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deVos: Breaking down a tough week for Canadian soccer

Jason deVos
9/11/2013 12:32:38 PM
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It's been a tough week if you are a fan of Canadian soccer.

On Saturday, the Vancouver Whitecaps came out of Dallas with their tails between their legs, having lost a crucial league game to fellow playoff contenders FC Dallas by a score of 3-1. The Whitecaps' playoff hopes are dwindling, as they sit five points adrift of the final playoff place in the Western Conference.

Later that night, after a battling first half performance, Toronto FC collapsed like a house of cards against the Portland Timbers, gifting the hosts their second goal on the way to a 4-0 drubbing. Only the Montreal Impact - 4-2 winners against the New England Revolution - spared Canadian fans' blushes.

Canada's men's national team also participated in their first training camp under new head coach Benito Floro last week. The camp included two friendly matches against Mauritania; the first game ended in a scoreless draw, while the second game saw a 10-man Canadian team (after Marcel de Jong was sent off for two yellow cards in the first half) lose 1-0.

Yep...it's been a tough week.

After the two results against Mauritania, there was an inevitable outburst on social media, as fans (and those who simply enjoy criticizing Canadian soccer) took to Twitter to express their outrage at our failure to overcome a nation that most had never heard of.

I could explain that this was just a training camp - a chance for Floro to take a look at every player at his disposal. I could further explain that losing to Mauritania is meaningless in the grand scheme of things. After all, if you can't experiment with players and new tactical ideas in friendly games played behind closed doors, when can you?

But that would be insulting to supporters. Losing to Mauritania is an embarrassment, and something that should never happen.

Trying to paper over the cracks by explaining the loss also distracts us from the real issue at hand. That issue is best captured by a quote from legendary basketball coach, John Wooden:

Failure is not fatal; but failure to change might be.

You see, no one knows if the CSA is doing anything to change the way players and coaches are developed in Canada. No one knows if there is a national curriculum in the works. No one knows when (or if) that curriculum will be completed, let alone how it will be implemented. No one knows if the 'Youth Coaching Licence' that was proposed a short while ago is being developed, or if it has been put on the shelf indefinitely. No one knows if the next generation of players is going to be any better prepared to deal with the rigours of international football than the current crop.

No one knows anything, because the CSA never tells anyone anything.

It's been 10 months since the CSA hired Tony Fonseca as its Technical Director, the man responsible for galvanizing and inspiring the nation - for putting us all on the same page so we can work collectively to develop talented players who can one day represent us on the international stage.

In the last 10 months, have you heard anything from Fonseca about how he plans to address any of the issues outlined above? Have you seen a press release or technical update from the CSA, addressing where we are, where we need to be, and how we intend to bridge that gap? Have you seen or even heard of the CSA's technical development plan - how it aims to go about fixing our broken development system for youth soccer in Canada?

Of course you haven't. Because none of that information has been released by the CSA. And in the absence of that information, the only option you are left with is to try to answer those questions yourself. Which goes something like this:

Are the CSA developing a national curriculum? No.

When and how is that national curriculum going to be implemented? It isn't.

When will the 'Youth Coaching Licence' be completed and available for coaches to take? Never, because it doesn't exist and it never will.

Does the CSA have a technical development plan? No.

Is the CSA doing anything at all to fix the broken mess of a development system that sees us produce, year after year, a shallow pool of talent from which to choose our men's and women's national teams? No.

Now, I know that these answers are entirely unfair - because I know that there is a lot of work being done by the CSA to address these issues. But you don't. And that is a major problem.

Supporters need to know what the CSA is doing to fix our problems. Supporters need to be able to read the CSA's technical development plan so that they can not only understand it, but more importantly, so that they can champion it.

Not even the most ardent supporters can rally around a team that is reeling like our men's national team program is. Winless in 2013, with three draws, seven losses and only one goal scored. Supporters need to know that steps are being taken to address our problems - problems that extend all the way to grassroots soccer. If the measures being implemented require 10-15 years to come to bear fruit, at the very least, fans can support the CSA over that period of time and do their part to facilitate change, rather than wringing their hands in frustration because they suspect nothing is being done.

Two very simple words of advice for the CSA: full disclosure. Spell out your plans in black and white; tell the fans what you are doing to affect change in Canada - and tell them often.

Otherwise, fans will do what they've always done in the absence of information. They will assume that you are doing nothing.

Jason deVos

Jason deVos

As one of Canada's most accomplished soccer players, Jason deVos spent nearly 20 years on the pitch playing competitive soccer at the highest professionallevels in Canada and around the world. After retiring from international play, deVos began his broadcasting career as a soccer analyst with the CBC and GOLTV. Most recently he provided commentary and analysis for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa for the CBC.

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