September 4th Edition

What's next for CanMNT after John Herdman's departure

What’s next for CanMNT after John Herdman’s departure

Happy Labour Day! It’s been a week since the latest Canadian soccer bombshell became official and Canada Soccer announced, followed shortly by Toronto FC, that head coach John Herdman was trading in Les Rouges for The Reds.

Like most, we are still getting used to this new normal in Canadian soccer since the gaffer’s departure and all of the fallout, punditry and reporting that has followed (we just wanted an excuse to use the word punditry tbh).

We dive deep into Herdman’s move, the closing of the European transfer window and all of the top stories in Canadian soccer ahead in this week’s edition of The Northern Pitch.

Graphic: Canada Soccer

Unexpected moves within Canadian soccer have kind of become John Herdman’s signature play at this point. 

Back in 2018 after all, seemingly out of nowhere, he left the CanWNT to take over as the head coach of CanMNT — which at the time seemed like a CHOICE.

That move worked out incredibly well for just about everyone. The women’s team, after some admittedly down years, would go on to win a Gold Medal in Tokyo under Bev Priestman. Herdman, meanwhile, would lead the men’s team to their first World Cup since 1986. Kings of Concacaf and all of that.

The move is also something of a natural progression. For most coaches, coaching at the club level is quite frankly more rewarding. There are more matches, significantly more time with the players and more earning potential. The best global managers work for clubs, not country.

Everyone assumed Herdman would take the next step at some point given his level of success, but so soon, and like THIS, still has all of our heads spinning.

Opinion on the move has been decidedly split, with some called it a hammer blow (whatever that means) to the program, while others suggesting that behind-the-scenes drama might have actually made this a good time for a parting of ways.

John had his chance to give his own thoughts at his introductory press conference but ended up kind of dancing around a few questions as you would expect and mostly just reiterating how excited he was to be joining the club. This was the classy move, for sure, and what both set of fans probably want to hear.

Obviously, he leaves a lot on the table in his departure, including Coaching at a World Cup at home. But let’s not forget, is an experience that Herdman has already had on his coaching resumé with CanWNT in 2015.

It truly has the potential to eventually work out for all involved but that comes down to two big factors. First, and, foremost, Canada has to get his replacement right. Bringing in a coach that can galvanize this group and get them back to their best, convince dual nations and lead this team through the most important matches it has ever played.

For Herdman, the biggest challenge will be fixing a dressing room and roster that seems pretty divided and broken. Fortunately, this is what he does best. His status and success in Canadian soccer will also be key to getting the frustrating fan base back on board.

That’s where we stand. Where the two programs go next is anyone’s guess.

Other news this week


🇨🇦 Mauro Biello to serve as interim coach of CanMNT. In the wake of John Herdman’s departure from the national team, the former Montréal coach has confirmed his position as interim coach. Biello has been Herdman's assistant coach since 2018 and is the natural selection interim gaffer. Moreover, Biello has also been at the head of MTL’s most successful run in the MLS, reaching the East Coast conference final in 2016. Not bad for an interim. Will Carlo “King” Ancelotti reject the Brazil job for Canada? We hope. For now, Canada’s full-time gaffer remains a vacant position.

🇫🇷 Goteh Ntignee transferred to French club FC Annecy. Cavalry FC confirmed the sale of the Calgary player for a league-record transfer to the Ligue 2 side. The move was initially a loan for the 2023/24 season and then became a permanent move for an undisclosed amount. If this sale reveals anything, the CPL can produce and export to Europe—this is good.

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 Liam Millar was loaned out to Preston North End from FC Basel. The Canadian international and former Liverpool youth academy player has signed a one-year loan with Championship-side Preston North End. We view this as a good move for Liam. It is not clear if there is an option to buy at the end of the loan, but if acquired, this could also be a tremendous potential move but at the cost of potential Champions League action with FC Basel.

🧊 Lille rejected AC Milan's approach for JD. The attention surrounding Jonathan David from top clubs around Europe is ever-increasing. AC Milan is the latest club to chase the Ottawa striker. However, the Rossoneri failed to lock in a loan for JD, nor were they willing to pay the sum for a complete transfer. According to James Benge on CBS Sports, this is a pivotal season for JD to prove himself as a top-shelf striker. A temporary move would disrupt the performance momentum that he’s enjoying. With two years left in his contract, a move in the winter or next summer is the objective. Too bad for Milan. They could’ve used JD this season.

👀 Atiba Hutchinson supposedly has recommended Besiktas to sign Moise Bombito. Canadian breakout defender has been catching people’s eye as of late. Captain Canada supposedly recommended Besiktas to sign Bombito. The rise of the young Montreal defender is felt, from featuring in Canada’s Nations League campaign and a regular starter for the Colorado Rapids. Bombito also saw a 1900% market value increase, according to Transfermarkt. The future is bright for the Montrealer.

🏆 The time is near for the most significant club competition in world football, the Champions League. This week, UEFA held their annual Champions League group stage draws. Three Canadians are featuring in this competition for their respective clubs: Alistair Johnston with Celtic, Phonzy with Bayern Munich and Eustaquio with Porto. Celtic have been drawn into Group E, featuring Fayernoord, Atletico Madrid and Lazio. AJ will experience a European night at Celtic Park, a pilgrimage site to experience. Insane. Bayern Munich has been drawn into Group A along with Manchester United, FC Copenhagen and Galatasaray. We will be keeping an eye on Phonzy counter-attack with Harry Kane. Davies versus Wan-Bissaka? Fascinating matchup. Lastly, Porto has been pulled into Group H along with Barcelona, Shakhtar Donetsk and Royal Antwerp. If Eustaquio balls out against Barcelona, would a move to the Catalonia capital be possible next season? Let’s hope he puts in a shift for Barca scouts to take note. If all three Canadians ball out in this year’s Champions League, it will be a testament to the quality of Canadian football.


