TORONTO – Stephen Hart is out as the head coach of the Canadian men’s national team.
In a conference call on Thursday afternoon, Canadian Soccer Association president Victor Montagliani announced that the organization has accepted Hart’s resignation from the top job just days after Canada’s humiliating 8-1 loss in Honduras on Tuesday that officially eliminated them from 2014 World Cup qualifying.
“Stephen’s always been an exemplary model for the game at both the national and international levels,” said Montagliani of Hart, who had a record of 15-11-9 since being named full-time coach in May of 2009. Hart was also the interim coach from 2006-07.
“He’s been asked to do a lot of things and he’s done it with the ultimate class and the gentleman that he is. He has earned the respect of the entire soccer community.”
The announcement came as no surprise, as Hart was the natural fall guy after the disaster in San Pedro Sula, where Canada needed just a tie to advance to their first Hexagonal in 15 years but instead walked off the field humiliated.
“I’m not sure if words can describe the feelings when I was down there or words that I can’t even say on this call,” said Montagliani, who was in Honduras and witnessed his team’s demolition. “I think at the end of the day, whether we’re working in the game [or not], we’re obviously all fans of our national team. We’re all proud to be Canadians and I had a feeling I never want to experience again.”
Now looking to kick off a rebuilding phase, Montagliani confirmed that the new head coach will not necessarily have to be Canadian, though one thing that the new coach will need to bring is an ability to bring a tougher mentality to a squad that could only pick up a pair of wins against Cuba in the past round of qualifying.
With three long years between now and the start of 2018 World Cup qualifying, the new coach will have plenty of time to rebuild a team that has historically shown a fragility when playing away from home – especially in Central America.
“One of the things we have to look at is psychologically how we compete in countries like in Central America specifically and also the Caribbean to some degree,” Montagliani added.
“I think how we overcome that hurdle because obviously it is a psychological barrier which has existed for a long time in this program. Because we’re going to be in this position again and the next time is going to be our opportunity to break through.”