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New CSA president Montagliani strikes conciliatory tones

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Victor Montagliani sounded a lot like a man who had just won a political-party nomination.

In his first telephone media conference after being elected president of the Canadian Soccer Association, he spoke about building relationships, about working with the people who had voted against him. Really, it was no different than hearing a new leader reach out to the camps of the other candidates in an effort to bring a political party together after a divisive campaign.

And, of course, there was unbridled optimism: Talk of being able to double the CSA’s operating budget in eight years, about working with the pro clubs, that the reform process is moving along, a promise to do what it takes to make the national teams better.

For those hoping that Montagliani would kick off his presidency with angry ultimatums to the MLS over Canadian-import quotas or some angry words for remnants of the old guard who remain in the CSA, well, that was never going to happen.

When asked how he felt that the Montreal Impact, Toronto FC,Vancouver Whitecaps and FC Edmonton had supported his rival, Rob Newman, Montagliani responded that, right after he won the vote, he received an e-mail from the Whitecaps and a phone call from TFC.

“The professional clubs know I’m in it for the right reasons, and we are both willing to work with each other,” said Montagliani.

When asked about the quota, instituted in 2011, which only compels the Canadian MLS clubs to carry three domestic players per roster, Montagliani said the attitude has to be club AND country, not club vs. country. But he said the deal made in 2011 was done in cooperation in the CSA, though he allowed that it didn’t start out that way.

“It’s not just the quota we need to talk about,” he said. “There are some major things the professional clubs do for us and can do for us.”

And one of those things is to get more Canadians into MLS as a whole, not just three teams north of the border. So we need more Will Johnsons, more Andrew Hainaults, more Dwayne De Rosarios.

“We need to know what they need from us to make their league better, and what we need from them to make us better.”

If there was any item that showed off just how good a politician Montagliani will be, his answer on the future of the Amway Canadian Championship showed it off. Yes, he does support a tournament that is open to a wider field than four teams — and that goes hand-in-hand with devising regional professional leagues. The winners could get paths into the ACC. But, at the same time, he warned that clubs have to be aware of the costs associated with winning the tournament, that it’s awfully expensive to send a team down to Central America for CONCACAF Champions League away matches. So, the message was, yes, widen the tournament. But, at the same time, each team that enters has to be able to take on the burden of being a CCL team.

As for the national Div.-2 study, Montagliani offered his most blunt assessment.

“Is a national league, coast-to-coast, realistic? No.”

But, his feeling is that a series of professional lower divisions could be created in various regions, similar to the junior hockey model — where there is one league in the West, another in Ontario and another for Quebec and the East. At the end of the year, the winners and a host face off for the Memorial Cup.

And he said, for major cities, the NASL is there. So it’s clear he wants to work with NASL.

Like all freshly minted leaders, Montagliani will enjoy a honeymoon period. He is saying the right things — even though they may not be what some Canadian soccer fans who wanted radical changes yesterday might want to hear.

He can’t be judged three days into his presidency. His first chat with the media was safe. He didn’t promise anything, he didn’t carve anyone.

 

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