🏆 Simcoe County Rovers FC have qualified for the 2024 Canadian Championship. The League1 Ontario club from The Barrie defeated Scrosoppi 4-2 in the league final—a massive achievement for Simcoe County Rovers FC. We wonder who they will play against in next year’s Canadian Championship.

🍀 Alistair Johnston comes out victorious with Celtic in the Old Firm darby. One of the most famous darby matches in world football in which AJ finds himself. Rangers hosted Celtic at Ibrox Stadium only to lose 1-0 at home. Alistair was among the starters and was subbed off at the 65th minute. A massive dub for AJ is a win for Canada. 

Graphic: ESPN FC

🌊 Vancouver Whitecaps are by far the most impressive Canadian club this season. NYCFC has made Yankee Stadium into a fortress. The Whitecaps went in and walked away with a point in a 1-1 draw. In-form Monsef Bakrar scored first for NYCFC, scoring a nutmeg goal on Yohei Takaoka. the ‘Caps earned a penalty after a bad tackle by James Sands, leading to a penalty converted by Ryan Gauld. In recent history, Vancouver could do what Montréal could not: win at Yankee Stadium. Says a lot about the testament of this Whitecaps side.

🔵 CFMTL 2 - 4 Columbus Crew. This was game three out of their ten-game “finals.” This loss has marked two losses out of their last three games. Things are looking tough as MTL lost at home to Wilfried Nancy’s Columbus Crew 4-2. One thing was evident with CFM: their defence looked shaky and unstable without the presence of Joel Waterman. Gabriele Corbo gave up an unlucky own goal, and Ousman Jabang had moments of shine but failed to close down a cross that led to the Cucho goal. Many would focus on MTL’s defensive performance, but they had created numerous opportunities for an unrealized tap-in goal. As Hernan Losada stated in the post-game press conference, “The game plan was the right one based on all the chances we created.”If there’s any bright side to CF MTL in this game, it is Sirois. Despite the scoreline, he has won all of his 1-on-1 challenges. Also, Jules-Anthony Vilsaint is emerging as an impressive talent, registering his first MLS goal and clocking in an assist.

🔴 Finally, a midweek dub for TFC. The John Herdman effect seems in full swing for the boys in red. Toronto hosted MLS heavyweights Philadelphia Union at BMO. Handing a 3-1 win over the boys from Philly. With a goal coming from Lorenzo Insigne coupled with an outdated dab celebration. That’s how long the last he scored. Deandre Kerr and Oso came through with the other goals for TFC. Maybe things are starting to look up?

🔱 Now to the CPL, Pacific FC hosted Valour and dispatched the Winnipeg side with a 2-1 victory. Starlight Stadium is no easy venue to play and for Valour, despite the loss they held their own. Valour were able to equalise the game at the seventy-sixth minute and hold onto that lead until a well placed finish by Ayman Sellouf at the seventy-fourth minute. Pacific at home is monster.

🐎 Atletico Ottawa hosted league leaders Cavalry at TD Place Stadium. Cavalry walked into the capital and came out with three points with a 2-1 scoreline over the homeside. Cavalry opened the scoreline with a tigh-angle goal from Sergi Camargo. However, in the eighty-seventh minute Luke Singh scores a banger of a volley. Ottawa were feeling good assuming they’re walking away with a point in hand but then Cavalry showed why they’re league leaders. In stoppage time, William Akio scores the winner for Cavalry.

🔨 Forge FC travelled to Langley to face Vancouver FC. The Montrealer that has been on many scouting report has given them more reason to sign Woobens Pacius. The Forge player completed his second career hattrick in the CPL after defeating VFC 3-0. Tough for Vancouver FC but amazing for Pacius. MTL are missing a finisher.

Northern Picks

Gems from at home and across the pond.
This week’s picks come from Sean Pollock (@seanpollock)

Photo: Sean Pollock

Sean Pollock is a GTA photographer and shooter for Waking the Red. He’s also a cyclist enthusiast.

📺 What to watch

I recently finished season 1 of The Bear, and though I’m a year late in its release, it’s been one of the more impressive series of television I’ve watched recently. The show’s heartfelt yet raw emotion toward working in the restaurant industry is felt throughout, and the season’s finale was one of the best endings to a season in recent memory. If you need a feel good, yet intricate show, this is the one.

🎧 What to listen to

I’ve been loving Geese’s new album 3D Country, which is a dynamic rock n’ roll album influenced by the albums of the 60s and 70s. The album’s thoughtful, bright and quirky. I’d definitely recommend giving this album at least one listen.

Who to follow

Two accounts, actually, Jared and Ashley Gruber. Both cycling photographers have been producing amazing work following the biggest races around Europe. When we think of sports photographers, we always look at the NHL, NBA, and NFL as producing some of the best photographers, but honestly, cycling photography is seriously under-appreciated, and these two produce some of the best images that capture how tough the sport of cycling is.