YEAR IN REVIEW: World Cup qualification, Nations League domination and a new partnership for Canada
Marty Thompson, Digital Content Editor
Canada’s men’s and women’s national teams began 2018 with major shakeups.
John Herdman was appointed to the top men’s position after a successful six-year tenure with the women, winning two Olympic bronze medals and leading the squad to a World Cup quarterfinal on home soil.
Herdman was given the reins to the men’s national program as a whole, with officials saying the move will allow him to “refine youth programming to ensure a constant supply of elite players” to the men’s side.
Herdman replaced Ecuadorian Octavio Zambrano, who departed just 10 months after accepting the role in 2017.
March 24: Herdman era begins with 1-0 victory over New Zealand
Herdman picked a youthful squad for a friendly against New Zealand.
Midfielder Jonathan Wotherspoon, fullback Marcus Godinho and winger Liam Millar all earned their first call-ups and, eventually, first caps for Les Rouges.
Tosaint Ricketts smashed home the only goal of the match in the 54th minute as Canada earned a hard-fought 1-0 win over the Kiwis.
Men’s World Cup soccer is coming to Canada in eight years’ time, as select Canadian cities will host matches in an expanded 48-team format. Canada’s co-hosts, the United States and Mexico, formed a “United Bid” that beat Morocco for the honour of welcoming the world.
August 30: CANMNT announces squad for first CONCACAF Nations League qualifying match
Nations League qualifying kicked off in September, with Canada’s men’s side looking to finish in the top six of the 34-team qualifying competition, a position that would ensure a spot in Group A of the upcoming Nations League (the competition’s top tier) and the 2019 Gold Cup.
Ahead of his side’s tilt with US Virgin Islands, Herdman put together another young squad, with four players looking for their first senior caps: Fullback Zachary Brault-Guillard (19), goalkeeper Alessandro Busti (18), centreback Derek Cornelius (20) and forward Jonathan David (18).
Herdman called five teenagers into camp, with Alphonso Davies (17) and Millar (18) joining Busti, Brault-Guillard and David.
Sept. 2: CANWNT defeat Brazil 1-0 in rematch of 2016 bronze medal match
In what was a rematch of the Rio 2016 bronze medal match, Canada’s women beat Brazil 1-0 on Sept. 2 in front of 16,128 at Ottawa’s TD Place.
Panama held its own for much of the first half before Christine Sinclair nodded home an opener in the 44th minute. Sinclair would add another in the second half before Jessie Flemming, Janine Beckie, Rebbeca Quinn and Adriana Leon (2) joined her on the scoresheet.
Canada was joined by the U.S., which also won its semifinal, as the second North American side to qualify for the tournament. Canada would fall to the U.S. 2-0 in the CONCACAF title game.
Oct. 16: CANMNT smashes Dominica 5-0 at BMO Field, maintain place in Nations League qualifying
On the club side, Sinclair played all 2,160 minutes for the Portland Thorns as they finished second in the league. She scored nine goals, finished tied for third in the league with six assists, won the Thorns Supporters’ Player of the Year award and was named to the NWSL Second XI. In the playoffs, she helped the Thorns reach the final.
The Burnaby B.C.-native was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in January by Governor General David Johnston.
Dec. 12: Alphonso Davies awarded 2018 Canadian Player of the Year honours
In Vancouver, Davies scored exceptional individual goals and worked as an offensive lynchpin, notching eight goals and 11 assists, leading MLS in duels won (258) and setting a record for dribbles completed (123).
As for the national team, his four assists in three matches were the second-most in a single year by a Canadian. He played all 270 minutes of Nations League qualifying, completing an incredible 95% of his passes.
The Edmonton native recently moved to Germany to begin his tenure with European giants Bayern Munich. His record transfer from the Whitecaps is set to go through in January.
Dec. 18: Canada Soccer announces apparel partnership with Nike