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Canada women draw Mexico in final game on home soil before Paris Olympics


TORONTO — Canada didn't get the win but Tuesday's 1-1 draw with Mexico provided coach Bev Priestman with plenty of food for thought ahead of naming her Olympic roster.

"Some players have really come forward either in the last six to nine months or you could argue in the last couple of games," Priestman said. "Am I clear? No way. But what I would say is some players have definitely put their best foot forward.

"I've just said to the group in the locker-room they've made my life so so difficult. And that's a credit to them. They've handled themselves with real class in a time that's difficult."

Priestman now has to distil her squad into an 18-player Olympic roster with four alternates.

While teams have until July 3 to name their rosters, Priestman has said she expects to announce her roster by June 30, so everyone knows what's what when the team heads to Europe where it will play its final warm-ups during the July 8-16 FIFA international window just before the Olympic tournament.

Tuesday's return leg of the "Summer Send-Off Series" marked the Canadian women's final game on home soil.

The Canadians blanked Mexico 2-0 on Saturday in Montreal in a game where the home side took its time reaching top gear.

Kadeisha Buchanan opened the scoring Tuesday for ninth-ranked Canada. Jacqueline Ovalle replied for No. 31 Mexico, which is ranked third in CONCACAF after Canada and the fourth-ranked Americans.

Canada came into Tuesday's contest 23-2-3 all-time against Mexico. But this Mexican side showed character in hanging on to earn the tie.

There is work to be done in finishing off an opponent. But Canada is 10-1-4 since last year's World Cup, albeit with two of those ties turning into penalty shootout losses.

"Tournaments are won in being a hard team to beat," said Priestman.

Canada controlled the game from the get-go Tuesday, with the feeling a goal was coming soon. But the final pass often did not match the buildup and it was scoreless at the half despite 62 per cent ball possession.

The Canadians came out with purpose in the second half and the breakthrough came in the 48th minute with Buchanan scoring on a looping header off a Shelina Zadorsky cross.

It was a sixth goal in 149 appearances for the imposing Chelsea centre back.

Mexico replied in the 70th minute with Ovalle beating Jade Rose and then goalkeeper Sabrina D'Angelo with an spectacular swerving shot from distance. The tying goal added drama to the final 20 minutes.

Canada appealed for a penalty in the 77th minute when Olivia Smith went down in the box but Costa Rican referee Marianela Cruz was unmoved.

There was a nasty moment late in the game when Mexico's Karen Luna bodied Jordyn Huitema, who did not have the ball, to the ground in front of the Canadian bench. Luna was booked on the play but deserved to see red.

Mexican coach Pedro Lopez, while saying he was watching something else on the field at the time, apologized for the foul.

Priestman made five changes for Tuesday's rematch with D'Angelo, defender Zadorsky, midfielder Simi Awujo and forwards Cloe Lacasse and Evelyne Viens slotting into the starting 11.

Awujo, a 20-year-old who plays collegiate soccer for USC, took advantage of the start with a physical performance, leaving Mexicans in her wake while showing a keen passing eye. She has surely played her way onto the Olympic roster.

Wingback Jayde Riviere, defender Jade Rose and forward Janine Beckie, all roster certainties, also impressed.

The Montreal lineup was closer to what one would expect at next month's Paris Olympics. Goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan, defender Vanessa Gilles, midfielder Julia Grosso and forwards Adriana Leon and Olivia Smith dropped to the bench Tuesday.

Sheridan is the team's No. 1 'keeper while Gilles is the linchpin in defence. Leon has become Canada's top striker, with 40 goals to her name. Grosso has served as captain Jessie Fleming's midfield partner and Smith is an exceptional 19-year-old talent able to play both midfielder and forward.

Tuesday's game drew an enthusiastic announced crowd of 18,805, which included a small but loud Mexican contingent, on a warm night at BMO Field.

The Canadian women open defence of their Olympic title on July 25 against No. 26 New Zealand in Saint-Etienne before completing Group A play against No. 5 France on July 28 in Saint-Etienne and No. 25 Colombia on July 31 in Nice.

Priestman is waiting on the health of some players with midfielder Quinn (knee) and defender/wingback Sydney Collins (fractured ankle) not at this camp.

Tuesday's game was designated as a Pride Match with the Canadian players wearing a special kit with Pride-themed numbers that were not that special when it came to reading them from distance. Zadorsky, meanwhile, was honoured before the game on the occasion of her 100th cap.


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This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 4, 2024.