Connect with us


Canada Soccer Needs to Move on From Benito Floro



To his players, assistants and Canada’s long-suffering supporters, coach Benito Floro was the best and the worst — a bumbling, senile footballing genius who got as much or more wrong than he did right during his three-year tenure with the Canadian men’s team.

Floro’s contract likely won’t be extended following Canada’s World Cup qualifying exit Tuesday night in Vancouver, where a 3-1 win over El Salvador wasn’t enough to secure passage to CONCACAF’s final qualifying round.

And now, three years after CSA president Victor Montagliani named Stephen Hart’s successor, Floro’s tenure effectively ends just as mysteriously as it began — with more questions than answers and with nothing to show in terms of tangible results at major tournaments.

The appointment always seemed slightly rash and reactionary. The CSA’s insistence on bringing in an outsider was perplexing considering the intricacies of soccer within Canada and the confederation it competes in. There were alarm bells at Floro’s introductory press event.

“Football is the same in Canada, in Japan and in Europe,” Floro told reporters back in 2013. “It is the same for all countries.”

In essence, Floro’s guiding principal would be Canada’s eventual undoing during this World Cup qualifying cycle.

The 64-year-old was stubborn in his insistence of how the game should be played. He was almost too tactical for his own good. Early in his tenure, those inside the Canadian setup questioned his methods and training sessions — which seemed convoluted and outdated.

Multiple veteran players were miffed during an October 2013 camp prior to a 3-0 loss to Australia. Furthermore, there were linguistic issues abound, as the Spanish bench boss wasn’t well-versed in English. As of Tuesday night, his post-game answers were still extremely difficult to decipher.

And things continued to unravel throughout the Hart-to-Floro transition, leading up to last summer’s Gold Cup, where for the first time the Canadians finally seemed to have a defensive identity. They just couldn’t score during a Gold Cup that saw them fall flat at BMO Field.

But that led to yet another series of bizarre statements from Canada’s head coach, who after being asked to explain Canada’s lack of offensive production, reminded a local reporter that Costa Rica hadn’t scored, “either”. Yet, the 0-0 final scoreline was all the Ticos needed to advance.

Most inside the room that night were baffled at his assessment. Perhaps Floro viewed the aforementioned shut out as a step in the right direction with looming World Cup qualifiers — the ultimate test for a manager tasked with getting Canada into CONCACAF’s final round.

Inside the dressing room, more and more players — Floro’s disciples, you could say — were beginning to believe in their new manager. Captain Julian de Guzman couldn’t say enough good things about a man who had given him every opportunity to see out one more qualifying phase.

“Benito came from a very rich culture of football,” de Guzman told Postmedia. “He’s very wise, very clever. A lot of our players are beginning to understand now where he’s coming from. Before, it was like a circus. They had no clue what he meant or was saying.

“A few have caught on. A guy like De Rosario always said he wished he had a coach like Benito early in his career. What Benito has done for this program from then until now, a lot of players respect what he means … A lot of players still don’t understand where he’s coming from.”

Which makes it difficult to place blame following what was a horrendous ending to a qualifying cycle that began so brightly with an impressive win over Honduras and a quality road point in El Salvador. Things appeared to be coming together for Canada’s men.

Les Rouges had a clearly defined defensive identity and a counter-attacking philosophy that brought the best out of Cyle Larin, Tosaint Ricketts and Junior Hoilett, who Floro also was credited with bringing aboard mid-cycle. Canada was dangerous enough despite staying defensively solid.

But when back-to-back qualifiers with Mexico rolled around months later, everything fell apart. Floro inexplicably deployed high-pressing tactics in a 3-0 loss to Mexico, allowing El Tri to pass through Canada’s lines with ridiculous ease.

In last Friday’s 2-1 — and it should have been worse — loss in Honduras, Floro doubled down on his pressing philosophy, refusing to sit in after going a goal up midway through the first half. None of Canada’s players should have been more than 50 metres from goal.

Which brings us full circle. Soccer, as Floro stated, is “the same” insomuch as a manager has the personnel that fits his style of play. Floro was stubborn in his refusal to construct and stick to tactics that played to Canada’s strengths — worth ethic, defensive resolve, speed.

He was too proactive in his approach, choosing to forgo playing with distinct and stingy defensive lines and instead attempting to press the opposition into mistakes. In the end, the Canadians were caught out far too often in games that never should have been so open, especially with few players being 90 minutes fit.

The punishment, once again, for Canad’s men is three years of irrelevancy.

And Floro’s tactical reasoning will likely remain a mystery.


Toronto FC head coach Greg Vanney admitted Wednesday that Benito Floro’s decision to exclude Canada’s Will Johnson and Jonathan Osorio from this month’s World Cup qualifying matches was a topic of discussion at the Kia Training Ground.

