Sober Second Thoughts: Priestman's pressure
It's a big job. Is she ready?
It wasn’t pretty, but, in the end, Canada got the job done against Argentina.
A late goal by Sarah Stratigakis gave the Canadians a 1-0 win over their opponents. The goal came off a mad scramble and hardly inspires one to believe that the scoring issues that have plagued this team for years are any closer to being solved.
That’s the thing about Canada. They are equally likely to be tied 0-0 late with the US as they are with a team like Argentina. You can spin that positively – they defend bravely and effectively – but goals win games. And, Canada doesn’t score a lot of goals.
Canada couldn’t score in France and came home early because of it. They aren’t scoring now either. Whether that stops them from getting to the podium for a third straight Olympics remains to be seen (and will have a lot to do with the draw they get on April 1).
But, it’s a problem and it’s something that Bev Priestman needs to figure out quickly.
Can she though?
Bluntly, it’s hard to be overly confident as she for years was a huge part of the coaching staff that has lead us to this point. Sure, she left for a while after John Herdman bailed on the team to coach the men, but everything single aspect of the CanWNT is still influenced by the system that was put in place by Herdman.
And his right-hand woman during all of it was Priestman. They created the REX programming that pretty much everyone outside the CSA hates (and will be a topic of a column on another day) and coached many of the young women that are going to form the next generation of the team when they were at the youth level.
To limited success at the youth level, it must be said.
On some level it’s unfair to return to her appointment again – the job is hers now. We must be supportive and hopeful for her success if we care about the program – but since this blog did not exist when the hiring took place allow me a moment to reflect on it.
Before we get into the negative part, some positives:
Like Herdman, Priestman is a tireless worker and is unmatched when it comes to match preparedness. She also shares an appreciation for sports science, like her mentor. Those are positive things.
Especially, for an assistant. And, she was a very good one.
But, to take over a top 10 national team job? Any reasonable, sport-based conversation about whether she was the most qualified person for the job would conclude that she clearly was not. What she was, was the most qualified person for the job that fit the budget that the CSA had. It also helped that she was a Friend of John, who, for better or worse, has his fingerprints over every aspect of the game in Canada right now.
As stated, fans of CanWNT can do nothing about this now other than cheer for Priestman. That’s an easy thing to do – in my limited dealings with her over the years I’ve found her to be a likeable individual and she’s clearly worked her butt off to get here. Just because she’s not the most qualified person for the job doesn’t mean she can’t be successful.
However, the root of the problem – the CSA either not willing to spend at the level of other top 10 countries or unable – means that she’s going to be handicapped heading into the task.
Next up is Brazil, which was always the game that was going to tell us the most at the SheBelieves Cup.