Zambrano learning and teaching

Training match was educational for new Canadian boss

Matthew Gourlie

LAVAL — Octavio Zambrano is learning more about the Canadian national soccer team player pool every day.

The new Canadian manager is taking charge of his first full camp this week as his squad prepares to face Curaçao Tuesday at Stade Saputo in Montréal.

Zambrano felt Thursday’s intrasquad training match was an important step in the process.

“It was very, very enlightening,” Zambrano said after pausing before settling on the right verb. “It is only under a game environment — albeit, even an intrasquad game — where you get to see certain behaviours that have to do with frustration when things don’t go well. You see how they react to adversity. Perhaps you get a bad call. How do you react to injustice? How do you react to a lot of things that happen in the game that eventually don’t go your way?

“That information is very important to me at this stage.”

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Kianz Froese, left, and Manjrekar James battle turning a Canadian men’s national team training match in Laval Thursday. Canada Soccer photo by Marc-André Donato

The 80-minute training match featured all of the players in the Canadian camp with White claiming a 4-1 victory. Anthony Jackson-Hamel opened the scoring for Red before an own goal and a Kianz Froese strike put White ahead. Tyler Pasher added to the lead and Russell Teibert scored just before the final whistle.

It is the 59-year-old Ecuadoran’s first job helming a national side and he seemed to be enjoying the challenges that come with the job.

“It really is a fascinating process and we’re very motivated because the talent is there. But certainly on the mental side we need to do some work,” Zambrano said after a regeneration training session Friday at the Complexe Sportif in Laval.

Zambrano and his staff reduced their squad to 23 players for Tuesday’s friendly after training.

The five players who have been dropped from the squad are: Tesho Akindele from FC Dallas, Kwame Awuah from New York City FC, Wandrille Lefèvre from the Montréal Impact, keeper James Pantemis and newcomer Nicolas Galvis who came into camp to replace the injured Tosaint Ricketts.

The remaining players now have three days to take the feedback they received from the training match and apply it before being tested against Curaçao.

“Now we will address the issues with what happened in the intrasquad match and… see what the reaction is now in a real game,” Zambrano said.

It is no secret that Zambrano likes to set his teams up to attack. He also said he wants to change what he sees as an inferiority complex within the men’s program.

He feels the team hasn’t previously had the mental strength at the key moments when success or failure are at a tipping point.

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Octavio Zambrano

“If they are able to (deal with the mental side of the game) in a precise manner where they are in full control, then they will grow tremendously,” Zambrano said. “I think that is one of the big challenges for this squad. Given the fact that there are a lot of young guys, the work becomes even more onerous because of that. The young players still have that learning curve.

“On the flip side, it’s good to get them young and to get them to think the way you want them to think when game time comes.”

That true reckoning won’t come until the 2022 World Cup qualifiers, but Zambrano has set out to work with the big goal in mind.

In the meantime he is learning more about his side every day and trying to teach them in turn.

Zambrano said he had done his homework on the player pool before taking the job. After working with players in Scotland and Qatar and watching matches for the past two months he felt well-versed. However, nothing can replace working with them in training every day.

“It’s getting clearer and clearer as the days go by. You assume some things watching the players on video tape and in games. Once you have them in camp and you get to see everything about the player, then you develop a different profile of each one of them,” Zambrano said.

“There is plenty of work ahead of us, that’s for sure.”

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