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How Canadian men’s team became winning band of brothers under Herdman

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John Herdman inherited a men’s team ranked 94th in the world when he took over from the fired Octavio Zambrano in January 2018.

And the extent of the challenge facing him became clear at his first camp with the men, in March 2018 in Murcia, Spain, when there were two fights in training.

“I was blown away,” Herdman recalled. “And people were saying ‘Oh this is men’s football.’ And I stood against it. I told the guys it’s not men’s football. You can fight with your opponent but you don’t fight internally. I’ll never see that again.”

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Herdman says he inherited a dysfunctional team split into cliques.

“I said unless you’re willing to change this, this team’s going nowhere,” he said. “And over time, you’ve seen a shift. The leaders, for me, brought the culture together. Now we can have fractious moments, where people are competing and pushing each other’s levels where it doesn’t end up in a complete split in the environment.

“And I think over time the leadership group have understood the importance of shared purpose. They’ve understood the importance of their own humility in the environment and they’ve understood the importance of connecting every man and making every man feel part of this, regardless of what their race, their religion, their ages.”

Watch Canada’s quest for a World Cup berth on Sportsnet and SN NOW
At home in Edmonton, Canada is set to face Costa Rica in a match that could shape its World Cup fate. Live coverage begins at 8:30 p.m. ET on Sportsnet.

Speak to any member of the team these days and they talk of a brotherhood. And they show that on the pitch. Take on one Canadian and chances are 10 more will come your way.

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“You can have as many great players as you want, but if you don’t have that chemistry, that feeling of a family, it’s difficult to perform on the field. When we go on the field, we know that the guy beside us has our back and that we have his back,” ” said centre back Derek Cornelius.

The next test of that bond comes Friday when 48th-ranked Canada (2-0-4, 10 points) marks the halfway point of CONCACAF’s final round of World Cup qualifying with a game against No. 45 Costa Rica (1-2-3, six points) at Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium. As of Thursday afternoon, Canada Soccer said 46,000 tickets had been sold.

Canada currently stands third in the eight-team table while Costa Rica is fifth. After Costa Rica, the Canadian men will host No. 9 Mexico (which leads the standings at 4-0-2, 14 points) on Tuesday, also at Commonwealth Stadium.

Canada has yet to play Costa Rica in the Octagonal but tied Mexico 1-1 at Azteca Stadium last month.

Despite missing some big names, Canada comfortably beat Costa Rica 2-0 the last time they met, in Gold Cup quarterfinal play in July in Arlington, Texas.

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The Canadian men are 5-8-9 against Costa Rica since 1985, including 1-3-2 in World Cup qualifying games.

Come March, the top three countries in the standings will qualify for Qatar 2022, representing North and Central America and the Caribbean. The fourth-place team will take part in an intercontinental playoff to see who joins them.

Friday could be a milestone night for 38-year-old captain Atiba Hutchinson, who is one appearance away from tying Julian de Guzman’s Canadian men’s of 89 caps. Christine Sinclair holds the Canadian women’s record of 306 caps, and counting.

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It will also be a night to remember for Bayern Munich star Alphonso Davies, who will play his first game as a professional in his hometown.

“He’s got to play the game and not this big occasion,” said Herdman. “He’s going to have 50,000 behind him if he starts showing his quality.”

Forward Cyle Larin, who was sidelined Wednesday by a stomach bug, was back in training Thursday.

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Herdman, a renowned motivator known for his attention to detail, is no stranger to fixing programs.

The Canadian women’s team was broken when Herdman took over in the wake of a last-place finish at the 2011 World Cup. Herdman put the squad back together again, reminding them why they played soccer and for whom they did it.

The women rebounded from a roller-coaster semifinal loss to the powerful U.S. at the 2012 Olympics and defeated France in stoppage time to win bronze. They won bronze again with Herdman at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Now they are Olympic champions.

Ironically Herdman was runner-up to Caroline Morace when Canada Soccer looked for a successor to Even Pellerud as women’s coach in 2008.

But in breaking the news that he didn’t get the job, general secretary Peter Montopoli told him to stay in touch.

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“And he actually did, over that three-year period,” said Herdman. “And then I got the next call in 2011 from Peter which was “We want you for the job.’ And we haven’t really looked back since.

On Wednesday, Montopoli announced he was leaving Canada Soccer at the end of the month to oversee the Canadian end of the 2026 World Cup, which is being co-hosted by the U.S. and Mexico.

Herdman said Montopoli gave him “the latitude” to lead his program, as well as “the belief that you’ve got this.”

“When he works with good people, he know how to get the best out of his talent. And he’s always given us that space to make our decisions and ultimately when we’ve needed him, he’s been there.

“It is going to be difficult to see him leave, but at the same time he’s got an amazing opportunity to bring the biggest event probably in our sporting history to this country.”

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Herdman credits Jonathan Osorio, Milan Borjan, Maxime Crepeau, Mark-Anthony Kaye, Samuel Piette, Doneil Henry, Richie Laryea and Junior Hoilett as the leadership group that helped change the Canadian men’s outlook. He did not include Hutchinson, saying he hadn’t been to enough camps to be “one of those key influencers.”

“And my job has been facilitating them to understand higher levels of leadership are required.”

The work continues, with Herdman collaborating with the team leaders on identifying obstacles in the way “and then taking ownership within the team to drive some of the attention onto the things that might trip us up or can be used to elevate performance.”

Herdman has already made a mark.

