The Canadian Soccer Association announced on Friday that Benito Floro is the new head coach of Canada's men's national team. Floro takes over the reigns from Stephen Hart, who resigned after Canada's 8-1 loss to Honduras in World Cup qualifying in October 2012.
Floro has over 30 years of coaching experience, including a stint in charge of Real Madrid from 1992-94, and will bring with him a wealth of knowledge gained from around the world. His career has taken him from clubs at the highest level of Spanish football, to coaching positions abroad at clubs in Japan, Mexico, Ecuador and Morocco.
Critics of this hire will point to the fact that this will be Floro's first job coaching a national team; that he has never had to prepare a team to compete without the relative luxury of the daily contact that is afforded to coaches at the club level.
I don't believe that this argument carries much weight; an experienced coach like Floro will be able to adapt to the intricacies of international football with relative ease.
In my opinion, his strengths – decades of coaching experience, multi-lingualism (this is a big plus, given the multicultural nature of our country) and a wealth of experience as a coach educator – far outweigh this weakness.
Victor Montagliani, President of the CSA, told me this:
"It's not just about the 20 or so guys he will be coaching at any point in time on the men's team. He is one of the top coach educators in Spain. While that is not going to be his mandate, he is going to be a fantastic resource for Tony Fonseca in coach education.
"He has a presence. Certain guys, when they walk in the room, you take notice. Benito Floro has presence."
The presence that Montagliani refers to will help Floro when it comes to coaching the men's team, but I believe that his background in coach education could be where Canadian soccer will see its biggest gain.
Floro will be restricted to working with "what he has" on the men's national team, as he will not be in a position to develop players quickly enough to affect qualifying for the World Cup in 2018. He will, however, be in a position to leave a legacy behind if he can also play a role in developing the next generation of Canadian coaches. It is this area where his knowledge and experience will be a considerable asset to Tony Fonseca, the CSA's Technical Director, as Fonseca looks to improve the CSA's coach education program.
A key component of that program will be a brand new national curriculum - something that is currently being assembled, and should be fully completed by the end of the calendar year.
This is big news. Canada has never had a national curriculum – a resource for coaches across the country to use in training and developing the next generation of Canadian players. All that is about to change.
Up until now, player development in Canada has been by chance, not by design. Players had to fight their way through a broken, fractured mess of a development system, which saw too many talented youngsters slip through the cracks.
With a national curriculum in place - coupled with the implementation of high-performance youth leagues in our major provinces (to begin with) - we may finally start to see Canadian players being developed by design, rather than 'hoping for the best'.
What I like about the way Fonseca is assembling the national curriculum is this: it is being done collaboratively.
Fonseca is not force-feeding a document to the provincial associations that was developed in secrecy. Instead, he has enlisted the provincial association technical directors to help write the content. He will have final approval over that content, but much of the workload in creating the curriculum is being shared by the provincial TDs.
This allows the provincial associations to take ownership of the document, knowing that their technical staff played a big role in its creation. It also makes it far easier to implement, as the provincial associations will be much more inclined to 'buy in' to something that they played a direct role in creating.
The hiring of Benito Floro and the creation of a new national curriculum are positive moves from the CSA, but it is important to take a long-term approach when measuring the benefits of those moves. No one – including Floro – can solve all of our problems overnight.
But on Friday, Canadian soccer took a big step forward. And for that, the CSA should be applauded.