The Canadian men's national team will start the new year with a new head coach, but one that will be plenty familiar to soccer fans across the country.
Canada Soccer announced Monday that John Herdman, who has coached the Canadian women's national team since 2011, will replace Octavio Zambrano as the head coach of the men's national team. Kenneth Heiner-Moller, Herdman's assistant with the CanWNT, will taking over the head coaching position on the women's side.
“We welcome John to this new role as he brings his success aligning Canada Soccer’s women’s national team program over the past six years and his world-class technical coaching abilities to continue delivering results for Canada Soccer for the men’s national team program,” said Canada Soccer president Steven Reed in a statement. “… On behalf of Canada Soccer, we would also like to thank Octavio for his contributions over the past year and wish him well in his future endeavors.”
Herdman, a native of England, took over as coach of the CanWNT in 2011 following a five-year stint leading the New Zealand women's national team, whom he coached in two World Cups and at the 2008 Summer Olympics. During his tenure in Canada, Herdman guided the team to back-to-back bronze medals at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, as well as the quarterfinals of the 2015 World Cup in Canada.
“It is easy to point to John’s record with Canada to demonstrate his effectiveness as a high-performance coach, in earning back-to-back Summer Olympic medals he's achieved in team sport something no other coach in Canada has done in over 100 years,” said Canada Soccer general secretary Peter Montopoli. “What makes him exemplary though, is his work ethic, his passion, his preparation and his attention to detail.”
Zambrano departs the CanMNT after 10 months in charge. He found early success with the Under-23 national team before leading the senior side to the quarterfinals of the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup for the first time since 2009. His final games in charge were a 2-0 friendly win over Jamaica on Sept. 2, 2017 followed by a 1-0 friendly loss to El Salvador just over a month later.
Sportsnet soccer insider John Molinaro, first reported the news on Monday afternoon and then exclusively interviewed Reed and Herdman. Per a source, Molinaro reported that Zambrano's run was viewed negatively by some in the organization. Reed told Molinaro that Herdman received a multi-year contract to wield "full control, from the youth level to the senior team", and he expects Herdman to lead and position the program for qualification in the next two World Cups following their qualification miss for Russia 2018.
In his new role, Herdman will take over responsibility for the men's national team from the senior side through to all the men's national youth teams from the U-14 age level and up. Per Canada Soccer's announcement of his hiring, part of Herdman's mandate will be to help streamline the country's talent development structure.
“It’s a great honor to join the men's national team program and I want to thank Canada Soccer for this opportunity to grow and develop the sport in this country through a one country, one system approach,” said Herdman. “Working with Canada Soccer’s women’s program, and the remarkable players and staff who have made the past six years so incredible has been an absolute privilege, and I am confident the team and entire national women’s team program are in excellent hands with Kenneth and Bev [Priestman, new assistant coach].
“In taking on the roles of men’s program director and men’s national team head coach, I am keen to put a lasting mark on a program full of potential with as we work towards the ultimate goal of representing Canada on the world’s biggest stage at the FIFA World Cup.”
Canada do not currently have any matches scheduled for 2018, though the U-23s are scheduled to begin a camp in the United States on Tuesday. The CanMNT's earliest competitive action will come in 2019, with another edition of the Gold Cup and the beginning of 2022 World Cup qualifying.
This article has been updated to reflect additional reporting on the coaching transition.