PASADENA, Calif. – John Herdman's focus is on the Concacaf Gold Cup, of course. He's looking to guide Canada’s men’s national team to the semifinals and beyond – but he's got one eye on what's going on over in France.
Canada have qualified for the knockout phase at the FIFA Women's World Cup following shutout victories over Cameroon and New Zealand, and there are few rooting harder for the women than Herdman.
The Englishman, whose Canucks take on Mexico on Wednesday in Denver in a pivotal Group A clash in the Gold Cup (10:30 pm ET | FS1, Univision, UDN in US, TSN 1/4/5 in Canada), was Canada's women's coach for almost eight years before taking charge of the men's team in January 2018.
“I've seen some of these kids [on the women's team] since they were 13, 14 years of age. I mean, in big moments,” he said during Canada's stay in Southern California, where it opened the tournament Saturday at the Rose Bowl with a 4-0 rout of Martinique. “You don't spend years with a group of people and go through the highs and lows like we did. I mean, they're part of my family, my extended family.”
Herdman had guided New Zealand's women to two World Cups and the 2008 Olympics before taking over Canada's team after its World Cup disaster in 2011. The Canadians, who reached the semifinals in 2003, went 0-3 in Germany, scoring just one goal. It was their worst showing in, at that point, five World Cup appearances.
Herdman rebuilt the team around a core led by Christine Sinclair and Melissa Tancredi, and it won a bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympics, missing out on the gold-medal game when Alex Morgan's 123rd-minute goal gave the United States a 4-3 overtime victory.
He took Les Rouges to the World Cup quarterfinals in 2015 and to another bronze medal at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics a year later.
He's still invested in their success, but from afar.
“I love them to bits and wish them all the best,” he said, “but I'm on a new mission. [The women have] got great leadership and are an exciting group, and I just wish them well.”