The Englishman goes to great lengths to build culture. He’ll be making certain TFC’s players know they’re part of a sturdy collective where unity, loyalty and commitment are core values, whatever the outside world sends in their direction. After all, this is a coach who did exactly that with the Canadian men’s national team to elevate that program to unprecedented heights, finishing tops in Concacaf’s Octagonal qualifying round as they ended a 36-year World Cup drought.

Those lengths included commissioning a medieval broadsword emblazoned with the team’s mission (“Qatar 2022”) and slogan, and carrying it many thousands of miles across their long, winding road through qualification. The CanMNT would plant the sword in the turf at midfield of every stadium they played in, with the notable exception of Costa Rica, where customs officials did not allow it to enter the country in time to be deployed at San Jose’s Estadio Nacional, and Los Ticos edged Les Rouges 1-0, one of only two defeats in a 14W-2L-4D overall qualifying record.

“I said to these boys, we’ve always had a shield. But we created a sword and on the sword it says ‘Nihil timendum est,’ which is ‘Fear Nothing’ [in Latin],” explained Herdman when the blade’s existence went public. “That’s New Canada. That’s the swagger we want to play with. And it goes into every stadium to symbolize we’ll own their ground and be New Canada.”

This is how Herdman builds his teams. Call it a siege mentality if you like; it generally works. So far he seems to be on a comparable course at TFC, who despite losing their last two matches sit above the playoff line in the Eastern Conference table at 6W-6W-1D, well ahead of the schedule most envisioned his rebuilding project taking.


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