Home NASL & USL FC Edmonton Banner day for women’s soccer: Herdman extension, Calgary women’s program unveiled

Banner day for women’s soccer: Herdman extension, Calgary women’s program unveiled

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This has been an absolute banner day for women’s soccer in Canada.

The Canadian Soccer Association announced that coach John Herdman extended his contract. He is now set until 2020, taking him through not only the upcoming Women’s World Cup in Canada, but the 2019 tournament as well. As well, a friendly was announced for Vancouver on Nov. 24, with Mexico providing the opposition — giving the fans in British Columbia to once again show the amazing level of support they provided during the Olympic qualifying tournament.

And, FC Edmonton finalized details of its elite youth women’s program that it will run in Calgary, following up on the women’s program that has been launched in Edmonton.

As for Herdman’s signing, the deal ends speculation that he might jump for the vacant England job.

“I was talking to my mom last week, and she told me that John might not be coming back,” said national-team keeper Erin McLeod, who was in Calgary Thursday for the launch of the elite women’s team. “I almost had a heart attack. He’s been so phenomenal for this group. For me, especially, I can’t imagine playing for anyone else.”

And she said that Herdman’s extension will bring some stability to the program.

“We don’t want to be known as that team that won the bronze medal once upon a time,” McLeod said.

In Calgary, the joint FC Edmonton/Alberta Soccer Association program, which will be run out of the Foothills facility, will give the chance for elite competition and coaching for both youth male and female players. The boys who excel could be fed into FC Edmonton’s system, and join the likes of Mallan Roberts and Hanson Boakai as youth prospects who have gone on to the NASL. The girls will feed into the Excel Program, which identifies the top female prospects across the country.

“It’s an exciting day,” said FC Edmonton owner Tom Fath. “When my brother Dave and I got into soccer, it was for the betterment of the community. But if you only have a men’s team, it only covers half the community… So many other countries are putting more resources into women’s programs. Canada has to do everything it can to achieve our goals.”

Alberta Soccer Association technical director Shaun Lowther said the Calgary program will begin in mid-October, indoor at Foothills. Once the spring weather allows it in 2014, the program moves outdoors. Calgary and Edmonton elite teams, both under the FCE banner, will play each other.

McLeod, who was born in the Edmonton area and spent her formative years in Calgary, said that programs that cater to elite players are important. She said the truth is that Alberta has to try and push its players into the national spotlight; that wasn’t the case when she was a youth player in Calgary.

“There were a lot of good players who could have gone onto the next level that went unnoticed,” she said.

Lowther said the Calgary and Edmonton programs will be vital to ensure that Albertans still have shots at the national teams. The current issue is that on both the men’s and women’s sides, Edmonton and Calgary have leagues, but there are one or two top-level teams that dominate. That isn’t a good environment. There are plans for a high-performance league but the FCE plan is the first major step to stop treating “elite” players as problems rather than assets.

“For too long, the word ‘elite’ has been a bad word in Canada,” said FCE coach Colin Miller, who was also the head coach of the men’s national side before the CSA hired Benito Floro to take over the program.

Miller said Canada needs to create an environment where elite players “aren’t kicked off the field by players who prefer going out for pints rather than training.”

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One Comment

  1. cwell

    September 5, 2013 at 9:22 pm

    They’ll be lucky to win even a bronze next time…

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