Changes spur Team Canada's growth
Over the past two years, many people have asked me what has changed with the Canadian women's national soccer team. We are at an all-time high ranking: sixth in the world. In the past year and a half, we have won four international tournaments and have lost only three games.
My answer is very simple: It's our head coach, Carolina Morace. She was hired 2 1/2 years ago, and that was the best decision the Canadian Soccer Association has ever made on the women's side of the game. I often say that she has changed us from athletes into soccer players.
It all started at our first camp, where we were forced to work so hard and learn what it is like to train as soccer players. The drills she brought to us were very European, as she's Italian, the kind of drills you see men's teams doing on TV. She was shocked that we typically go on hour-long runs, since in soccer you never run at one speed for that long.
Instead, she preached speed and quickness, agility and reaction -- the types of movements you use during a game. We also worked a lot on tactics, something that isn't usually stressed in North America. For 1 1/2 years, our team slowly worked on these aspects of our game, with mixed results. We found ourselves playing the U.S. to a narrow 1-0 loss, then losing to Germany 5-0. We were unable to consistently play at the level necessary to compete with the world's best.
But Carolina stuck with her game plan, and slowly the results started to change. Last year, we won our CONCAFAF World Cup qualifying tournament (which included the U.S.), and then won an international tournament in Brazil. We began to feel confident; we finally felt we could beat any team in the world. Earlier this year, we won another tournament in Cyprus, our final tourney before this summer's World Cup.
As a veteran player on the Canadian team, I have never been so excited for a major tournament. I finally feel we have a serious shot at doing something special in Germany this summer. With time ticking down 'til the start of the World Cup, I have all the confidence in the world that our amazing coach will have us prepared and flying at 100 percent come kickoff on June 26 in Berlin against Germany.