Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Why Dale Mitchell is still employed

Dale Mitchell could be the worst soccer coach in the world. The results would certainly suggest it. Although it kills me to do so, let's review:

Given a preparation budget unprecedented in Canadian history, and with the advantage of playing the tournament at home, Mitchell leads the Canadian u-20 team to an embarrassing no goals, no wins performance at the 2007 u-20s.

For that he was promoted.

Then, given a preparation budget unprecedented in Canadian history, and with the advantage of playing the first two games of the qualifying campaign at home, Mitchell leads the national team to an embarrassing no wins and two point performance in the CONCACAF semi-finals. His only win as coach came against St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Yet, he's still employed. Only in Canada, eh.

The instinct is to blame the CSA -- and there is plenty to blame there -- but, unfortunately, it isn't that simple. Multiple sources have confirmed that CSA leadership was prepared to fire Mitchell following the loss in Mexico. There was even a replacement ready to go (more on that here). But, for some reason -- and it's not exactly clear what -- the organization backed off.

There is plenty of speculation as to why. The most plausible answer is that the CSA didn't want to buy out Mitchell while at the same time paying for a caretaker manager. The economic downturn may have played a role in their thinking. With one point in three games -- including two at home -- the CSA was essentially writing off the possibility of qualifying.

And, based on the players reaction to Mitchell, they were right to. Following the Mexico game it is widely believed that CSA vice-president Victor Montagliani surveyed the players about the coach. Their response was not positive. They wanted him gone (and with players like Jim Brennan, Dwayne De Rosario and Tomasz Radzinski making public statements against the coaching and the organization since that time the speculation seems likely).

The truth is Mitchell lost the room long before qualifying started. For that, you can go back to the ill-fated South African friendly Nov. 20, 2007. It's a poorly kept secret that the Canadian players tuned out Mitchell in South Africa. Some have even suggested that many players could be found sampling the South African nightlife early into the morning hours of game day. That's a rumour, but one that seems to have legs (and would go along way to explain how Canada lost to a South African B team that day).

Regardless, it looks like the CSA is now prepared to stay the course with Mitchell through to the end of his contract. It's just cheaper. That will mean that the 2009 Gold Cup is pretty much a washout and it will further alienate some of the key guys for 2014 qualifying (the core of this group likely has one more cycle left in it).

This is clearly unacceptable. And, the soccer community needs to keep the pressure up to make sure that a new coach is in place for the Gold Cup (or, at the least, a caretaker coach while a proper search is conducted).

Cross posted at 24th Minute

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