One last game in Canada in 2013 and another chance for John Herdman to see what he's got and what they can do as he continues with preparation for the 2015 World Cup. What did we really learn? Mainly that there's a long way to go and Herdman's going to need all the training camps and friendlies he can get, as the signs for the future were as much of an unsatisfactory mixed bag as the 0-0 result suggests.
The first half saw a more or less full strength team out there, the only unfamiliar name being Brittany Baxter, who we all know better as Brittany Timko, starting alongside Christine Sinclair up front. She was the only player to get the ball in the net, in the first half, but was judged offside. Rhian Wilkinson had to leave halfway through the first half, replaced by 16 year old Sura Yekka.
The main experimentation was with the style of play as Canada were clearly working on specific tactics rather than merely going for the win. Thus Christine Sinclair was relatively uninvolved as patient buildup seemed to be the order of the day. At times it had the feel of a training drill as Canada's defence patiently passed it among themselves and the central midfielders. Mexico seemed quite happy to let them do that, sitting back and maintaining their shape, and it was very rare that Canada managed to get the ball past their first line of defence and into dangerous areas doing that.
The other obvious tactical development was how advanced the full backs were, Wilkinson and Yekka on the right and Kylla Sjoman on the left were regularly pushed high up the pitch, with the central midfielders dropping back to help the defence out. It had a certain effect going forward, Yekka especially was very noticeable, using her speed to cause problems, if there's still a lot of work to do on her crossing. Going the other way it was just as noticeable though as there was a lot of space down the flanks for the Mexicans to exploit and it was Erin Mcleod who probably had the toughest save to make after Mexico's number 15 came in unmarked from the left and forced a point blank save from Mcleod.
The second half saw plenty of substitutions, with Selenia Iacchellia getting her first cap. As if to help the newer players by giving them some more familiarity, the tactical experimenting took a bit of a back seat as Canada seemed to go with a more aggressive gameplan, looking as if they were going for the win rather than merely trying to play a certain way.
Unsurprisingly it was a lot more threatening. Yekka was a recurring threat down the right wing, Marie-Eve Nault and Brittany Baxter linked well down the left, in the middle Diana Matheson was pulling strings and up front Christine Sinclair was a presence, though she never quite threatened the goal, merely forcing a couple of comfortable saves. She did set up Kaylyn Kyle for Canada's best chance but goalie Santiago came out and blocked the shot. There were a few other chances for Canada, while Karina LeBlanc was generally unthreatened at the other end, but I'd say 0-0 was about right really.
The result wasn't really all that important of course, though it would have been nice to get a goal or two for the impressive crowd at BC Place, announced at 21,217. The important bit is the building for the future and hopefully there's some lessons that Herdman can take from this game, see what is and isn't working, who might be and might not be part of the plan going into 2015. Sura Yekka was again the most noticeable of the newer players, though she still seems raw she clearly has speed and attacking intent to spare. He certainly didn't seem all that happy with his post game comments, feeling sorry for people watching, that Canada was too slow, which was very much true in the first half. Hopefully he sees positive signs, it was never going to be a quick process, 2015 may well be way too soon for this to really work out.
It was thought this would be the last game for Canada this year, but there will be more as it's all but confirmed that they will be playing in a tournament in Brazil in December, so that will be a chance to take a few more baby steps down the road to where Herdman wants the team to end up.