Stephen Hart’s tenure as Canada’s men’s soccer coach was sealed before he hopped a flight to Honduras two weeks ago for a decisive World Cup qualifier.
It mattered that his team – which needed just a draw to advance to the final regional qualifying round – did not show up; that the national program lacks depth and that the coach was without his main goal scoring threat, Dewayne DeRosario, who suffered a knee injury in Panama last month.
The biggest obstacle, however, standing in the way of Canada’s advancement is its lack of success in Central and South America.
A week after comfortably defeating the United States 5-1 before 7,560 fans at Varsity Stadium in a World Cup qualifier in 1957, the Canadians were shut out in back-to-back matches in Mexico played before crowds of nearly 60,000 on each occasion. The national team has never won in Mexico, losing 12 of 15 contests with three draws.
In the last 55 years, Canada has been victorious in just eight games while losing 27 and drawing 13 in 48 matches on the road against Honduras, Mexico, Guatemala, San Salvador, Panama, Argentina, Costa Rica, Chile and Peru combined. In 12 games in Honduras, Canada has triumphed just once and that was in a 1985 World Cup qualifier.
After last week’s nightmare in Honduras in which his players seemed intimidated and scared, Hart did the right thing by stepping down. It was Canada’s worst defeat since an 8-0 loss to Mexico in a Confederation of North, Central American & Caribbean Associations of Football (CONCACAF) Gold Cup encounter in 1993.
Hart leaves the national program with a record of 20 wins in 45 matches which ranks second in wins and first in win percentage among former Canadian coaches. In this cycle of World Cup qualifiers, he posted seven wins, two losses and three ties in 12 matches in the past two years.
Canadian Soccer Association (CSA) president, Victor Montagliani, who was in Honduras for the debacle, thanked Trinidad-born Hart – who led the team to the regional Gold Cup semi-finals in 2007 – for his contribution to the association.
“He has served as an exemplary role model for the game at both the national and international levels,” said Montagliani. “During his tenure with the association, he earned the respect of the Canadian soccer community and helped to raise the profile of the game in this country.”
In December 2009, Hart was named the full-time coach after serving on an interim basis for eight months. Prior to that appointment, he was the technical director for Soccer Nova Scotia and director of the Atlantic Region National Training Centre in Halifax.
The holder of a CSA “A” license and an instructor in the association’s coaching development program since 1992, Hart played for Texaco in the Trinidad National Soccer League and for San Fernando Strikers in the local premier league and was selected to the national squad in 1980 before moving to Canada the same year to attend St. Mary’s University in Halifax.