SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras - It wasn't the medal they were aiming for, but the Canadian women's under-20 soccer team still achieved everything they set out for in Honduras.
The Canadian squad fell 1-0 in the championship match of the CONCACAF U-20 championship to the United States on Sunday after a mistake led to the winning goal in the 72nd minute. Canada, though, had already qualified for the 2016 U-20 World Cup in Papua New Guinea with a win over Mexico on Friday and did so with a roster built with youth and very little international experience.
Despite not coming away with the gold, head coach Daniel Worthington conquered what he and Canadian Soccer Association wanted to do at the four-nation tournament.
"I think what's important is that the girls put in a good performance," said Worthington. "Coming into this tournament it was about as many minutes or tournament expertise for our youth and we've done that.
"We already qualified for Papua New Guinea. Today was about youth and I'm very proud of them."
Worthington chose to start five players against the U.S. that were 16 years old or younger because he wanted to get as much international playing experience as possible for them, with long-term success for Canada's women's program being top of mind.
Emma Regan and Shana Flynn, both 15, and Sarah Stratigakis, Anyssa Ibrahim and goalkeeper Lysianne Proulx, all 16, found themselves on the pitch when the opening whistle sounded, which Worthington says bodes well for finding the country's next Christine Sinclair.
"Another goal was to increase high-performance behavior and drive home what it takes to be an international football player," said Worthington. "We delivered that."
American Ashley Sanchez scored the game's only goal on a miscue by the Canadian side midway through the second half.
Proulx, who started over 17-year-old regular Rylee Foster, received a back pass with Sanchez closing in. The 'keeper attempted to clear the ball, but mishit it towards the top of the box, where a speedy Sanchez intercepted the pass and slotted the ball straight past a diving Proulx to make it 1-0.
"We had two or three nice chances, they had one or two," said Worthington. "(It's) unfortunate that sometimes you get caught with a bad pass but there's no blame on anybody. At times we found a way to break them down, but it's football, we make mistakes. There's no pointing any fingers because we played the way we wanted to play."
It's the fourth year in a row that the U.S have won the CONCACAF U-20 while Canada has won it twice before.
"We played at their level and times beyond their level," said Worthington. "Our players were on point and made the U.S. work hard for it."
Worthington says that there will be very little downtime for the players as the under-17 championship goes in January in which many of his squad from Honduras will participate in. For the remaining players, there will be a training camp in March.
Between now and then Worthington will be making assessments with regards to which players need some extra work and which ones deserve a look from the senior women's team.