• March 20, 2023

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Canadian coach John Herdman sees an opportunity in tough stretch of World Cup qualifying matches

John Herdman has never shrieked in the face of a challenge during his time as coach of both the Canadian women’s and men’s soccer teams. His tenure in charge of both programs is defined by his ability to keep his cool, even under the most adverse circumstances.

Herdman’s managerial acumen and reputation as a problem solver will face the ultimate test this month when the men’s side resumes its World Cup qualifying campaign after a successful start in September. Canada opened its account in the final stage of the CONCACAF qualifiers with a pair of draws versus the United States and Honduras, before earning a comprehensive 3-0 home victory over El Salvador.

With five points, Canada sits in a three-way tie for second place with the U.S., and Panama. Mexico tops the group with seven points (two wins and a draw). The top three teams in the eight-nation field at the end of the marathon 14-match group stage, which runs until next March, automatically qualify for the World Cup. The Canadians are off to a good start, but things are about to get a whole lot more serious.

Canada is scheduled to play three matches in a seven day period, including a road trip to Jamaica (Oct. 10) and home date versus Panama in Toronto (Oct. 13). But before those two games, Canada pays a visit to Mexico City’s Estadio Azteca on Thursday night for a showdown against CONCACAF top dogs Mexico in what is the biggest game in years for the Canadian team.

Herdman recognizes that this month’s slate of games, and in particular the match versus Mexico, presents Canada with a chance to take a giant step towards qualifying for the World Cup. “I’m excited. It’s a window that we’re going to suffer a little bit in… but it’s a real opportunity for us to show the quality of our depth and to strengthen this group,” Herdman offered.

Steve Carr

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