It's time for the CSA to start figuring it out - The Province

Kent Gilchrist Congratulations to the Whitecaps -- the players, new coach Teitur Thordarson, president Bob Lenarduzzi and, of course, owner Greg Kerfoot. At least there's one team in the country giving soccer fans something to cheer about. You couldn't find it on the Canadian Soccer Association website at 9 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day, but the national team was eliminated from CONCACAF zone qualifying for the 2010 World Cup after losing 3-1 in Honduras on Sunday. When you've managed to kill any interest in your sport on the world stage, I guess it does kind of get to be old news reporting on yet another loss on your home page. At least the CSA's got that part right, nobody wants to read about bad results. And it has been more than two decades since the national side qualified for the 1986 World Cup. The Whitecaps, meantime, provoked cover pictures front and back of Monday's Province and great coverage for winning their second USL championship in three years, but for the first time ever at home. It's a great story and a fine result. The national team will play against Mexico at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton on Wednesday with the visitors and Honduras already assured of advancing in World Cup qualifying. Mexico and Honduras are tied with nine points ... and Canada? Oh yeah, our guys have a tie against Jamaica with only two games left. CSA vice-president Victor Montagliani was unhappy with your agent's column last week before the Whitecaps had eliminated the Montreal Impact, where Lenarduzzi took the opportunity to suggest the CSA might want to try leaning on those two organizations as well as Toronto FC of the MLS. Since all three professional organizations had undertaken their own player development programs, which hopefully will keep more homegrown kids playing at home, Lenarduzzi was offering a possible alternative. Perhaps the years of accumulated negative history -- former president Colin Linford last year called the CSA board of directors dysfunctional -- have taken their toll. Linford said it the day he resigned after his own board failed to sanction the hiring of Fred Nykamp after chief operating officer Kevan Pipe was fired. Nykamp, who had left Basketball Canada to take the job of succeeding Pipe, sued the CSA and the parties settled out of court in January this year. And now practically everyone expects the CSA to fire national team coach Dale Mitchell, who wasn't everyone's first choice but a convenient replacement for Frank Yallop, who returned at the helm of the MLS's San Jose Earthquake. Still, Montagliani was non-plussed by Lenarduzzi's words. As tremendous a story as the Whitecaps season has been, it is still just a local story. It's big news in Vancouver, but wouldn't create much of a ripple anywhere else in the country. A successful national team, on the other hand, would be big news. Qualifying for the World Cup, for instance, would be huge. It would galvanize a country starved for something positive in the world game. You don't even have to go up to Commercial Drive to see lots of interest in the World Cup. You can find it in virtually any pub anywhere when the World Cup is on TV every four years. So you can imagine the soccer-mania that would erupt if Canada ever qualified again. With each passing World Cup, there seems to be more interest globally. But with Canada's early elimination, there will be little more than friends and family at Commonwealth Stadium on Wednesday -- while poor Canada loses a whole year of national interest as qualifying continues through next year. The next time there'll be any real interest in what the CSA is doing will be 2014 when qualifying starts for the 2018 World Cup. Let's hope they try something different before then. © The Vancouver Province 2008