Even without all the hype that comes with being the long awaited rematch of that Olympic semifinal, a match between Canada and the United States is always a big deal. Add to it the additional storylines and a sold out crowd at BMO Field and the stage is set for another great chapter in one of soccer's top rivalries regardless of gender.
The birth of the new NWSL has added another wrinkle to this long standing rivalry as it means that the majority of players on both sides of the border are now seeing each other on a regular basis in league action. With the bulk of both rosters being made up of NWSL players there is more familiarity than ever on both sides. Thankfully the teams in the league are willing to work with the national teams and all of the Canadian players will be in camp by May 27th giving them a good five days to work together prior to the match.
In the roster that Herdman named for the match against the United States there are a number of surprises. The first is that Melissa Tancredi returns from her absence as she has been off since the Olympics to continue her studies. Her last game was the Olympic bronze medal game but American fans will remember her as a villain from the semifinal thanks to an incident that saw her accused of stepping on the head of an American player.
Tancredi has been away from the field working on her masters program so may have some rust but Herdman was confident that she will still be ready to bring that grit and toughness that she normally contributes to Canada. She should come into the match fit having worked away from the field though and her return could be a boost to Canada's attack which has struggled to find goals in recent months.
Most of the squad are carryovers from that Olympic team but there are new faces in the form of teenager Kadeisha Buchanan, Rachel Quon, Tiffany Cameron, and Ashley Lawrence. Those inclusions fit with Herdman's movement towards younger players in recent months as he is looking to improve the squad and replace some of the aging players.
Rachel Quon will be a bit of an unknown name to a lot of Canadian soccer fans and that is because she was born and raised in the United States. Quon has represented the USWNT at basically every possible level including with their Under-23 team but the 22 year old defender has yet to earn a cap with their senior team.
Her eligibility to play for Canada is an on-going process though as it is still pending the approval of FIFA. Canada had to call Quon into a camp before starting that process with FIFA so it takes time to resolve the issue but Herdman was hopeful that it will be resolved in a similar fashion to how things went with Lauren Sessleman. She has been on the Canadian radar since last August though as the team was looking for a left-footed defender which they did not have in their current talent pool. Quon was injured during the winter meaning Canada could not call her in for either the Cyprus Cup on the April friendlies but she is now fit and playing for the Chicago Red Stars and looking to impress with Canada.
Herdman took time to address the fact that he has gone south of the border to find a player rather than calling up someone who had been developed in Canada. He was clear that it was not ideal to have to look for talent elsewhere but Canada had a need that was not being met in their player pool. Herdman is hoping that the plans they have in place will improve the player pool enough down the road so that they no longer have to turn to players like Quon and can rely solely on Canadian born and raised players.
With all the talk of this game being "The Rematch" it is a bit of a surprise that Herdman has gone with so many players on the roster who were not part of that Olympic team. He does have 14 players from his Olympic team, 10 of which featured in the match against the United States, so it is possible that come June 2nd the majority of the lineup will be Olympic veterans with the youth on the bench.
“It was important for us to bring in a blend of youth and experience for this game,” said Head Coach John Herdman. “We feel we have a good blend of players that have experience playing against USA – but we are also sticking to our task of preparing for the future."
Bringing in the younger players for a game like this should provide them with some very valuable experience to see what it takes to go up against not only the best team in CONCACAF but arguably the World. Considering that Canada ends up taking on the US on a regular basis that experience will be vital down the road if Canada is hoping to continue to close the gap on their rival.
In part the June 2nd match will be key in setting the stage for Canada hosting the 2015 Women's World Cup. Even though Toronto will not be hosting any games during that event a sold out crowd bringing the noise will only help to increase interest in the team and the sport. The fact that it took less than a day of tickets being on sale to the public for this match to sell out speaks to the fact that with success comes increased support and Canada will want to keep that ball rolling.
“The fans are going to play a massive part in the game,” said Herdman. “We will be playing in front of packed house and all of the pressure that goes with that. It’s important for this group of players, particularly the young ones, to get a real sense of the support we are looking forward to in 2015. We know the crowd will be in full voice and right behind us."
Despite having the crowd on their side and an experienced roster Canada will be in tough against the US. Canada is still trying to adapt to their improved playing style and have struggled for results in 2013 while the United States have hardly missed a beat since the Olympics despite changing head coaches. All-time Canada has a record of 3W-5D-44L against the United States. It has been fairly one sided as Canada has yet to win on home soil with a record of 0W-1D-5L in their six meetings.
Canada will need to be at their very best like they were in that Olympic semifinal if they want to come away with a result. That game was only close because Christine Sinclair put in one of the greatest performances of her storied career and counting on that happening again would be quite fanciful really. If Canada can get solid defending to keep the American attack quiet then they will be in with a chance as long as Sincy is on the field.
The good news for Canadian fans is that this time around they hopefully won't have to deal with the US having a 12th woman in the form of the ref.
GK- Karina LeBlanc | USA / Portland Thorns FC
GK- Erin McLeod | USA / Chicago Red Stars
D- Kadeisha Buchanan | USA / West Virginia University*
D- Robyn Gayle | USA / Washington Spirit
D- Carmelina Moscato | USA / Chicago Red Stars
D- Rachel Quon | USA / Chicago Red Stars
D- Lauren Sesselmann | USA / FC Kansas City
D- Rhian Wilkinson | USA / Boston Breakers
D- Emily Zurrer | USA / Seattle Reign FC
M- Kaylyn Kyle | USA / Seattle Reign FC
M- Ashley Lawrence | USA / West Virginia University*
M- Diana Matheson | USA / Washington Spirit
M- Sophie Schmidt | USA / Sky Blue FC
M- Desiree Scott | USA / FC Kansas City
F- Tiffany Cameron | USA / Seattle Reign FC
F- Christina Julien | RUS / WFC Rossiyanka
F- Christine Sinclair | USA / Portland Thorns FC
F- Melissa Tancredi | unattached