Soccer

U.S. blanks Canada in women's soccer friendly

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The Canadian Press
6/2/2013 9:45:53 PM
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TORONTO -- It's been 10 months since the United States women's soccer team delivered a dagger into the hearts of Canadians at the London Olympics.

It was clear Sunday that the wound is still fresh.

The cheeky BMO Field fans loudly counted off every American goal kick. They booed when Canadian-born striker Sydney Leroux scored and then popped her American jersey at them.

Alex Morgan scored twice and Leroux notched the third as the world No. 1-ranked United States defeated Canada 3-0 in a friendly that was anything but.

And Canada's captain Christine Sinclair was less than impressed after the match.

"Maybe not the classiest of moves," Sinclair said of Leroux's gesture. "She scored on us, and an individual can do what they like. I probably wouldn't have done the same, but we move on."

The game -- billed as "The Rematch" -- marked both the first meeting between the North American rivals since Canada's heartbreaking 4-3 loss to the U.S. in the Olympic semifinals, and the Canadians' first game back home since they won bronze in London.

The Olympic semifinal -- which will go down as one of the most memorable in Canadian soccer history -- turned on a controversial free kick, awarded when Norwegian referee Christina Pedersen determined Canada's 'keeper Erin McLeod took longer than the allowable six seconds to put the ball back into play.

Sunday, 22,453 red and white-clad fans -- a record for a soccer game at BMO Field -- loudly counted off the seconds, sometimes to as high as 10, each time American 'keeper Nicole Barnhart took a goal kick.

"It was unbelievable, eh?" Canadian coach John Herdman said, laughing. "There should have been about 20 free kicks, shouldn't there? Bring back the Norwegian referee, we would have been in heaven today."

Morgan scored her first in the 70th minute when she cut inside defender Emily Zurrer, firing from the top left corner of the 18-yard box and slotting it past McLeod into the bottom right corner of the net. Morgan's second goal came two minutes later from the identical spot.

Leroux scored seconds before the final whistle when she ran in on a breakaway, placing the ball past McLeod.

Leroux, who was born in Surrey, B.C., and once dated Toronto Blue Jays star Brett Lawrie, was booed throughout the game but never more so than after her goal. She put one finger to her lips to silence the fans. It didn't work.

The 23-year-old bristled when asked about the hostile reception.

"Come on ... how many American-born players do you have on Canada?" Leroux said (Canadian defender Lauren Sesselman was born in the U.S.).

"I thought I dealt with it well."

American veteran Abby Wambach defended her teammate.

"If you knew some of things that Canadian folks tweet at her, that for her was a special moment, and that for her was saying, 'Hey look, I'm here, I'm on the U.S. team,"' Wambach said. "So for her, I'm proud of her to come on in the time that she had."

The crowd was arguably one of the most entertaining parts of the match in a sloppy affair that saw the Canadians sag after the first 70 minutes.

"I was honestly dying laughing the entire time," McLeod said of the goal-kick count. "The crowd was awesome. I know Canadian fans sometimes are too friendly, but I don't think they were too friendly today."

Added Sinclair: "We had heard they were going to do that, it was kind of funny. The atmosphere is insane to play in front of. It was really neat, that part.

"They cheered us on right to the end, right to when we got off the field, and as a team, we're proud of our performance but disappointed for our fans that came out. It's tough to swallow a 3-0 defeat, even though it didn't feel like that."

The Americans did a decent job of keeping Sinclair under wraps. The Canadian star finally got free for a decent shot on net in the 48th minute, but fired it over the net.

Canada's best scoring chance came in the 90th minute when national team newcomer Tiffany Cameron had an open shot from just outside the six-yard box that she fired wide right of the net.

At the other end of the field, 17-year-old rookie defender Kadeisha Buchanan -- the only starter who wasn't on last summer's Olympic team -- showed why Herdman is such a big fan.

"She's unbelievable, Herdman said. "She owned Abby Wambach today. Sorry Abby.

"I'm proud of her, she shined a light today for any kid in this country to say, look, no matter what background you come from, you can play in front of 23,000, and play like that -- wow."

Buchanan got in the way of what looked like a clean breakaway for Morgan in the first half. She cleared a ball off the goal-line a minute later.

Sunday's grudge match, the Canadian players had been saying all week, was as much about thanking their fans for the outpouring of support as it was about getting a result against their southern foe.

BMO Field was a sea of red and white for the game that sold out in less than two hours. Young girls dressed in soccer jerseys, tiny Canadian flags tucked into their hairbands, filled the stands. It appeared there wasn't a person in the south grandstand that wasn't waving a Canadian flag.

"I'm proud that this is a rivalry, not too long ago it wasn't," Wambach said. "Not too long ago these games weren't games we looked forward to, and now they are. Now they're getting sold-out crowds, and I think that does nothing but push the women's game forward."

Despite last summer's result, the Canadians knew they were in tough against an American team whose victory Sunday stretched their winning streak to 36 games.

The result was a reminder, Herdman said, of how far the team has to go before Canada hosts the 2015 FIFA women's World Cup.

"I think what it's done is lessened the expectations a bit. Let's just get some reality here, winning the World Cup in Canada is going to be one hell of a job," Herdman said. "Getting that bronze medal was like catching lightning in a bottle, but we did. And we can do it again."

The Canadian women have an all-time record of three wins, five draws and now 45 losses in 53 international matches against the mighty Americans, and have never won at home, tying them once and losing six times in seven home matches dating back to 1990.

Canada last beat the U.S. at the 2001 Algarve Cup, a 3-0 victory.

NOTES: The Canadian women's next home game is Oct. 30 versus South Korea in Edmonton. The Canadians have three wins and a loss against South Korea dating back to 2000. . . Prior to kickoff, Toronto, Moncton, Edmonton and Montreal were announced as the four host cities for the 2014 FIFA U-20 women's World Cup.

Alex Morgan (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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