New coach a 'crucial' choice - The Province

Star Kara Lang speaks her mind Steve Ewen Kara Lang is thinking about both an American national title and a Canadian national team. Lang, a fan favourite during her stints with the Vancouver Whitecaps, helped the UCLA Bruins to a 1-0 win over cross-town rival USC on Saturday that propelled the Bruins into the NCAA national quarterfinals. UCLA (21-0-2) hosts Duke (15-5-3) next Saturday. Lang is also trying to catch up on the Canadian national team's search for a new coach. The spot came open when Even Pellerud stepped down after the Beijing Olympics. Canadian Soccer Association vice-president Victor Montagliani has said that the governing body has shortlisted to a "handful," of finalists and the hope is to have someone in place by early January, if not sooner. Lang says bluntly: "It's a crucial point in the program." Canada was ranked 10th in the most recent FIFA poll. They lost 2-1 in overtime to the U.S. in the Olympic quarterfinals. "It could have gone either way," said Lang, 22, who played her first senior women's international at 15 years of age and now has 85 caps. "This could be a really good opportunity and we're being optimistic that it's being looked at that way. "A bad decision could take this program backwards. So much hard work has been put into the program. For some of us, so much of our youth has been put into this. A lot of us have been here for awhile and we've put our hearts and souls into the program." Lang wouldn't get into what kind of coach she was looking for. Pellerud took some heat in the media for playing too direct, with his players chasing after long balls boomed down the field. It wouldn't be surprising if Canada opted for a possession-style coach, since that seems to be the way the best teams in the world are playing now. "It's a really big opportunity that could go one way or the other," said Lang. "Our biggest hope is that it serves as a catapult [to improvement]." The Bruins catapulted into the next round of the NCAAs Saturday on a goal in the 13th minute by Kristina Larsen. Lang just missed setting up a goal in the 86th minute. USC beat UCLA 2-1 in the national semifinals last season and then beat Florida State 2-0 in the final. UCLA also lost in the 2004 and '05 national finals. Lang, a junior, is fourth in UCLA scoring this season with five goals and eight assists in 22 games. She has started 21 times. "I love this school and being a part of this team," said Lang, who was raised in Oakville, Ont., but now calls Vancouver home. "We've been to the Final Four so many times. ...I'm not trying to get ahead of ourselves, but there's a little bit of added pressure." © The Vancouver Province 2008