Stephen Hart Archive

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Why the CSA should look to Mexico for the next national-team coach

Javier Aguirre… Should the CSA give him a call?

Today was a day of goodbyes for the Canadian national team.

A day after he announced his resignation, former coach Stephen Hart spoke with the media in a Friday conference call, basically saying that there was no way back after Tuesday’s 8-1 loss to Honduras, which ended the World Cup campaign with a national-team implosion.

And, midfielder Patrice Bernier announced that he is retiring from international soccer. The Montreal Impact midfielder will spend the rest of his thirtysomething years focused on his club career.

Bernier, who wasn’t used in Tuesday’s 8-1 loss to Honduras — the game which ended Canada’s World Cup qualifying hopes — is likely to be the first of many.

Truth is, this was, in soccer terms, a very experienced team. Some might even use the term, “old.” And many tough choices lay ahead.
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CSA accepts Stephen Hart’s resignation

Stephen Hart

The Canadian Soccer Association has accepted the resignation of men’s national-team coach Stephen Hart.

The writing was on the wall as soon as the final whistle sounded after Tuesday’s World Cup qualifying 8-1 loss to Honduras, which cost Canada the a place in the Hex. Hart said after the match that he was sure Canadian soccer supporters would never forgive him for what was one of the darkest days in the history of the national program.

CSA president Victor Montagliani said that he will look for the “best candidate” for the job, which means that the coach would need to know what it takes to go down to Central America and get results.
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Hart: I know fans will “never forgive me”

Stephen Hart: Takes the blame

There was so much optimism and hope that this could be the time, but instead it was simply 90 minutes of suffering.

Canada’s hopes of qualifying for the Hex weren’t just dashed, they were firebombed and nuked in the very same place it all officially came to an end four years ago.

The visitors had a few early chances but their back line—usually their strength—put on a simply shocking display as the hosts sent their fans home delirious with glee with an 8-1 thumping of Canada.

Jerry Bengtson had a hat-trick as the Hondurans kept their hopes of reaching their second straight World Cup alive while Canada is sent home with a lot of questions that need answering.

“You want desperately for Canada to do well,” said head coach Stephen Hart. “All I can do is ask the fans’ forgiveness on behalf of the players. I know they’ll never forgive me.”
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After Friday’s results, Canada knows it must get at least a draw in Honduras

Olivier Occean… baffled by the red card he was issued. PHOTO: CANADA SOCCER

Goals — check.

Three points — check.

So why is Canada left with a bittersweet taste despite a 3-0 victory over Cuba and sitting tied with Panama atop Group C? It will be the inordinate amount of missed opportunities against a Cuban team with no subs and out of its element on a cold autumn night that will have Canada ruing its chance to run up the score even more than it did.

Canada now has 10 points and is two points up on Honduras after a 0-0 draw in Panama City. So did the team do enough to put itself in a good position heading into the final group match?
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Canada not happy with three-goal margin over Cuba

Will Johnson scored the second goal for Canada PHOTO: CANADA SOCCER

It isn’t often that Canada feels hard done by after a 3-0 victory, but given the bizarre circumstances surrounding Friday’s CONCACAF World Cup qualifier against Cuba, three goals seemed like the bare minimum that Canada could’ve scored against an overmatched Cuban side.

Canada outshot Cuba by a 35-14 margin (including 14-1 in shots on goal), a dominating but oddly frustrating performance that left the Canadians disappointed at their lack of finish. Given the tight circumstances of the qualifying group, every goal was critical for a possible tiebreaker scenario.

“We could’ve at least scored seven goals today, we had so many chances,” said Atiba Hutchinson. “There could’ve been a lot more. Players kind of had their heads down a little bit because we know we could’ve had more goals.”
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Hart: Cuba, not Honduras, has got to be the focus of the CMNT

Stephen Hart PHOTO: CANADA SOCCER

Everybody wants to talk about Canada’s upcoming World Cup qualifier in Honduras. It could be the biggest game this generation of Canadian national-team players will play — so far.

