John Herdman said it best after the game. "She owned Abby Wambach again tonight. That Abby Wambach, you know, she's scored 200 odd goals for the U.S but Kadeisha had her in her pocket again"
She really did. Kadeisha Buchanan just keeps getting better, putting in a magnificent performance here, at both ends of the pitch. It started very early as within the first few minutes a long ball was hit forward and Wambach went up to try and win the header. Buchanan was right behind her and challenged very heavily, going right through Wambach. It was clearly a foul, but a very smart one, refs are always reluctant to hand out cards so early in the game so why not get a rough challenge in early, in olde time football parlance a reducer, to let Wambach know she's going to be in for a very physical night.
There were plenty of other challenges through the first half, most of them legal, most of them on Wambach, all of them tough, and almost always leaving Wambach rolling around on the floor desperately hoping to convince the ref to wave a yellow card that might have slowed Buchanan down, though none of them were worthy of that, and indeed none of them got it. Aside from her theatrics, Wambach was nowhere to be seen and indeed shifted from the middle out to the wing at one point before she was subbed off half way through the second half, one of the best players in the world neutralised by the 18 year old. Buchanan did own her, and Herdman's again is also justified as this isn't the first time.
It wasn't just in defence that Buchanan shone as she also scored Canada's goal, rising to redirect Diana Matheson's corner just inside the far post for her first goal with the national team.
Of course she wasn't the only young player to impress in defence. Alongside her in the middle was 18 year old Rebecca Quin who, while a lot less physical and noticeable also did a very good job keeping the American forwards quiet, as Erin Mcleod had just one save to make in the first half. Rhian Wilkinson was the veteran of the group at right back, and over on the left was 17 year old Sura Yekka. Up to now she's played on the right, but didn't look out of place on the left, though it did curb her attacking flair somewhat, most notably in the second half when given a chance to get past the defender and put in a cross instead cut back on to her right foot. All in all it was a seriously impressive outing and suggest there are very good things ahead for Canada, at least at one end of the pitch. Those 3 youngsters will of course all be eligible for the under 20 world cup this year. That Canada kept the Americans in check for so long wasn't just down to the defence as there was a tireless effort all over the pitch that stopped them from settling down. It was all very impressive.
Now from the way I've been gushing so far, you might well think that Canada was crushing the U.S team but of course that wasn't the case, no matter how well David plays Goliath is still Goliath so what this inspired play did was keep the game even, stop the Americans from running away with it, and really that's about as much as we can ask. There wasn't really a lot going on for Canada up front, Josee Belanger and Jonelle Filigno were putting in the effort but rarely getting anything remotely like a scoring chance. As for Christine Sinclair, well I can see the logic in having her play a more withdrawn role, but it's not really working. Once again she didn't really get in the game, she was noticeably more involved later on after some subs saw her move into a more advanced position. Figuring out a way to get the best out of Sinclair without being totally reliant on her is still Herdman's biggest puzzle to solve ahead of the World Cup.
A set piece goal looked to be the most likely way Canada would get on the board and so it proved, and Buchanan's goal held up for a long time, until the last 20 minutes or so when it seemed like Canada began to tire, not surprising given the energy and physicality of the game until then. Despite those signs, Sportsnet decided to mention the fact that Canada was on pace to beat the US for the first time since 2000, Gerry Dobson joking about not jinxing it (watch the highlights below, they somewhat mischeivously include that comment), and then of course it happened.
This game had been very similar to the last time they played, in Frisco in January, Canada holding their own, looking solid in defence without really creating many chances of their own, the only real difference was the goal meant they went to the end of the game trying to hold on to a win instead of a tie. That game was lost of course when Sydney Leroux scored late on, and of course it was her again this time, calmly slotting home after a mistake from the tired Quin gifted her a chance about 6 yards out. At this stage Leroux scoring doesn't anger me, it's more a resigned sense of inevitability, let's face it, we've probably got another 10 years or so of this happening don't we? Sigh.
There were a couple of half chances for Canada, one a Sinclair shot just wide, and the other was what would have been the stuff of legend if it had gone in as Buchanan got the ball about 25 yards out and went on a run that took her into the box before she got a shot off that was fairly easily saved.
1-1 it ended, a very creditable result for a team with so many young players, and a fully deserved one. While Canada may not look like they're better than the US, in the 2 games they've played this year, they certainly haven't looked as far behind as they have in the past, so that's progress right there.
Another positive on the night was the crowd as 28,255 showed up for the first WNT game in Winnipeg since 1990. Canada's playing friendlies across the country as a trial run for the cities that will be a part of next year's world cup and Winnipeg more than passed the test, a great crowd rewarded with a good game.