On Sunday afternoon the United States Women's National Team gave a clear reminder why they are at the top of the Women's game and have been for a long time. The Canadians kept things tight in the first half with very little in the way of quality chances in the first hour of the match. It was not until well into the second half that the Americans finally found a breakthrough and it came thanks to a nice piece of individual skill from Alex Morgan. She made quick work of getting around Emily Zurrer before slotting the ball across Erin McLeod and just inside the far post. Her second goal of the match came only minutes later as she got in behind the Canadian back four which failed to hold their line before slotting it home with almost an identical finish to her first goal.
Canada had a couple of half chances of their own in the match but nothing that came close to finding the back of the net as the Americans did well to limit the threat in the final third. The Canadians best chance of the game came when they were down 2-0 as Carmelina Moscato played a ball into the box which was just out of the reach of Kaylyn Kyle but ended up running free to Tiffany Cameron but her effort went wide of the the target.
The Americans would add a third goal well into stoppage time and it came from Sydney Leroux. The Canadian born, American international broke in behind the Canadian defenders who again failed to hold their line allowing her to keep her poise and round the keeper before applying a calm finish. Since her shot hit the back of the net she has been stealing the spotlight first for her celebration and then for her tweet on Monday morning.
The celebration angered many Canadian fans because of her choice to grab her badge and gesture to fans to "shh" but considering what she has been through in the past it is easy to understand where she was coming from. Since making the choice to represent the United States rather than the country of her birth she has been subjected to two years of abuse from Canadians. A lot of that abuse has been in the form of boos or other things that are considered acceptable but there have been times where lines have clearly been crossed. With that in mind you can see that there would be a lot of pent up emotions coming out when she scored against Canada right in front of thousands of fans who had been booing her loudly every time she touched the ball on Sunday afternoon.
With all that in mind her celebration may not have been the classiest way to savor the moment she has probably been waiting a long time for but it was understandable. Sitting in the south stand on Sunday afternoon it rubbed me the wrong way but that is as a fan and obviously her choice of celebrations was intended to rub Canadian fans the wrong way so looks like Leroux got just the reaction she was looking for.
The issue with Leroux came on Monday morning when she tweeted the following without providing any context for it beyond the single tweet.
When you chant racial slurs, taunt me and talk about my family don't be mad when I shush you and show pride in what I represent. #america— Sydney Leroux (@sydneyleroux) June 3, 2013
It has led to a lot of debate about what she was suggesting as the tweet reads like she is suggesting that fans in BMO Field's South End were chanting racist things at her. The fact is that there were many boo's, labeling her Judas or a traitor, plenty of foul language, and other things hurled her way but there is no one in the stadium that has come forward to suggest they heard any form of "racist chanting".
Neither the USSF or the CSA have offered official comment on the incident at this point but it seems that her comments refer to the abuse that she has taken from people claiming to be Canadian soccer fans over the years and not at BMO Field yesterday. If that is the case then she has a far more legitimate claim as any scrolling of her twitter mentions will reveal some ignorant folks bashing her and going well past the line and directing racial slurs in her direction. She has a reason to have the pent up feeling inside of her but her choice to send out a one off tweet was not the correct way to handle things as it provides no context or evidence while making a very serious allegation.
Simply put Sydney Leroux has stolen the show for all the wrong reasons. She scored a good goal and can be proud of her accomplishments with the US National Team over the past two years but instead of enjoying what should have been a big moment for her she has taken attention away from the positives and put in on the negatives with over-the-top celebrations and unsupported accusations.
Leroux has stolen the spotlight but there was still a game on Sunday and it included a lot of other players who deserve attention for how they played the game. Canada lacked any real standout performances in the attacking third but the midfield duo of Diana Matheson and Desiree Scott lived up to expectations by giving the Americans a hard time and little space to work with all game long. Their solid performances were expected though as they have proven to be key to Canada's success by locking things down in the middle of the park.
The player who stole the show on Sunday for Canada was Kadeisha Buchanan. The teenager proved to be exactly what Canada needed in their defense against the Americans as she was able to cover ground every bit as quick as Alex Morgan and that is saying something. Considering that the biggest knock of a lot of Canada's other CBs is a real lack of pace it was good to see Buchanan not only able to keep up with one of the fastest attackers in the World but also being able to win the ball once she caught up with them. She put in a well timed tackle on Morgan right at the top of the Canadian box which stopped her from having a good chance to open the scoring but that was not the only impressive tackle she put in.
All three of the American goals came when Morgan or Leroux drifted away from the area that Buchanan was covering giving the attackers enough of a head start to stay ahead of her. When she was tasked with marking either speedy attacker or even the more powerful Abby Wambach she proved to be up to the task time after time and eventually the Americans made the shift to attacking the areas where she was not.
Considering that Buchanan had no experience of playing in such a big game or in front of such a large crowd she played with the kind of poise you would expect from a far more experienced player. If you watched her game without knowing who she was you would have thought she had the kind of experience of a player like Candace Chapman rather than being basically a new face on the National team scene.
If Sunday showed the Canadians one thing it is that there is still a lot of room for improvement ahead of the 2015 World Cup and they will need to find more players like Buchanan to step up and fight to make a first team place their own. That should be the storyline coming out of this game and in most cases it is but it is a shame to see Leroux stealing so much of the coverage (I admit the irony having spent many words on her in this article) when the attention should be on the road ahead for Canada and just how great the crowd at BMO was on Sunday.
The other piece of Canadian Women's National Team news for come out on Sunday was that the team will be heading to Edmonton for a friendly against South Korea. That game will take place at Commonwealth Stadium on October 30th and be the fifth meeting between the two nations. Edmonton has a history of coming out in strong numbers to support the Women's including at the U20 World Cup and past friendlies so hopefully they will step up once more this fall.