“Both of those guys add real value to our team in a challenging league and we’re one of the top teams in the league,” Vanney said.

“They’re very different types of players and, quite frankly, players that could help. But it’s not for me to decide. Someone else makes those calls. They do so with the right intentions.”

Right or wrong, Canada’s 3-1 win over El Salvador in Vancouver Tuesday night wasn’t enough. Les Rouges were eliminated from World Cup contention at CONCACAF’s penultimate qualifying stage for the fifth straight cycle.

“Just as an internal guy who knows them and knows what they’re capable of doing and the form they’re in,” Vanney started, “where I’m disappointed for them is that it’s going to e a few more years before there are real meaningful games (for Canada).”

Read More..

Continue Reading


Up and Coming Sports Stars to Look Out for in 2020



Every year, a raft of exciting new players come onto the scene across all of the major US sports. With the MLS season getting underway and the NFL and MLB drafts not too far away, now is a great time to look at the young sports stars that could have a very bright future ahead of them, and the ones that are already proving they are destined for greatness.

Theo Bair (MLS)

This MLS season is looking like it could be one of the best yet, with David Beckham’s Inter Miami team adding some extra dazzle to the league. Whilst Beckham might be able to attract a lot of new players to his MLS team, there are a lot of young stars on their way through such as Theo Bair at Vancouver Whitecaps. Bair has already made an impact on the first team and after impressing at under-20 and under-23 level for the national team, he has made two appearances for the senior team, well before his 21st birthday. This year could see Bair make a real name for himself in the MLS.

Source: Pixabay

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (MLB)

Montreal-born Vladimir Guerrero Jr has one MLB season under his belt but it looks like the best is still yet to come from him at the Blue Jays. He was heavily backed to take the league by storm but he failed to live up to the hype that surrounded him. Without the pressure of being the top-ranked prospect, this season could see Guerrero play with some weight lifted off his shoulders. He has been working very hard on his fitness over the offseason, something that his manager Montoyo has been quick to comment upon.

Baseball by andrewmalone, on Flickr

Baseball” (CC BY 2.0) by andrewmalone

Connor McDavid (NHL)

McDavid has already established him as a top hockey player but at 23, he has the potential to go on to do so much more. The player was born in Ontario and was the first overall draft pick, showing how much expectation was already on him at that stage but he has gone on to prove that he is one of the best players in the NHL. McDavid could go on to be one the NHL’s best-ever hockey players and this season could be the year that he shows the world, not just the NHL.

Chuba Hubbard (College Football)

The Oklahoma State Cowboys running back has been making the headlines for several years now. He continues to improve and grab more attention for his impressive stats and performances. He was close to being a sprinter and nearly made the Canadian Olympic team before switching over to football. He is passing up the 2020 NFL draft to play his senior season at Cowboys. He should give them a good chance of winning the College Football Championship, though they’re trailing at the seventh spot in the latest American football odds at +2400.00, with Clemson as the current betting favorites.

2020 will definitely be a very exciting time with some of these young stars looking to breakthrough in their respective sports and show the world what they are capable of.

Continue Reading


Bob Baffert is back at the Kentucky Derby – and looking to break the Curse of Apollo



Bob Baffert is back at the Kentucky Derby with early favourite Justify after watching the race from his sofa in Southern California last year.

The Hall of Fame trainer’s ability to produce Derby contenders year after year is an enviable feat and why his absence a year ago stood out. It was just his second since 2009 and occurred because his lone candidate got hurt.

Baffert will saddle Justify and 30-to-1 shot Solomini in Saturday’s Derby.

Justify is one of the greenest colts Baffert has brought to Churchill Downs. He’s won all three of his starts by a combined 19 lengths. If Justify wins, he’d be the first to do so since Apollo in 1882 without racing as a two-year-old.

“The thing about the Kentucky Derby, you have to have the right horse. It just happens. You can’t force it,” Baffert said. “All of a sudden, you have good horses and you’re there. So I’ve been really fortunate to have some really good horses.”

Baffert’s four victories are tied for second-most in Derby history. He’s finished second three times, too, including in 2012 with Bodemeister, also the last time he had two starters in the same year.

Like Justify, Bodemeister didn’t race as a two-year-old. He set a blistering pace and led the Derby until the final 150 yards when I’ll Have Another overtook him to win by 1 1/2 lengths.

Magnum Moon, the 6-to-1 third choice, also is unbeaten and didn’t run as a two-year-old.

“It’s going to happen,” Baffert said, referring to the curse being broken. “Whether it happens this year or whatever, but it will happen because Bodemeister almost got away with it. But I don’t really worry about that.”

