July 22, 2011
It's not completely surprising that Carolina Morace is apparently out as the head coach of Canada's national women's soccer team (she reportedly resigned Thursday), but her departure may not be a panacea for the team's problems. After a promising start that saw the team break the shutout streak of defending champions Germany, the Canadians was eliminated from the Women's World Cup after a 4-0 thumping by France and exited in disappointing style with a 1-0 loss to Nigeria. Morace's exit provides some change, but given the larger development issues and the short time before Olympic qualifying starts, that change may not be all that positive.
Given the high hopes for this Canadian team, which was ranked sixth in the world heading into the tournament, and the conflicts between Morace (seen above during a training session before the Nigeria game) and the Canadian Soccer Association before the World Cup, it seemed likely that a shakeup of some form was coming. However, Morace's departure may not make things any better. When she was hired in 2009, she was seen by many one of the top female coaches in the world. After a successful career as a player with the Italian national team, she coached a professional men's team (Viterbese, in the Italian third division) and then the Italian women's national team.
The Canadian team showed plenty of potential under Morace, too; it took a while to adapt to her style, and she required some unusual measures, such as the team training in Italy for months ahead of the World Cup, but the team displayed an exciting, possession-based attacking style and produced some promising results. They went 5-0-0 in the 2010 CONCACAF Women's Gold Cup, which served as the Women's World Cup qualifying tournament. That was the first Gold Cup title for the Canadian women's side, which was runners-up to the U.S. in 2002 and 2006. The team also picked up some impressive wins in friendlies, and they played more international matches in preparation for the World Cup than any other team except Sweden. Their play in the World Cup obviously wasn't what they would have liked, but the team made some impressive progress under Morace.
Now that Morace is gone, the CSA is under the gun to find a replacement. The next Women's World Cup isn't for four years, but important matches start long before then, including Olympic qualifying in January. That's not going to be an easy task; the tournament will be held in Vancouver, but only two of the eight teams involved will earn a berth in the London Games, and there are plenty of powerful countries competing, including the U.S. and Mexico. The CSA will have to get a new coach in place quickly to have the time necessary to prepare for that tournament, especially if their new hire favours a different style than the team played under Morace. It's not like the market is overflowing with quality options at the moment, either. Morace's departure gives the CSA a convenient target to blame for the poor World Cup performance, but Canada's issues run deeper than coaching, and things may not get better quickly.