Herdman selects women’s Canadian Olympic qualifying roster

John Herdman

Last week, Canadian female Player of the Year Christine Sinclair enthused that the women’s national team has never had as good a relationship with its coach or the national association as it enjoys right now.

But there is still a lot of work left to be done ahead of the CONCACAF qualifying tournament for the 2012 Olympics. And coach John Herdman is still working to heal the mental scars left by the team’s stunning three-and-out performance at last summer’s World Cup.

As he announced his roster for the upcoming tournament in Vancouver, he also spoke of the need to keep the team’s heads “light, bright and clean.” So, in January, he is bringing in Dr. Ceri Evans, listed on the roster as a “mental trainer” to work with the team, to help boost the player’s confidence after the morale-shattering World Cup — a tournament where the player’s mental toughness was brought into question.

It’s refreshing to see that Herdman puts a lot of stock in the mental side of the game. Right now, a lot of media attention is placed on tactics and tactics alone. The other intangibles the coach brings to a team, from motivation to preparation to helping players improve under their watches — tends to be ignored.

So, how did Herdman earn the respect of Canada’s top player so soon after he replaced Carolina Morace after the World Cup?

Herdman said a lot of it has to do with communication. While coaching isn’t a democracy, he wants his players to speak up. In a conference call with media Tuesday, he said that when he got the job that he came in “with the philosophy that you have to understand in order to be understood.”

So, he listened.

“I’ve created a situation in the team where you can openly express your ideas, whether it’s tactical, or about how the team is going to function and operate.”

And judging by how he handles the media, he is far more candid and open about the national team than previous coaches Morace or Even Pellerud. And it’s that kind of refreshing honesty that’s a breath of fresh air.

But, he has made some tough and surprising decisions with the roster.

“It’s not one of those events where you can start testing or developing players,” Herdman said. For Vancouver, he had to bring the best available lineup available to him at the moment.

That means that Chelsea Buckland, who scored in a recent friendly against Sweden and has 11 goals in 20 games for Oregon State University, makes the team.

“She understands how to work with and for another forward,” Herdman said adding it was impossible to ignore her after her goal.

Veteran Diana Matheson is on the squad, even though she is recovering from surgery. It’s a bit of a gamble, as Herdman admitted that he was hopeful that Matheson would be ready in time for the qualifiers.

Neither Emily Zurrer or Marie-Eve Nault, who were both on the World Cup roster, made the Olympic team’s final roster. Nault is nursing an injury and isn’t available. Zurrer was a coach’s decision. Herdman said they will both be on his mind for the 2012 Olympics, if Canada qualifies.

That’s interesting, because both had their struggles in Germany. Nault was arguably the Canadian player who struggled the most in Canada’s tournament opening 2-1 loss to the Germans. After an error-prone first half, she was subbed off at halftime. And, in that same game, Zurrer had a fantastic chance to draw Canada level after she found herself alone in front of goal. But instead of controlling the ball and then calmly slotting home for what would have been a shock draw, she panicked and hit the ball on the first touch, sending it over the bar.

Shannon Woeller, a left-footed defender at Rutgers University, impressed Herdman during Canada’s recent gold-medal run at the Pan Am Games. She distributed the ball well, and is on the roster. And that distribution is important, as Herdman said the back line has been working to move the ball more intelligently up the field. When assessing the team, he felt that the defenders’ default position was still to kick the ball aimlessly up the field. So that’s been an area of emphasis.

Amelia Pietrangelo, who was just named Canada’s U-20 Female Player of the Year, didn’t make the team after being invited to the evaluation camp. But Herdman said, like Nault and Zurrer, Pietrangelo remains on his radar for the Olympic Games.

Herdman said that he has been impressed by the commitment that the veterans have shown to the program. A recent camp in California offered more proof of this. He lauded senior players for working to bring new skill sets to their games.

“They are shedding and old skin to become something new.

“People don’t see the yards the team is putting in off the pitch to get better.”

CANADA ROSTER
GK Karina LeBlanc | USA / Sky Blue FC
GK Erin McLeod | SWE / Dalsjofors G.o.I.F.
CB Candace Chapman | USA / Sky Blue FC
CB Carmelina Moscato | SWE / Pitea IF
CB Shannon Woeller | USA / Rutgers University
FB Melanie Booth | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps FC
FB Robyn Gayle | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps FC
FB Lauren Sesselmann | USA / Atlanta Beat
FB Chelsea Stewart | USA / UCLA
FB Rhian Wilkinson | NOR / Lillestrom SK Kvinner
M Kaylyn Kyle | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps FC
M Diana Matheson | NOR / Lillestrom SK Kvinner
M Kelly Parker | USA / Atlanta Beat
M Sophie Schmidt | USA / magicJack
M Desiree Scott | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps FC
M Brittany Timko | Unattached / sans club
F Chelsea Buckland | USA / Oregon State University
F Christina Julien | CAN / Ottawa Fury
F Christine Sinclair | USA / Western New York Flash
F Melissa Tancredi | SWE / Pitea IF

RELATED:
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Sinclair’s late goal allows Canadian women to edge the Swedes (CLICK)

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About Steven Sandor

I'm currently the colour commentator for FC Edmonton broadcasts on Sportsnet, NASL.com and TEAM 1260. I've covered the Toronto FC beat for four years, worked for the Edmonton Aviators of the USL for a season, covered the Edmonton Drillers of the NPSL and started covering Canadian World Cup qualifiers in 1996. I've covered the CONCACAF Champions League and the U-20 World Cup. I'm passionate about soccer in North America.