National team coach Stephen Hart has been asked question after question about how the team will fare in the hostile Central American environment. Story after story has been published about how Canada can’t wither in Honduras like it did in it most recent World Cup qualifying setback — a 2-0 loss in Panama.

Canada goes to Honduras on Oct. 16 — but there’s the matter of the Cuba match on Oct. 12. Canada will likely need four points from the two games in order to go on the Hex, the final round of CONCACAF’s World Cup qualifying schedule.

But, if Canada doesn’t beat Cuba Oct. 12 at BMO Field — the whole plan goes awry. Hart, who spoke with the media Thursday as Canada released its roster for the two upcoming matches, said his team’s focus is solely on Cuba.

“It is you guys (the media) who are focused on Honduras,” said Hart. “My discussions with the squad after the Panama game were about Cuba. They continue to be that. It is a dangerous thing to play a game before it arrives.”
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Occean limps out of Frankfurt win with “muscle injury”

Olivier Occean

Canadian striker Olivier Occean left Eintracht Frankfurt’s Bundesliga match Friday with what his team has called a “muscle injury.”

Occean, who opened his Bundesliga account with a goal last week, hobbled out of Frankfurt’s 2-1 win over FC Nurnberg just 20 minutes into the match. Newly promoted Frankfurt won its fourth match in a row, but Canadian fans will be focused on Occean’s status ahead of the men’s national team’s two upcoming World Cup qualifiers.

In mid October, Canada will host Cuba and then go on the road to Honduras as it wraps up play in CONCACAF Group C. The top two teams in Group C will go on to the Hex.

Panama, which has a date against Cuba in its final two matches, is almost assured one of the final two spots, which leaves it between Canada and Honduras, who are tied on points at the moment, for the other spot. Honduras, though, previously got a draw at BMO Field.
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Bernier: Canada “should have never been like this” in Panama rematch

Canada’s Julian de Guzman, right, tries to carry the ball past Panama’s Luis Henriquez. PHOTO: CANADA SOCCER

Panamanian supporters wasted quite a lot of beer Tuesday night but they didn’t care one bit.

The hometown fans reacted the same way on both occasions as their team scored their goals against a Canadian team that was on the back foot right from the start. Each time the ball crossed the line and into the Canadian goal, they would throw their hands up in celebration, throwing whatever they had (in most cases beer) into the air.

They were treated to a dominating performance by their team as Canada wilted under humid conditions in Panama. It wasn’t particularly hot but as the old saying goes, “it’s not the heat that’ll kill you—it’s the humidity.”

“We should have never been like this, at least from the get-go,” said midfielder Patrice Bernier after the 2-0 loss. “You can understand it during the game to lose momentum or be tired but I think in a game like this we should be ready from the get-go and give them more of a battle.”
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Injury, suspension force Hart to shuffle lineup ahead of Panama rematch

Olivier Occean: Not available for selection

Canadian national-team coach Stephen Hart got the result he wanted in Friday’s 1-0 win over Panama, but will be forced to shuffle his deck ahead of Tuesday’s World Cup qualifying rematch in Panama City.

With Will Johnson out because of yellow-card accumulation and striker Olivier Occean not even making the trip to Central America because of an injury picked up in Friday’s win, Hart will have to make some changes.

“It was best to send (Olivier) back to his club (Eintracht Frankfurt),” said Hart in a conference call with media on Monday. “We have make some changes to the lineup. We trained today and players know what their roles are.”
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Panamanian keeper: “We were not paying attention and fell asleep”

Jaime Penedo

The tables have turned.

Entering Friday night’s match, the pressure was riding on Canada but now the boot is now on the other foot as Canada sits atop Group C in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying after a 1-0 win over Panama.

Sitting in first place coming into the match, the Panamanians would have been comfortable with a draw. But with wave after wave of the Canadian attack in the first half, the Canaleros looked certain to wilt under the pressure. But Panama responded with a better effort in the second half —but yet a cheeky quick free kick proved to be the difference as Panama fell to second in the group.
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