Sunday, February 13, 2011

Richard Hastings announces retirement

Longtime Canadian national team defender Richard Hastings announced his retirement this week from professional soccer. Hastings had spent most of his career playing in Scotland.

Hastings, of course, is best remembered for scoring what is likely the second most important goal in Canadian soccer history:

The scenario: Canada has made it to a Gold Cup quarterfinal against Mexico, and rather unexpectedly has taken the match to a sudden-death (golden goal) 30 minute overtime.

Hastings earned 59 international caps over 12 years, but that goal, which came in his 8th international match, was the only goal he would ever score for Canada. It was a watershed moment, and for many of the Voyageurs, including myself, represented the first time they really became aware of the Canadian soccer team.

In recent years, many fans would often be critical when Hastings would receive a call up, me among them. It is the same story with Stalteri now: both players clearly don't have the ability any longer to compete at the level Canada needs to be. But this is more an indictment of Canada's depth or of Canada's coaches' inability to find other options than it is of the players themselves. Hastings always answered the call, and when he was surpassed for talent at leftback by Mike Klukowski and Marcel de Jong, he willingly moved into a less familiar centre back position, sometimes with excellent results, such as the 2007 Gold Cup, which featured Hastings knocking around Landon Donovan.

Hastings had been out of work professionally since the fall, and to be honest I had already retired, so this will cause no great ripples on the current composition of the Canadian NT. Still, Hastings was a loyal servant and this career milestone deserves to be recognized. He will be returning to the West Coast to work at a soccer academy.

(By the way, Martin Nash, who was the orchestrator of the Hastings goal in the video as well as most of the other goals in the 2000 Gold Cup run, also retired since the end of the 2010 NASL season. I always felt he was an underrated performer for Canada and I wish him all the best in his future endeavours in the Whitecaps offices.)

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