taking important steps forward to do just that.”

Canada Soccer's board of directors has chosen Korn Ferry, a global organizational consulting firm, to head up the search for general secretary.

“Given Korn Ferry's impressive global footprint and recent high-profile placements within sport in Canada, we are pleased to be working with Korn Ferry and have full confidence in their capacity to immediately begin work required to fill such a critical role in our organization,” Canada Soccer president Charmaine Crooks said in a release.

Korn Ferry assisted in Hockey Canada's search for nominees for its board of directors which resulted in former Canadian Olympian Cassie Campbell-Pascall and seven others joining the board in December 2022 with retired judge Hugh L. Fraser taking over as chair.

DeVos, who was part of Herdman's coaching staff at last year's FIFA World Cup in Qatar, has not confirmed whether he will be a candidate for the permanent position.

Herdman won a pair of Olympic bronze medals at the helm of the Canadian women before switching over to take charge of the men In January 2018. The 48-year-old English native led the men to new heights, including qualifying for the World Cup for the first time in 36 years.

Canada Soccer also announced Wednesday that Paulo Senra will be chief communications and content officer, responsible for the "overall strategic direction and day-to-day operations."

Senra has previously worked with OverActive Media, DAZN, the CFL and Canadian Olympic Committee.

Canada Soccer has been under the microscope for months with top officials leaving as the organization struggled with bad press over a lengthy labour dispute with the men's and women's national teams.

Nick Bontis resigned as president in late February, acknowledging change was needed to conclude the ongoing labour battle. Crooks, a former Olympic track star, took over as acting president and was subsequently voted into the job.

On the field, the Olympic champion Canadian women failed to get out of the group stage and went home early from the recent FIFA Women's World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. The Canadians dropped to No. 10 in the world rankings after finishing 21st in the 32-team tournament.

The 43rd-ranked Canadian men, meanwhile, expressed their disappointment, at sitting out the September FIFA international window. Canada Soccer has blamed financial constraints for the failure to secure fixtures.

The labour dispute continues, although there has been success in settling some issues.

The friendly against Japan serves as preparation for Canada's November CONCACAF Nations League matches.

Canada, along with Costa Rica, Mexico and the U.S., has been drawn directly into the quarterfinal stage of the Nations League which will be played in a home-and-away format. The series winners move on to the 2024 Nations League final four and book their ticket to Copa America.


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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 20, 2023

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press