The snow is finally leaving, the birds are chirping and footy in North America is in full swing. So I bring you my dear readers, my first edition of “Thoughts” in 2017 on some topics in soccer.

The Octavio Zambrano Era Begins.

After the tumultuous tenure of Benito Floro, Long time MLS coach Octavio Zambrano comes to a program that needed a change in many ways and in his first game coaching a Canadian squad, he’ll also have influence with the men’s program as a whole the U 23 squad defeated Uzbekistan 1-0 this week (the senior team played Scotland to a 1-1 draw but interim coach Michael Findley was in charge for that match).

Last week I was at the introductory presser for Zambrano here in Toronto and there were a couple things that stood out to me in a very positive way.

1. He sees the Canadian Premier League (getting off the ground in time for 2018 hopefully) as being vital for the development of Canadian players.

2. Don’t expect under his charge to see the team playing extensively in Europe to get ready to face North and South American teams for such events as the Gold Cup.

“We have to play (more friendlies) but our focus has to change, this team has gone quite a bit to Europe to prepare. My intent is to play down south, I believe we have to compete against teams that mirror what we face for qualifiers.

We have the United States, we can compete against them anytime or similar teams that play that style, it’s Honduras, Costa Rica, Panama those are the teams that we need make sure that when we face them we have a very good chance of beating them, Mexico also. For that we need to play teams like that we can find in Latin America.

We can go to any country, Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela and Argentina and find teams that is very good and perhaps superior what we have in CONCACAF and that’s what’s going to strengthen us.

Going to Austria and other countries like that I don’t think give us a true reality of what is our competition”.

Is he going to be the coach that finally and truly brings the men’s program which is currently the 117th FIFA ranked team out of the wilderness but also very divided with the various provincial soccer bodies? I truly hope so.

Speaking of Can PL though…

New Brunswick And Nova Scotia As The Next Soccer Hubs In Canada? 

When it comes to actual cities for Canada’s new pro soccer league names have been thrown around like Victoria, Calgary and Hamilton and now as of this week Moncton wants in.

Now granted, this was a city that had 5000 fans at games for the FIFA Women’s World Cup two years ago at Moncton Stadium, and I am curious as to how the city could handle a pro sports franchise.

Either way Can PL is becoming more and more of a reality and it’s nice to see more markets in this country wanting to get on board with it from coast to coast.

Moncton would join Halifax, another Atlantic city that could be apart of Canada’s first top flight soccer league since the CSA de certification of the corrupt Canadian Soccer League in 2013.

Martime soccer fever is in full swing that’s for sure and playing in a fully Canadian league is something that’s nothing but good for the game up North.

A Tale Of Two Expansion Clubs

This year we welcomed Atlanta United and Minnesota United to MLS and so far the club from Georgia has adapted nicely to the top flight of North American soccer so far while Minnesota has been….yikes.

Atlanta with six points is third in the East with Venezuelan international Josef Martinez leading the way in Atlanta with five goals while Minnesota only has one point and has allowed 18 GOALS. No other team has given up more than six so far. Ouch.

Everything from international duties, to being banged up and suspensions has mean that Minnesota has been taking their lumps in Year 1 of MLS with so far the worst of the four games being a 6-1 loss to Atlanta which saw starting keeping John Alvbage leave the game on a cart due to injury on March 12th. Oh and the team decided to not sign any Designated Players aka international star players that don’t count against their salary cap.

It’s still early in the season but things certainly won’t be getting any easier for the Loons. The remains of Chivas USA are probably somewhere having a chuckle at this start.

Things will only continue to get fun on this continent as Toronto FC has their 2017 home debut vs Sporting KC on March 31st, expect BMO Field to be absolutely wild as the defending Eastern Conference champs look to get win number two of the season in a campaign in which they want to take care of some unfinished business.