The Canadians ended a 34-year-winless run against the Americans with a 2-0 victory in CONCACAF Nations League play in October 2019. And this marks the first time Canada has reached the final round of World Cup qualifying in the region since the lead-up France 98.

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Osorio’s goal in the 1-1 tie in Mexico City last month was Canada’s first against Mexico at Azteca in 41 years.

The Canadian men are 11-4-2 this year with eight clean sheets and a record 52 goals scored. Canada also set a record with eight consecutive wins.

“So I think we’ve pressure-tested the environment,” said Herdman. “We’ve made it more resilient to the outside forces that can impact the inside. And we’ve made the team spirit, as the players call it, the brotherhood — we’ve made it strong enough that every man believes they can bring their best.”

Herdman says players have to understand they are fighting for a bigger cause. And that they have to do it together.

“When you’ve got trust and people are clear on what they’ve got to do on the pitch, then chemistry forms,” he said. “That’s where people are willing to mask each other’s weaknesses and highlight each other’s strengths. They’re willing to do things to make you look good.

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“Then you see those sort of cohesive partnerships start to form, the Johnny (David) and Alphonso (Davies) partnership, the Steven Vitoria-Alistair Johnston-Kamal Miller back three partnership. And then you throw Doneil Henry straight in there and nothing really changes. It just gels again.

“That chemistry piece, it can only form when trust is strong and when people are clear on the roles and responsibilities of the collective. It’s a formula that I used with the women’s team and it’s a formula that I’m using here.”



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MLB Insider Reflects On Beloved Twins Scout

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(Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

 

Late last week, the MLB world was hit with some sad news when it was revealed that longtime Minnesota Twins scout Mike Radcliff had passed away.

Radcliff was often praised for his ability to draft and develop talent within the Twins organization and help to build a strong homegrown team.

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Some players that were drafted under his watch include Torii Hunter, Michael Cuddyer, and Joe Mauer.

He is often also praised for his constant belief in the talent that he drafted and helped rise through the ranks of the Twins organization.

This afternoon, MLB analyst and close friend of Radcliff, Jon Morosi, spoke to MLB Network about what Radcliff meant to the game and the Twins organization.

Morosi talked about Radcliff’s ability to mentor young scouts.

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Of course, his reach extends beyond just the Twins organization.

Morosi talked a lot about his character and how he represented the game and the Twins with class and dignity and was a great friend and mentor to those around him.

The players selected during his tenure also speak volumes to what Radcliffe was able to accomplish during his time as a scout.

Morosi also praised him for his graciousness to team personnel and media members, and how he saw beyond just the players he drafted, but appreciated those around him.

The belief in his players was something that was also touched upon.

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Hunter, Mauer, and Cuddyer were not necessarily sure things, but Radcliff saw something special in them and believed they could help the Twins.

Morosi closed his statement by expressing how much of a loss Radcliff’s death is for baseball and how important he was to the game.

The post MLB Insider Reflects On Beloved Twins Scout appeared first on The Cold Wire.





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New MLB Umpire Reflects On His Journey

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This year, 10 new faces will be added to the list of MLB umpires.

One of those new faces is Malachi Moore, who once played Junior College Baseball at the Compton Youth Academy in California.

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He also underwent extensive training to become an MLB umpire at the Youth Academy.

But it was at the Youth Academy where he ultimately discovered his passion for the game of baseball and his desire to become an MLB umpire was realized.

Ultimately, he gave up on playing when veteran umpire Kerwin Danley told him that he wasn’t much of a player, but then chose to teach him umpiring.

It was then that Moore realized he wanted to become an umpire, and he stopped by MLB Network to tell that story.

Ultimately, Moore learned a harsh lesson from Danley when he was told that he likely wouldn’t make it far as a player.

Fortunately though, Danley was nice enough to take him to the batting cages and show him the ins and outs of being an umpire.

It was at that moment that Moore realized that his days in baseball were in fact not over and that he could continue as an umpire.

Moore says that was when he ultimately fell in love with it and that this was where his desire to reach the big leagues as an umpire stemmed from.

Now, he has a chance to fulfill that dream and step on an MLB field as one of the newer umpires in recent years.

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MLB Continues To Trail The NFL In Key Category

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American sports fans can’t help it: they love to compare everything they see, use, watch, or enjoy.

It’s a natural thing to do, and it happens in every country.

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In the specific case of the United States, fans often discuss which sports and leagues are the most popular.

Several metrics and factors are used to determine the winner: average attendance to games, overall revenue, TV ratings, social media followers or interactions, and more.

The people at FiveThirtyEight wrote an interesting article and show us a key graph using average attendance to games.

The NFL is heavily favored in that exercise.

“Put simply, NFL games are massively bigger spectacles than contests in any other American sport, with thousands more people showing up to NFL stadiums during football season than we see at MLB, NBA or NHL games,” they tweeted.

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There are several things to consider.

Attendance to MLB games is, on average, just under 27,000 while the NFL is just shy of 70,000.

NBA and NHL are next with almost 18,000 and close to 17,000, respectively.

We have to account for the fact that there are 17 games per team in an NFL season, and the number is 162 in MLB.

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Additionally, NBA and NHL would have a problem with bigger venues from a visibility standpoint.

NFL is a huge league, but these are important factors to consider.

There is no question, however, that NFL is ahead of MLB when it comes to viewership.

MLB has to make sure to showcase its product in the most possible avenues to start making up some ground.

The post MLB Continues To Trail The NFL In Key Category appeared first on The Cold Wire.

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