From Neil Davidson The Canadian Press
Despite injuries and some reluctance from two French Clubs to release players, coach John Herdman’s Olympic reunion at B.C. Place Stadium is ready for Mexico. The Canada coach will have 16 of his bronze medal squad from the Rio Olympic plus three alternates for Saturday’s celebration match against Mexico.
The Mexican game marks the first time Canada has played since defeating Brazil 2-1 on Aug. 19 in Sao Paulo. Saturday’s contest celebrates the back-to-back bronze medals and serves as a swansong for the retiring Melissa Tancredi, Rhian Wilkinson and Marie-Eve Nault, who go into the match with a combined 374 caps.
French Clubs Olympique Lyonnais and Paris St. Gernain will not release centre back Kadeisha Buchanan, nor fullback-midfielder Ashley Lawrence. Hence the roster becomes: Lindsay Agnew, Kingston, Ont., Washington Spirit; Janine Beckie, Highlands Ranch, Colo., Houston Dash; Josee Belanger, Coaticook, Que., unattached; Gabrielle Carle, Levis, Que., CS Levis-Est; Ashley Cathro, Victoria, Vancouver Whitecaps FC Girls Elite B.C. Soccer REX, Allysha Chapman, Courtice, Ont., Boston Breakers; Sabrina D’Angelo, Welland, Ont.; North Carolina Courage; Jessie Fleming, London, Ont., UCLA; Jordyn Huitema, Chilliwack, B.C., Vancouver Whitecaps FC Girls Elite B.C. Soccer REX; Stephanie Labbe, Edmonton, Washington Spirit Alex Lamontagne, Whitby, Ont., Durham United FC; Marie Levasseur, Stoneham, Que., University of Memphis; Diana Matheson, Oakville, Ont., Seattle Reign; Marie-Eve Nault, Trois-Rivieres, Que., unattached; Nichelle Prince, Ajax, Ont.; Houston Dash Deanne Rose, Alliston, Ont., Scarborough GS United; Rebecca Quinn, Toronto, Duke University; Sophie Schmidt, Abbotsford, B.C., FFC Frankfurt; Desiree Scott, Winnipeg, FC Kansas City; Kailen Sheridan, Whitby, Ont., Sky Blue FC Christine Sinclair, Burnaby, B.C., Portland Thorns FC; Sarah Stratigakis, Woodbridge, Ont., Aurora United FC; Melissa Tancredi, Ancaster, Ont., unattached; Hannah Taylor, Edmonds, Wash., Eastside FC; Rhian Wilkinson, Baie d’Urfe, Que.; Shelina Zadorsky, London, Ont., Washington Spirit.
Attacking midfielder Sophie Schmidt was freed up by FFC Frankfurt, but has an injury. Gabrielle Carle picked up a knock in a scrimmage during the recent California camp and will join Schmidt on the sidelines. Meanwhile centre back Shelina Zadorsky is questionable eith an injury. “The squad’s a little beaten up, but that should leave a little more opportunity for other players,” Herdman said after releasing his roster Tuesday.
The Canadian women, ranked 4th in the world, will play No. 26 Mexico again on Feb. 7th in a closed-door match that likely will be more business than pleasure. These matches against Mexico mark the start of a new quadrennial, leading to the 2019 World Cup and 2020 Olympics,
The Canada squad includes a wealth of young talent. The 22 player roster for the California camp included 10 members of the Olympic squad, and featured seven teenagers and 17 players aged 24 or younger. Adriana Leon, Amandine Pierre-Louis and Valerie Sanderson drop off the roster from the California camp. The 26 player squad for the Mexico camp includes Olympians Josee Belanger, Jessie Fleming, Rebecca Quinn, Desiree Scott, Mariie-Eve Nault, Melissa Tancredi and Rhian Wilkinson. Soccer Canada has billed the squad as 19 Olympians and “seven rising stars.”
The super seven are Jordyn Huitema (aged 15), Ashley Cathro (16), Sarah Stratigakis and Hannah Taylor (17), Marie Levasseur (19), Alex Lamontagne (20) and Lindsay Agnew (21). Herdman is already excited by what he has seen of the new wave of talent.
“It was really evident that there isn’t a big gap between what we’ve got in our (development) system and what we have in our national team,” he said.
“The competition should ramp up over this next four years,” he added. “It is really exciting.” The youngsters will be able to learn from some fine role models on Saturday. Nault; Tancredi and Wilkinson have served their country well.
Nault, 34, was an alternate at the London Games but was pressed into action and saw key playing time when Robyn Gayle and Emily Zurrer were sidelined by injury. The defender made her senior debut in 2004 and has 70 caps to her credit.
Tancredi, 35, has 27 goals in 124 appearances with two of those goals coming in a historic 2-1 win over Germany at the Rio Olympics. A powerful forward with a big personality to match, Tancredi captained Canada that day to its first ever win over the European powerhouse. She also made her senior debut in 2004
Wilkinson, 34, has long helped set the tone for the team. The cerebral defender’s 180-cap career (with 150 starts), stretches back to 2003. All three will see action Saturday with Herdman determined to shine the spotlight on the Olympians.
The coach says it’s an emotional week for the entire team. “I’m sure for the girls who are saying goodbye, that this is going to be a tough night for them. But they wanted to finish their careers on the pitch,” he said. “We gave them that opportunity to do the (farewell) wave at halftime, but they were adamant they wanted to finish their careers how they started.”
The Canadian Soccer Association says more than 20,000 tickets havealready been sold for Saturday’s game.