VANCOUVER, B.C. – There’s a different feeling around the Canadian men’s national team these days that’s really hard to miss.
There’s a confidence and a firm belief that this is one of the best pools of talent in a generation – a group of players that are all on the same page, with desire and ambition to not just play well and qualify for major tournaments, but to bring home some silverware in the process.
It’s refreshing and infectious.
“It’s a complete change of identity, a complete change of culture with this team,” Vancouver Whitecaps midfielder Russell Teibert told MLSsoccer.com. “Since I’ve been involved with the team, this has been the most exciting time.
“We really have that feel that everyone in the locker room has that same feeling, same ambition, same purpose that we can really do something special here. The goal is to go pretty far in the Gold Cup and actually win it.”
As to what it is that has sprung this change, there’s no single answer. But Teibert has no doubt that the appointment of John Herdman as Canadian national team head coach last January has a lot to do with it, as has the number of fresh faces he has brought into the set up during his tenure so far.
“He plays a big part in it for sure,” Teibert said of Herdman. “It could be an accumulation of both of those things. Honestly, the new players help but I think John has done a great job putting this team together with the three different group – the veterans, the in-betweeners, and the young guys. He’s established this new culture and this new way. A code of conduct, a code of the shirt, that when you come in you feel a real sense of pride playing for your country.”
Teibert earned his first senior cap with Canada in 2012 and has now played under seven national team coaches in those seven years, putting him firmly in that veteran group.
Former Whitecap David Edgar is another veteran presence in the squad, providing valuable experience in a young backline. A national team stalwart since 2008, he fully agrees with Teibert’s assessment of how things have changed of late.
“It is very different,” Edgar agreed. “It’s different in such a positive way. We’re building something, and I’m sure you’ve heard that quite a bit off everyone, but it’s true. We’re building a brotherhood. Not just for us, but for the next generation of footballers to come in to a group, a program, that’s something to be proud of.
“We’re definitely going in the right direction. You can see the intensity in which we train. The group has bought a 110 percent into what the manager is trying to do here, and that’s a major factor.”
All this talk about how things are so vastly different can’t help but make Canada fans wonder just what things were like before. What needed changed? Herdman himself shed a little bit of light on that, and it comes down to teamwork and not individualism.
“[It's about] clarity,” Herdman said. “Clarity on the tactical framework, clarity on the high-performance culture and that line that we expect them to live above every time they're in camp. And then deepen the meaning of the shirt and of representing Canada and the opportunity to leave a legacy for this country.
“When the purpose isn't that strong, it'll always give way to pain. And the pain of international football is, as the players told me, that in big moments they couldn't jell together, they couldn't find it within themselves to bind. So we're deepening that meaning of what it means to play and play for each other and I think that's what will get us through in the end.”