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Floro faces uphill battle in leading Canadian men’s soccer team

Jurgen Klinsmann and Aron Winter ruined it for a lot of us. An icon of the German game? A guy who cut his teeth with Ajax Amsterdam's academy? How could Toronto FC go wrong?

How'd that work out, eh? And now the Canadian Soccer Association announces the hiring of Benito Floro as national men's head coach, a guy whose pedigree includes a recent stint as Real Madrid's director of football and who has coached at Villareal and Majorca in La Liga, as well as CF Monterrey in Mexico, in addition to being a candidate for the Spanish team coaching position.

The signing was broken by Marca, a three-million circulation Spanish sports newspaper that focuses on Real Madrid. Three months ago, Floro was all over the world press discussing Real's interest in Steven Gerrard.

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On Friday, he was asked about taking over the reins of a team that lost 8-1 to Honduras in its last qualifier – the final matched coached by his predecessor, Stephen Hart. Floro spoke with the use of an interpreter, although he'd flip into English and French as well.

"To lose a match 8-1 … is a special situation," Floro said. "It's impossible for me to know what happened. But, it's the past. Now, we start another situation."

Floro, who was hired after a nine-month search, will officially take over for interim coach Colin Miller after the Gold Cup tournament. He will also oversee the under-23 team – Canada's Olympic team – and CSA president Victor Montagliani said that while his contract will run through to the 2018 World Cup in Russia, there are a pair of option years after 2016.

Montagliani was ready for questions about hiring a coach who will be assuming his 19th managing job since 1978, and who has never managed a national side.

"If you look at most national team coaches, they're of a certain age," he said. "They are guys who have come full circle, who have experienced the day to day rigours of being a club coach."

Montagliani also made clear he expects Floro to play a similar role to women's head coach John Herdman: he and technical director Tony Fonseca will institute what will become the philosophical underpinnings for the development of the game in Canada. "I'm not certain the last time we've had this sort of strength in the technical room of our association," Montagliani said.

Floro's son, Antonio, will be an assistant coach, but the rest of the staff is expected to be Canadian.

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Canada is ranked 88th in the world by the sport's governing body, FIFA, and punches well under its weight for a country of its size, ethnic composition and wealth.

Montagliani is hopeful Floro's connections will open some doors for the country when it comes to scheduling international exhibition matches.

"[Floro] is somebody who has immense experience at the highest level, but also with other countries," Montagliani said. "He's been in South America, Asia and CONCACAF. He touched on all the boxes we were looking at. He brought a lot more to the table than just being a coach, and we felt at this time in our country, the person we hired needed to be not just a coach, but also bring vast experience from all over the world to a country that has been, quite frankly, lacking that type of personality.

"I think this changes the accessibility for Canada; a lot of doors are open. I think this changes the landscape."

It wasn't just language that prevented Floro from revealing tactical details or thoughts about the state of the game in Canada, beyond the usual coach-speak suggesting a balance of offence and defence and, perhaps, an emphasis on possession.

Floro spoke in generalities about short-, medium- and long-term goals and about how achieving short-term goals does not guarantee long-term goals can also be reached. He wanted what he called "a real project," and not the type of projects professional teams talk about – you know, the ones that change after two or three losses.

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Floro will find one thing here he often hasn't had in previous stops: patience. But that's about it.


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