There's plenty of Canadian action over the next few weeks and it all gets started today with John Herdman's women's side taking on China. With the men's team comfortably ensconced in Toronto, it's the Women who get to be the ambassadors to the great unwashed in the rest of the country, as after playing to big crowds in Vancouver during Olympic qualifying earlier in the year, they travel over to the East to play in Moncton, their final pre Olympic warm up on Canadian soil, before heading down to the US and then over to Europe for further games.
It is of course just a friendly, with nothing really on the line, but the main thing to take from this will be the chance for individual players to impress Herdman and claim a spot on the 18 woman roster that will head out to
London, erm, make that Coventry, for the games. Herdman's also looking forward to playing against China as he told media earlier, as they play a similar style to Japan, current world cup holders and Canada's first Olympic opponents, so it will be a good test for his players.
Most of those players have been together for a long time in an extended training camp in Vancouver as the collapse of the WPS league left the majority of the squad without a team to play for. Some players did manage to get contracts with European clubs in time, though Kaylyn Kyle actually turned down the chance to play for an English team in order to participate in the training camp as she thought that would give here the best chance to make the squad that travels to England. Hopefully the extended time together will make up for the lack of competitive play, though the disappointing display at last year's World Cup after very extensive preparations suggest the competitive edge gained by playing regular meaningful matches might be more important than the familiarity a long training camp brings. Canada very much underperformed there, seeming to crack under the pressure when put into a tough situation against France, let's hope that won't be the situation again.
The olympic qualifying tournament didn't really tell us much in that regard, as Canada easily beat the teams it should beat, and lost the final against a US team that is still a bit out of their league. It's how they play against teams theoretically at their own level when the pressure's on that will determine the side's medal prospects. This game of course won't really tell us anything as far as the handling of pressure goes, but with China ranked 18th in the world, slightly higher than the Mexican side that was the best team Canada beat in January, they should provide a decent test, and as noted before, give us a good idea of how Canada match up against a similar style of play that the Japanese bring, if nothing else.
Of course there is a something else to this game and that's seeing what kind of crowd comes out in Moncton. They did got picked as one of the host cities for the 2015 Women's World Cup, and might just have their eyes on something big sooner than that. Let's be optimistic and assume Canada's men's team has 5 home games to play when the Hex comes around. Will they all be played at BMO Field again? If the crowds in Toronto disappoint over this year's 3 qualifiers and a friendly, the CSA may be looking for other places to get the hometown advantage. Moncton has a grass pitch, if they can show up in good numbers and voices, that can only help their case to get at least one of the games played out there.
Canada's squad is currently at 22, so there's competition for places in that squad of 18, expect most of them to get at least some action tonight, though goalie Karina LeBlanc is out with an ankle injury. The game starts at 7, we'll be here a little before that to chat and comment throughout the game.