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Wileman: Canadian women's soccer gets home test vs. USA

Luke Wileman
5/29/2013 10:32:17 AM
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It's being billed as the big rematch - a chance for Canada's Women's National Team to settle a score with the United States following their controversial loss against their neighbours at the London Olympics last summer. In reality, Sunday's match at BMO Field is more about moving on than looking back.

This game will give a sold out crowd the chance to show its appreciation for the bronze medal winners, and the battle will certainly spark many memories of the Old Trafford encounter last August, but most importantly, it is the next step on the road to the 2015 World Cup which will be hosted here in Canada.

By the time 2015 rolls around, the squad will have a much different look to the one that played at the Summer Games, and the clash with the United States is the next stage in its evolution.

While some faces are new many remain the same, including the star of the team, Christine Sinclair. The 29-year-old's achievements at the Olympics - where she finished as the tournament's top goal-scorer and carried the country's flag at the closing ceremony – lifted her to legendary status amongst Canadian athletes. As the team's captain, Sinclair now has a slightly different role as a largely veteran squad gets a much younger flavour.

"I think back when I was 16 coming into the national team and how some of the veteran players helped me," she told me when we met at the team's downtown Toronto hotel.

"It is all about calming your nerves. It's your first time playing in front of large crowds, or first time playing at home. It's reminding them there's a reason why they are here, they are tremendous soccer players, and just go out and play as best you can.

This is not the World Cup - it's a learning step for us. We know come the World Cup if we want to win it we will have to beat the Americans and we need to learn how, and this is what Sunday is all about."

Beating the Americans is easier said than done. Canada's squad of players for this game is not as strong as it was when the teams met in Manchester 10 months ago. Coach John Herdman has been very clear when talking about where this team is at. While beating the U.S. would be sweet revenge, Sinclair acknowledges the most important thing is to continue laying a foundation for the program from which the team can build towards 2015 and beyond.

"John is going to develop the youth. He wants there to be a streamline of youth players to the national team. The team that represented Canada at the Olympics was a veteran team and he blatantly said that there are going to be players on the London team that wouldn't be at the World Cup just because of sheer age.

"We've got a lot of young players in camp right now, the one who stands out is Kadeisha Buchanan who is just a tremendous player. I can't wait for Canada to get to see her play on Sunday. It's going to change. We've got a couple of years before the World Cup actually happens and players will rotate in and we'll see who is playing the best in a couple of years."

Despite the World Cup still being two years away, it's not just matters of on-pitch preparation that have been in the spotlight lately. All matches in Canada will be played on turf pitches rather than grass. It's something the United States players have openly complained about with the loudest opponent being striker Abby Wambach.

"I think everybody is entitled to their opinions," said Sinclair. "I would prefer every game of mine to be played on grass, it is how the game is meant to be played. However, FIFA wouldn't have offered Canada the opportunity to host the World Cup had the facilities not been up to standard. I know the CSA will do an incredible job. Both teams have to play on the fields. I've played on many of the stadium fields we are going to play in and it's going to be fine."

While Sunday's match at BMO Field is on a much smaller scale, it will give the players a taste of what is to come in 2015. The chance to play in a full stadium in front of the home fans will make it a special occasion.

"Sitting here right now, I'm just excited," she said. "It has been a long time since we have played at home in front of a packed house, not to mention bringing the Americans in. I'm just excited to see a sea of red cheering for us and making the environment as hard for them as possible. We don't get this opportunity very often. It is going to be one of the few opportunities we have to bring, I think, the best team in the world to Canada, and we should embrace it."

Luke Wileman

Luke Wileman


Luke Wileman is an analyst for TSN's soccer coverage and his blog can be read on TSN.ca.

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