For a month in late summer/early fall of 2002 soccer was the talk of the town in Edmonton. For that month Canada's U-19 Women's team held their audience captive at Commonwealth Stadium as they made it all the way to the final. Despite losing 1-0 in extra time against the United States that team was the start of something special for women's soccer in this country.
Now Canada are back in Edmonton and set to take on South Korea on Wednesday night. It is their first time back in Edmonton since friendly against Germany back in 2005. For the likes of Erin McLeod, Robyn Gale, Carmelina Moscato, and Christine Sinclair this match will be like a home coming that was over a decade in the making.
With Edmonton set to play a big role in hosting the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup this match will be a good chance for the city to once again show that they are capable of getting out in numbers to support soccer. By the final of that U-19 event in 2002 the crowd had swollen to nearly 50,000 and even though a cold Wednesday night will almost certainly not draw that kind of numbers hopefully Edmonton can get a decent crowd out.
On the field it is time for Canada to get serious about results. It has been a rough 2013 year for them as head coach John Herdman has tried to bring new players into the squad and a new style of play. The steps back were all part of the plan to put the team in position to actually compete for the World Cup in 2015. Now with the World Cup less than two years away getting results and building momentum will be the key.
Herdman has named a strong roster for this match with most of his core veterans being included. There are some fringe players like teenager Surra Yekka and Melissa Busque but for the most part it is a team with plenty of experience on the international stage. Canada is without a few of their key young players for this game though as the likes of Kadeisha Buchanan and Jonelle Filigno are busy with their NCAA commitments.
Canada will not have an easy time against South Korea who are a team on the rise in recent years. They already have a 3-1 win over Canada this year from back in January. They beat Japan in July and have put in some good showing against other top countries this calendar year. They also struggled in some events this season finishing 10th in the Cyprus Cup and struggling to a third place finish at the East Asian Cup despite that win over Japan on the final day.
If South Korea field their strongest side they should be able to give Canada a strong test but that is exactly what Canada needs at this stage. This year has seen Canada win the easy games against some week opponents like they were supposed to but they have struggled in their matches against top opposition like England, France, Germany, or the United States. They will need to start winning games like that if they want to compete in 2015 and with the core roster in place now would be a good time to get back to winning.
The game will be on Sportsnet One starting at 9 Eastern and you can join us here in the comments for our game thread.