A group of energetic teenagers under the watch of a man in his 60s with a reputation as a disciplinarian … it sounds like a recipe for disaster. Or perhaps like a disastrous Hollywood comedy.
As it turns out, the combination describes Canada’s men’s national team during its first training camp of 2014, and by all accounts, it has the makings of a hit.
Head coach Benito Floro brought a roster of mostly untested youngsters to the 10-day, Florida-based camp to evaluate some of the talent that will be available to him in the years ahead. The players – most of whom have little, if any, experience with the senior national team – also got the chance to evaluate Floro, the 61-year-old Spaniard who took over the job in August. With camp set to wrap up on Wednesday, the early reviews are positive.
“He’s amazing,” recently signed Toronto FC striker Jordan Hamilton, 17, told MLSsoccer.com by phone from camp. “He’s taught me so many things in this past week that I’d been doing the past two years, flaws in my game, and he’s corrected them in just a week of watching me play. It says a lot about him.”
Hamilton (above) is one of eight players who are in camp with the senior national team for the first time. Another is 19-year-old Montreal Impact goalkeeper Maxime Crépeau, who admits there has been and will be an adjustment period.
“Benito Floro is a great coach, but when you first look at him, you have to adapt to the mentality,” Crépeau said. “It’s a new mentality that the players have to understand. … Now the whole team just has to adapt to how he’s coaching and how he’s leading the team.”
Floro's mentality is based around structure and discipline, two qualities that have sometimes been in short supply on the Canadian soccer scene. But bringing aboard a coach with those qualities was hardly accidental; it was by design.
“The attitude [Floro brings] from a discipline standpoint is significantly different than what we’re used to,” Canadian Soccer Association president Victor Montagliani told MLSsoccer.com in late 2013.
Considering how little teenagers tend to enjoy structure and discipline, it was always going to be interesting to see how the incoming youngsters reacted to Floro. But for now, it appears Canada’s next generation – with an eye on qualifying for the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics in two years – is buying what the manager is offering.
“It’s a new style I don’t think Canadians have seen a lot of, but I really like it, and I’m learning a lot from it,” said 18-year-old Vancouver Whitecaps Residency defender Jackson Farmer. “I believe the way he’s coaching us is going to be very successful in competitions, and I’m excited to see the way we take it on board and the way we carry it out.”
Canada will close out its January camp by taking on the North American Soccer League's Fort Lauderdale Strikers in a scrimmage on Tuesday.