The Good, Bad & Ugly 2010: Canadian soccer

In a country dominated by hockey, soccer doesn’t often get the love and respect that it deserves. With over 1.3-million male and female registered players – and millions more fans – soccer in Canada gets surprisingly little attention on and off the field. The sport is largely ignored by international players as well as the media.
2010 saw riveting international soccer stories from the World Cup and league competitions around the world. But the year also saw its share of bad – and downright ugly – events on the pitch.
Will the hiring of German soccer icon Juergen Klinsmann be enough repair Toronto FC after an ugly 2010 season?
(Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)
The Good
There is no story in Canadian soccer this year that can compare to the success of the national women’s team.
In 2010 the team became a world power, led by the talented B.C. native Christine Sinclaire (six time winner of Player of the Year). The ‘Big Red’ decimated all of their opponents at the CONCACAF Women’s Gold Cup, qualifying them to the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Germany. The women won every match at the tournament without allowing one goal into the net.
And as recently as December 19, the Canadian women tied their 10-match, unbeaten record following a 2-2 draw against soccer power house, Brazil.
There’s no doubt that the women’s national team will continue their strong performance into 2011, which could prove to be another record-breaking year.
The Bad
While the women’s team made headlines, then men’s team wasn’t anywhere to be found. As Canadians watched the World Cup in South Africa, many (if not all) of them wondered why our home and native land was missing from the world’s largest sporting event. However, Canada hasn’t qualified since 1986 – and don’t look likely to make it any time soon.
In 2010 the team played six friendly games, winning only once. Who could forget the 5-0 drubbing by Argentina weeks before the World Cup began?
The men’s team currently sits 84th in the FIFA world rankings which puts Canada 21 places behind New Zealand, 58 behind Australia and 66 places behind our neighbours to the south, the United States. Pretty bad.
Canadian fans would love nothing more than to cheer on a winning (or at least respectable) team. Is our country so devoid of talent that we can’t put together a decent men’s squad? Or are there deeper issues with the infrastructure of Canadian soccer?
Whatever the reason, Canadian fans will continue to cheer on their favourite foreign teams while our domestic players remain in obscurity. And Canadian soccer will suffer for it.
The Ugly
There wasn’t much pretty about Toronto FC in 2010. From Mo Johnston’s ineffective - and overstayed - leadership to head coach Preki’s lack of ability to win over the locker room (which led to his inevitable firing), the past year didn’t offer much hope to the fans. Five coaches in five years and never seeing the playoffs – it’s not something to be proud about.
After starting the year well by going undefeated for seven games, the second half of the season saw the team fall apart. Who will forget TFC’s worst game against DC United, MLS’s last-place team? A win would have kept Toronto’s playoff hopes alive. But TFC’s uninspired play gave United a 1-0 win, effectively ending the Reds’ season.
And the “support” from Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment left little to be desired. The prospect of rising ticket prices (to watch yet another losing Toronto team) left fans bitter and led to protests and town hall meetings between supporters and MLSE. The ownership responded by firing Johnston and apologizing the team’s lack of success on the pitch.
The next year does look to be more positive, however; there is new staff in the head office and an obvious commitment to the team’s performance by MLSE. They’ve hired German soccer icon Juergen Klinsmann to consult on how to improve Toronto FC. And with the Vancouver Whitecaps entering the MLS this year and Montreal Impact in 2012, fans might just have a reason to be excited for the future.