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Bob Lenarduzzi

By Jonathan Castner

For 14 years Bob Lenarduzzi donned the red and white of Canada as a player and coach. Currently President of Soccer Operations for Vancouver Whitecaps, Lenarduzzi chats with GP about the state of the Canadian game and its influence on Major League Soccer.

You got your professional start with Reading as a teenager. Do you think they can stay up? I do actually. Last year they didnít spend much money on new players and they did really well. It was too good to be true. Steve Coppell has done a tremendous job. But they will need to spend money this summer.

Is Canada heading in the right direction? Will the team qualify for the World Cup? We need to overhaul our player development model. We need to address the long term problems. Iím not sure weíre doing that. The squad we have now is more than capable. Most of the players should be available to play. Itís critical we get off to a good start.

You were very close in 1990 and in 1994. But since then, Canada has struggled. What happened in those early years? If you talk to people up here it was a total failure. In 1986 we performed very well and the following years we had a nice little ride that just got their expectations up.

 

On Canada: "We need to overhaul our player development model. We need to address the long term problems."

MLS seems intent on signing higher profile foreign players. Is there a danger of repeating the failures of the NASL? The marquee player rule stops MLS from doing what NASL did. The league is here to stay. Anschutz, Kraft, and Hunt firmly propped it up for a while. The league didnít expand and they made a commitment to American players. But I would say that when league first started there was this arrogance like ďwe donít need Canada.Ē But if you look at the best supported teams in the NASL, Vancouver was clearly near the top. So I think with the success of Toronto and with Montreal and Vancouver in the USL, people at Major League Soccer realize that the league does indeed need us.

Tell me about the success of Vancouver. Our league is in great shape. We have some great owners. We have a residency program here at Vancouver which is unique to all of the clubs in the USL.

Could MLS conceivably swallow up the USL? I think the USL is well aware of MLS plans for expansion. Itís serious business now. Teams are going for $30 to $40 million. So both leagues need to keep the discussions going and look at this as a partnership.

4/1/2008



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