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Canada Soccer announces women’s coach Heiner-Møller to step down from program

The Canadian women’s national soccer team will have a new head coach as it chases a third-straight Olympic medal next summer in Tokyo.

Kenneth Heiner-Møller, a Denmark native, is stepping down to rejoin the Danish Football Association as the Head of Coach Education, effective at the the end of August 2020.

Heiner-Møller joined the Canadian program in 2016 as an assistant to then-coach John Herdman and helped the team win their second-straight Olympic bronze medal in Rio.

He took the head coaching reins in January 2018 when Herdman abruptly left to take over the men’s program.

“This was not an easy decision to make because of the quality of the people that I have had the pleasure to work with since my time at Canada Soccer,” Heiner-Møller said in a statement. 

“As a leader in the women’s game, Canada Soccer’s investment in the Women’s National Team Program will ensure its continued success. I would like to thank the players, staff and Canada Soccer for the opportunity to represent a great nation and program who I have every confidence will return to the podium at Tokyo 2020.”

Canada, currently ranked No. 8 in the world along with Brazil, had mixed results through Heiner-Møller’s tenure.

At last year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup in France, the then-fifth-ranked Canadians had high expectations of a deep run at the tournament, but instead were bounced by Sweden in the round of 16.

Questions about their goal-scoring — outside of the world’s all-time leading goal scorer Christine Sinclair — arose, but the team stomped on that assessment at last year’s Olympic qualifying tournament in the U.S. They scored 22 goals in three group-stage games before locking up their fourth-straight Olympic berth with 1-nil win over Costa Rica.

Heiner-Møller’s overall record through all competitions and friendlies includes 20 wins, five draws and 10 losses.

Potential replacements

As for who may take over the squad just one year away from the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics, that is still to be decided by Canada Soccer.

They could go the route of staying within the program, as they did with Heiner-Møller, elevating an assistant to help with synchronicity in a short turnaround.

In that scenario, veteran Canadian international Rhian Wilkinson, head coach of the women’s youth programs, could be in the mix. As would Daniel Worthington, assistant with the national team and leader of the EXCEL development program.

Canada lost a key internal candidate in August 2018 when assistant Bev Priestman left to become the assistant with the English women’s team. She held several positions during her six years with the Canadian program, including director of the EXCEL developmental program and head coach of the women’s under-17 and under-20 teams.

As to whether Priestman — who helped develop the next generation of Canadian stars on the team — could be lured back, it is unlikely. She may be in line for the top job in her home country, as England’s current coach Phil Neville has one year remaining on his contract with The Lionesses.

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