Monday, March 30, 2009

Dale Mitchell final post-mortem, and replacement speculation

Since the CSA did the usual thing that companies, governments and organizations do, releasing news of the Mitchell firing late on a Friday afternoon, avoiding the daily news cycle, I thought I'd hold off on commenting further on the matter until today. After the regular media types have had their weekend off, you know.

I'm glad I did. The best article I've found on the entire matter is from the Winnipeg Sun, of all places (normally fish-wrap at best). But if you look past the source to the byline, you'll find that it has been written by the usually excellent Winnipeg-based freelancer, and blogger, Jerrad Peters.

Headline: Mitchell sacking only tip of iceberg

A few juicy bits:
That they waited until five months after the team's last international match is preposterous. CSA general secretary Peter Montopoli claims that Canada's failure to progress in World Cup qualifying allowed for the association to take its time in its decision-making. This from the same man who, upon announcing Mitchell's sacking to reporters on Friday, stated that the board of directors "felt in the best interest of the program it was time to move forward--in maybe a different direction."

Maybe? Did the CSA somehow think that a FIFA ranking of 94 was, perhaps, the "right" direction?

One prominent Canadian soccer commentator believes "the CSA's terrible reputation worldwide" will hinder its ability to replace Mitchell. They can't afford to pay a very good coach to come in more than two years ahead of the next World Cup cycle, he says.

Given that Mitchell will remain on the payroll until 2010, the CSA has even fewer resources with which to lure a permanent replacement. This, after all, is an organization which opted to save money by not scheduling a friendly match during this week's international break.
More on the bolded rhetorical question. Rankings are snapshots, and thus don't really give you any indication of direction. Canada's current ranking of 94th is meaningless unless it is placed in context. With all due consideration for the serious limitations of the FIFA ranking system, here is some context:

A pretty precipitous drop, I'd say. Even GM doesn't look so bad.

The other interesting, and scary, bit from the article is this:
In the short term, the CSA will probably appoint an interim coach who is already on the payroll. In other words, they'll choose between technical director Stephen Hart and staff coach Tony Fonseca. A source close to the national team has already told the Winnipeg Sun that Fonseca will be a part of the setup, whether as head coach or as an assistant.

Either way, it appears as though the CSA will go the unimaginative route once again. They did it two years ago, and nothing has changed to suggest that it will be different this time around.
I'll quibble a bit with this final declaration. Putting Fonseca or Hart in charge on an interim basis is not the same as hiring from within on a long-term contract. In fact, if the CSA is going with an interim coach for the short-term, it would be irresponsible to roll with someone not already on the payroll.

But if either Hart or Fonseca were to become the permanent boss, I might give up on soccer altogether, and switch to something like volleyball.

A few reasons to switch sport obsessions.

If you can point me to any other Mitchell-related columns as well thought out as this one, the comment section is all yours.

It's also good to see that Jerrad Peters is still getting some local play, as his weekly soccer column seems to have been cut from the otherewise far superior Free Press (don't let the 90s vintage website fool you, it's the newspaper of record in the eastern prairies).

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