After CSA President Colin Linford was not able to get the approval from the CSA Board of Directors for the hiring of Brazilian Rene Simoes as Men's National team coach, Dale Mitchell the current Canadian Under-20 and former Canadian International is now set to become the National team boss (according to reports in the Toronto Star & Globe & Mail). Simoes became the number one choice after a panel, including player representative Dwayne De Rosario of the Houston Dynamo, selected him from a short list of 4 candidates that also included former World Cup winner and Tottenham manager Ossie Ardiles of Argentina according to the reports this morning.
My take: Although I would have preferred a foreign coach, someone with the pedigree and respect at the International level and the CONCACAF Region, I was always a bit weary of Simoes since his name was revealed. Simoes clearly understands our region having coached teams in CONCACAF and he did lead Jamaica to the World Cup in 1998 . Of course the manner in which he led Jamaica was not exactly a product of his tactical brilliance or coaching expertise, in my opinion. You may recall Simoes basically recruited players of Jamaican ancestry playing around the world to make up the bulk of the starting team. Many who had never even been to Jamaica before. Sure he had to bring those players together and turn them into a cohesive unit, but the shear number of players he imported into the team diminished the accomplishment of reaching France in my eyes (England based Frank Sinclair, Darryl Powell, Deon Burton, Robbie Earle, even Toronto native Andy Williams amongst others were some of the players brought in).
Dale Mitchell gets his chance, probably not the manner he would have liked, but its a great opportunity nonetheless. He was probably the best midfielder to ever suit up for our country. Mitchell was a brilliant player one of my favourites growing up. I remember watching him closely during his visits with the National team, Vancouver 86ers, and when he played locally for the Toronto Blizzard in the CSL days. American readers may remember Dale from his days in the MISL, where he was one of the best players for many years.
Will he light up the imagination of the soccer fans across the country? Probably not. Mitchell does however offer a true understanding of the Canadian setup and mentality, and probably has a better grasp of the current crop of players than anyone else. He will also understand the limitations of the sport in our country, something that is not easily understood by foreign coaches (Holger Osieck comes to mind). His biggest challenge in the short term as National team boss, in my opinion, will be to lure Toronto native Jonathan De Guzman to come home and play for Canada. His focus until July of course will be the Under 20's. Stephen Hart will lead Canada to the Gold Cup next month.
My dream coach for Canada has always been Canadian born and raised John Van't Schipp, who is Marco Van Basten's assistant with Holland. The former Holland, Ajax, and Genoa player was born and grew up in British Columbia before his family moved back to Holland and he was discovered by Ajax Youth system. Not sure what type of compensation the likes of Van't Schipp would command, but I would assume it is quite substantial, and well beyond the reach of Canadian soccer. I'll keep my dream alive though, after all I would never have thought I would be watching MLS live in my hometown, 20 minutes from my house no less, in a sold out soccer specific stadium a few years back, yet here we are today!