VANCOUVER, BC – In March of this year, John Herdman had his first meeting with Russell Teibert after taking over as head coach of the Canadian men’s national team.
“I just got a sense of what his motivations were and how he was feeling,” Herdman said of the meeting, which took place at the Whitecaps FC training centre in Vancouver.
It was an honest discussion, in which Teibert spoke openly about some of his past experiences.
“I got a sense that he had sort of fallen out of love with the national team,” Herdman continued. “Not that he had fallen out of love with Canada, but just where he was at with his mindset. He wanted to focus on having a good season with the Whitecaps.”
And that, he did.
Teibert started 17 of his 23 MLS appearances in 2018, playing more minutes than he had in each of the previous three seasons and chipping in with one goal and two assists. The central midfielder became a fixture in Vancouver’s starting XI down the stretch and was named the Whitecaps FC Jock MacDonald Unsung Hero for his efforts.
“Towards the back end of the season, I think he showed a bit of a resurgence,” Herdman said. “When I first saw him play with the Whitecaps, he was an attacker and he had one of the seasons of his life. The last season I watched him play, he was in more of a defensive role. I said look, ‘I think there’s a combination of taking what you’ve learned and bringing back that Russell we saw a few years ago having a breakout season. If you can combine both of that, we’ll have a new version of you which will be a much better version and it’s the version that this team needs to move forward.’”
And that version was on display last month when Teibert made his first appearance under Herdman, playing 90 minutes in a 5-0 win over Dominica at BMO Field. The Niagara Falls, Ontario native, who now has 21 caps under his belt, spoke glowingly about the experience.
“We’re building something that’s extraordinary with this men’s national team,” he said last month. “I’m not saying that lightly at all. The talent we have, the youth, the veterans, the in-betweeners. This group, with John at the helm, it’s a collective effort to do something special. The culture that we’re creating there, it’s not what the country can do for you, it’s what you can do for your country.”
Herdman said that Teibert has been “an absolute pleasure to work with” thus far and believes there’s “so much more to come” from the 25-year-old, who has been called up to Canada alongside Doneil Henry and Alphonso Davies for Sunday’s Concacaf Nations League qualifier vs. Saint Kitts and Nevis (4 p.m. PT on concacafgo.com).
“I think with Russell what I saw in the first camp was an element of leadership, a level of authenticity,” Herdman said. “What you see is what you get. He cares about the jersey. He cares about leaving a legacy, he cares about the Whitecaps deeply. And when you have a genuine, authentic guy like that in your squad it can make a big difference.”
“I think he’s really growing, but meeting him [last week] one on one … he’s open-minded and fully committed to his development from what I’ve seen. He’s just searching for those little inches and yards to take him to the next level.”