John Herdman knows that the result against Mexico on Wednesday won’t define his success. He’s building towards something much greater than this Gold Cup. However, some of the fruits of their labour have already arrived, and it is the first time, for many of them, that we will see how they shape up against an opposition which will force their best.
Since John Herdman took charge of the team in January 2018, he has not faced a squad higher than Canada in the FIFA rankings. The results have been quite comfortable too. Six matches, six wins, one goal conceded and 23 scored! His tightest match was a friendly in Spain where Tosaint Ricketts scored the game’s only goal to beat New Zealand 1-0.
Despite these results, his staff have not taken it easy. He’s brought on experienced coaches such as Mauro Biello, Jason DeVos and Colin Miller to supplement the experience he’s given the players each time they come into camp. The work has been meticulous and after five camps at the helm, it’s finally time to see what will come from it.
Instead of lining up friendlies every camp, John Herdman’s staff has used the time with his players to focus solely on his Nations League qualifying matches. What else have the Canadian men been up to during their time together? Well they haven’t exactly been sitting around. He has brought in members of the military to speak to his team about what it means to represent Canada. He also pulled out the first red jersey the Canadian team wore after switching from blue. These are just a couple examples of the devices Herdman has used to shift the culture within in the side.
Despite all the work the coaches have put in at the top, they have been very fortunate lately. The number of very talented young players appearing is startling. We all know about Alphonso Davies. His story is special and cannot be matched, but he’s not the only story. Players such as Jonathan David, Derek Cornelius, Liam Millar and Zachary Brault-Guillard have all emerged to the surface since the last Gold Cup two years ago. Davies himself has stated in the lead up to the match that Canada has “grown since the last Gold cup”. Jonathan David’s most recent season in particular, has been remarkable. He went from being unknown to almost everyone in the country, to one of it’s best players in just one season of Belgian football.
Canada has been playing with confidence and a new found swagger. The goals scored and attacking potency is something supporters of the Canadian men’s team have been yearning for for a very, very long time. Remember, on many occasions Canadians have become optimistic of their men’s team, usually only for that optimism to be shatter not long after. However, there is something different about this squad, and it is not just the present that excites. The future is very bright. We don’t have much longer now before matches against the big dogs and a chance to start making a real assessment.
“…it will be a good test for Canada as we have a new identity, a new structure and a new team, and this will be a good opportunity for us to test ourselves,”Alphonso Davies
Wednesday in Denver John Herdman will have a chance to show what everything he’s been building is all about. And the players he chooses to put on the field will also have a lot to prove. By no means is this John Herdman’s final version of his Canadian Men’s national team, but it’s a pretty good first draft.