Baffert almost had a third starter this year until McKinzie developed a hind-end issue that knocked him off the Derby trail.

“When McKinzie got hurt, I wanted to throw up,” he said. “I really think McKinzie would probably be second choice here. We’d really have a 1-2 here.”

Justify cleared the biggest pre-Derby hurdle by drawing the No. 7 post. Jockey Mike Smith can use the colt’s early speed to position him well for the long run to the chaotic first turn. Solomini ended up in the No. 17 post; no horse has ever won from there.

Baffert turned 65 in January, making him eligible for Medicare and retirement at most other jobs. However, he entertains no such thoughts.

“I work hard at it. I just don’t give up,” the white-haired trainer said. “I’m constantly meeting people. They’re sending me horses. If you don’t have success, you’re not going to get those opportunities.”

After a successful run in the quarter horse ranks, Baffert switched to thoroughbreds. He started with one horse.

“After 25 years, I’m finally getting horses that I don’t have to buy,” he said. “The big guys are sending me horses.”

None was bigger than American Pharoah in 2015. The colt swept the Derby, Preakness and Belmont to become racing’s first Triple Crown winner in 37 years.

Baffert has compared Justify to American Pharoah, citing the colt’s imposing physical presence and big stride. Still, Justify has yet to encounter the kind of traffic the Derby’s 20-horse stampede creates and the talent as he’ll run against on Saturday.

“I’d rather have a really talented horse than one who’s seasoned and just on par with the rest of them,” Baffert said.

Early on, Baffert knew Justify had the goods.

“The first time I worked him at Santa Anita, I knew he was a really good horse,” he said. “The track was really deep that morning, and he went around there effortlessly. His first race, he ran incredibly and showed how special he was.”

That kind of intuition is what separates Baffert from his rivals, fellow Hall of Famer trainer D. Wayne Lukas said.

“Bob’s got a great feel for it,” he said.

Read more…

Continue Reading


Matthews ready to return to Maple Leafs lineup after missing a month



NASHVILLE — The hurtin’ tune that Auston Matthews has been singing for the past four weeks finally can be put in the remainder bin in Music City.

The Maple Leafs’ top centre on Wednesday declared himself set to return to the lineup after recovering from a right shoulder injury.

Wonderful timing, of course, considering the Leafs will take on the No. 1 club in the National Hockey League, the Nashville Predators, on Thursday night.

“In my mind, I think I’m ready to go and taking it as I’m getting ready to play (Thursday),” Matthews said after resuming his normal role, between William Nylander and Zach Hyman, during practice at Bridgestone Arena.

“It felt good, nice to get in all the reps and everything. (Wednesday) was a good step forward in that process, going through the line rushes.”

It seemed probable that the Leafs also will have defenceman Nikita Zaitsev, who missed the past five games as he recovered from an illness, against Nashville. Zaitsev was paired with Jake Gardiner, his regular partner, at practice.

For Matthews, it has been 10 games as a spectator with his latest injury, his third of the 2017-18 regular season after he missed four games in November with a back issue and then sat for six in December because of a concussion.

Thursday will mark four weeks since Matthews was hurt when he was sandwiched by the New York Islanders’ Cal Clutterbuck and Adam Pelech in a game at the Air Canada Centre.

A major bonus for Matthews in his recovery has been the fact he has been able to skate though much of his recuperation. That was not the case when he was out with his previous two injuries.

It’s worth noting that Matthews scored two goals versus the Montreal Canadiens upon returning on Nov. 18 from his back injury; in his first two games upon coming back from a concussion, he scored a goal in each.

Mike Babcock said a final decision on the participation of Matthews and Zaitsev against the Predators would be made on Thursday morning, but the Leafs coach was talking as though it would be a rubber stamp.

“This is going to be the best opportunity for (Matthews) because he has been able to skate and compete,” Babcock said. “The other times he was not able to do anything.

“To get him back … it’s still going to be going way faster than he has been practising, so there is going to be an adjustment period, but he’s a good player and he will figure it out.”

Defenceman Morgan Rielly didn’t think Matthews will take long to find his footing. Rielly missed six games in late January/early February with an arm injury, so knows what Matthews could be feeling.

“You’re nervous and you just want to get back into it,” Rielly said. “You play your first shift a bit hesitant, but after that it’s important you get back to yourself.

“It’s never easy, but Auston is one of those guys that I will imagine it won’t take long for him to get back into a rhythm.”

And there’s the trickle-down effect through the forward lines with Matthews in uniform.

“Guys are used to playing with certain players and when everyone is healthy, I think you get better chemistry throughout the entire lineup,” centre Nazem Kadri said. “Certain guys don’t have to play with different guys constantly and it’s just more of a set group, so I think it’s going to help us.”

Continue Reading