Carmelina Moscato knows a thing or two about representing Canada at the Olympics.
Moscato earned 94 caps for the Canadian women’s team during a distinguished international career that ran from 2002 to 2015, scoring two goals along the way and helping the Reds win an Olympic bronze medal in 2012.
The London 2012 side was the first Canadian group to capture a medal at the Summer Olympic Games in a team event since 1936.
For their efforts, Moscato and the rest of the 2012 squad from London were inducted into the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame last year.
Now retired as a player, Moscato, 35, serves as Commissioner of League1 Ontario Women’s Division, as well as Manager of Women’s Professional Football Development for Canadian Soccer Business (CSB).
She still has her fingers on the pulse of the Canadian women’s team, though.
With that in mind, CanPL.ca sat down for a chat with Moscato to get her thoughts on the current Canadian women’s side as it prepares to compete in the Concacaf Olympic qualifying tournament for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
What do you make of Canada’s qualifying group (Mexico, Jamaica, and Saint Kitts & Nevis)? How difficult will it be for the team to advance to the semifinals and go on to claim an Olympic berth?
Carmelina Moscato: At this point in the Concacaf journey, it’s getting harder and harder each year for the top teams in the region. There’s all eyes on this Canadian team, all eyes on this tournament, and they have some very big tests ahead of them – Jamaica has great players who are going to challenge Canada.
This Canadian team has been apart all off-season, so it’s about how quickly they get connected in a short period of time, and get those performances where they need to be, because only the top two teams at this tournament qualify for the Olympics – the margin for error is slim and anything can happen. The stakes are so high and mistakes get magnified, so they have to hit the ground running.
Could the lack of time together in the buildup to the tournament hurt this Canadian team?
Carmelina Moscato: So much of Canada’s past success was built upon connections on the pitch and partnerships. It’ll be interesting to see if these players, who haven’t had much time together, can build those connections where they’re not disjointed in their play.
Against Japan (a 4-0 loss last October), their back line looked really disconnected. Individually, they’re solid players but they couldn’t put it all together in time and put together a level of consistency.
What have you made of Jamaica? They made their World Cup debut last year in France and appear to be a team on the rise in Concacaf.
Carmelina Moscato: It seems like they’ve put all of their eggs in one basket, into the senior team. They’ve really honed in on finding players with dual citizenship, and that’s paid off for them. There’s been a lot of players from abroad with Jamaican citizenship that they’ve brought into the fold, so they’ve paid a lot of attention to the senior side. At the youth level, though, I’m not sure what kind of resources they’re putting into it to make this a sustainable program and a conveyor belt of talent.
What’s been your impression of Canada’s performances since last year’s Women’s World Cup?
Carmelina Moscato: I have all the faith in the world in the players and the staff. I know the amount of diligence that goes into the planning for these tournaments. It’s a fully robust program, so we’re not dealing with a lot of the problems that other countries are facing.
But after the World Cup, you could kinda see that it still weighed on their minds and that they were thinking about the World Cup loss (Canada bowed out in the round of 16), and they weren’t “vision clear.” Now, they are. Their focus is laser clear on the Olympics, and I think the Canadian team is at its best when it has a clear focus. They lost a little bit of that focus after the World Cup.
Does Canadian coach Kenneth Heiner-Møller need to change tactics? Any adjustments you’d like to see him make?
Carmelina Moscato: He’s so fluid in his tactics. They’re playing across five systems of play, so I don’t know if it’s a matter of more (tactical variation). I think it’s more about strategizing about how to best use those systems.
A 3-5-2 formation isn’t sustainable physically. With the rhythm of games and the quick recovery time needed, you’re not going to be able to play that system over the course of this tournament, even if it’s the most effective one they have. The key is identifying a secondary system that will keep the players fit, so he has to nail his tactical periodization throughout the tournament.
How will the absences of veterans Diana Matheson and Erin McLeod affect the team?
Carmelina Moscato: From a leadership standpoint, huge. But when I think about their actual playing time in the last few years, it hasn’t been super high. At this point, I’m no longer able to say Canada is missing them on the pitch because I think the team has adapted without them. Stephanie Labbé has stepped up, and the midfield has taken shape nicely with Jessie Fleming. Nobody can replace Diana and Erin. The team would look very different with them on the pitch, but the team has adapted.
Who would be the one Canadian player you’re expecting big things from, or would like to see more from at this tournament?
Carmelina Moscato: Jessie Fleming, for sure. Her ability to score goals for this team has been proven on occasion. But to make her a midfield threat, someone from box-to-box who can shoot from distance and add variety to the attack on a consistent basis is going to be the next step in her development. She has all the tools. I’d love to see her make that jump sooner rather than later, and I think the team would tremendously benefit from that.
What would Christine Sinclair breaking the goal-scoring record mean for Canadian sports?
Carmelina Moscato: I had a chat (with someone) recently and we talked about where Christine would rank among Canadian sports icons. I said she’s up there at the top. Her career has spanned over three decades, she’s been relevant in each one. To do something that no woman or man has done, and to do it with not even the number one team in the world, it’s amazing and something that will be etched in history.
She deserves all the recognition she gets, both nationally and globally. I’m just so happy for her that she gets the record. I’m really proud of her.
How much, if it all, do you think the record will be distraction for Canada at this tournament?
Carmelina Moscato: I think you’d be surprised – I don’t think the players are talking about it. It’s not a topic of discussion for them. They’re just going to play and she’ll find herself in the right position to score because of good tactical decisions. It won’t be because her teammates are looking to set her up to break the record. It’ll come when it comes.