Octavio Zambrano: “My passion is the development of young athletes and I view football as part sport, part art, and part entertainment.” (Photo courtesy of Canada Soccer)
Former MetroStars head coach Octavio Zambrano was introduced as the head coach of the Canada men’s national team program at a press conference in Toronto Friday morning.
Zambrano will oversee an integrated program from the national side through to all men’s national youth teams from the Under-14 age level and up.
“This is the pinnacle of my career,” the 59-year-old Zambrano said at the press conference. “I intend to do my very best.”
He will need to. Canada has not reach the World Cup since 1986 and rarely has qualified for the CONCACAF hexagonal.
“Obviously, Octavio brings a wealth of experience at all levels, whether it be the senior the players or an emphasis of developing young players,” Canada Soccer President Victor Montagliani said at the press conference. “Obviously, he’s got tremendous experience in South America and North America, plus CONCACAF. We think there is no substitute in this profession for that kind of experience. He has been in some different environments, some challenging environments, but the most challenging is Canada.
“We sometimes focus on CONCACAF, which we know is challenging. I know that maybe more than others. However, the most challenging environment is ourselves. I think this announcement today and focusing on having one voice is to address the challenging culture and the challenging mindset that we have in this country [and] to shed that negative mindset that we have started doing in the last four, five years. This will accelerate that process.”
Canada Soccer also hired assistant coach Javier Livia and physical preparation coach Norberto Salamanca, who will work alongside Zambrano across the national team programs. Michael Findlay, who has been interim head coach will continue as an assistant coach with the full men’s national team.
Zambrano succeeds Benito Floro, whose contract was renewed last September following the Maple Leafs’ elimination from 2018 World Cup qualifying.
He has a wealth of experience as a player, technician, and coach. He has earned his UEFA A Diploma coaching award as well a USSF Coaching A License. He has more than 25 years of experience coaching in North America, Europe and South America.
“We are very excited to welcome Octavio to Canada Soccer after our extensive search for a new head coach to lead our program into the next cycle of FIFA World Cup qualifiers,” Canada Soccer Montagliani said in a statement. “Canada deserves to have its men’s national team Program perform on a consistent basis and Octavio’s experience within professional club and academy settings around the world will allow him to lead program alignment and solidify the second pillar of our Leading a Soccer Nation plan: consistent, world-class performances by our national teams.”
Zambrano joins Canada Soccer after recently serving as head coach of Delfín Sporting Club in Ecuador’s Serie A. He also served as sporting director, head coach and technical director with CD El Nacional from 2014 to 2016 in the same league.
“I would like to thank Canada Soccer for this incredible opportunity to lead the men’s national team program and align the strong and deep talent pool that exists from coast to coast,” Zambrano said in a statement. “My passion is the development of young athletes and I view football as part sport, part art, and part entertainment. I will look to portray all three through the tactics and player development within the Men’s National Team program.”
Zambrano will travel to Scotland this week ahead of Canada’s men’s friendly on March 22. He will assume coaching duties in Qatar at the U-23 tournament, where Canada will face Uzbekistan (March 25) and host Qatar (March 28).
His first home match as coach of the full side will be in Montreal June 13, when Canada faces Curaçao as part of both nations’ preparations for the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Formerly an attacking midfielder, Zambrano made his professional debut with Union Deportiva Valdez in his hometown Guayaquil in Ecuador’s Serie A. He moved to the United States where he was enrolled at Chapman University and also spent two seasons as a player with the Los Angeles Lazers.
After moving to coaching, Zambrano established a proven track record of advancing his teams’ positions within their league standings in a short time span.
In Major League Soccer, he holds the second-highest winning percentage in league history with a 58.7 percent record in regular season. In addition to being an MLS all-star coach on three occasions, he was the first MLS head coach to develop the methodology of training youth players within the club environment during his tenure with the MetroStars.
Zambrano joined LA Galaxy as an assistant coach in MLS’ first season in 1996, helping the team win the Western Conference to reach the MLS Cup final (where it lost to D.C. United). As head coach from June 1997 to April 1999, he helped the Galaxy reach the conference final in 1997 and 1998 as well as the CONCACAF Champions’ Cup final in 1997.
As head coach of MetroStars from 2000 to 2002, he took his team from last to first place in the Eastern Conference standings for the first time in the team’s history.
After coaching in Moldova and Hungary, Zambrano returned to USA to serve as an assistant coach with the Kansas City Wizards in 2009. After the team transformed into Sporting Kansas City in 2011, Zambrano helped the club finish first in the Eastern standings and reach the conference final for the first time in four years.
In 2012, Zambrano led Deportivo Pereira to a record season in Colombia’s Categoría Primera B. The squad broke the record for the most points obtained in a single season by any Colombian professional team.
After two years in Colombia, Zambrano returned home to coach in Ecuador’s Serie A with CD Nacional and then Delfín SC.