The London 2012 Olympics are still several months away with the opening ceremony set to take place on July 27th. On that night the likes of Christine Sinclair, Karina LeBlanc, and Sophie Schmidt will be hoping to have the honour and privilege of representing their country in one of the world's biggest sporting events. For the Canadian Womens National Team that event is now one step closer as coach John Herdman announced his roster for next month's qualifying tournament, set to take place at BC Place in Vancouver.
The roster that Herdman named today has a fair few changes from the roster that former coach Caroline Morace brought to Germany for the World Cup. This time around the roster has a good mix of experience and youth that should pay off with a talented and motivated side taking the field each game. The squad is very similar to that which took part in the Pan Am games where the team took home the gold medal so that will certainly help in terms of continued momentum.
On the 20 woman roster there are 14 names that took part in the Pan Am games and of the 6 players who were not at the Pan Ams 5 of them are recalls from the roster that went to the World Cup. That makes for a roster with a wealth of experience as Chelsea Buckland is the only player who has yet to make an appearance in a competitive international for Canada.
The roster and some analysis after the jump plus a few notes on the conference call with John Herdman.
GK- Karina LeBlanc | USA / Sky Blue FC
GK- Erin McLeod | SWE / Dalsjöfors G.o.I.F.
CB- Candace Chapman | USA / Sky Blue FC
CB- Carmelina Moscato | SWE / Piteå IF
CB- Shannon Woeller | USA / Rutgers University
FB- Melanie Booth | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps FC
FB- Robyn Gayle | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps FC
FB- Lauren Sesselmann | USA / Atlanta Beat
FB- Chelsea Stewart | USA / UCLA
FB- Rhian Wilkinson | NOR / Lillestrøm SK Kvinner
M- Kaylyn Kyle | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps FC
M- Diana Matheson | NOR / Lillestrøm SK Kvinner
M- Kelly Parker | USA / Atlanta Beat
M- Sophie Schmidt | USA / magicJack
M- Desiree Scott | CAN / Vancouver Whitecaps FC
M- Brittany Timko | Unattached / sans club
F- Chelsea Buckland | USA / Oregon State University
F- Christina Julien | CAN / Ottawa Fury
F- Christine Sinclair | USA / Western New York Flash
F- Melissa Tancredi | SWE / Piteå IF
The roster has a similar leadership group to what Canada's women's team has had for several years now. Christine Sinclair will again be looked upon to lead the attack and hopefully add to her already impressive career goal tally. She will be joined in a leadership role by veteran keeper, and fellow Pan Am games hero, Karina LeBlanc. These two are actually joined on the roster by 9 others who took part in the same tournament 4 years ago and managed to earn a place in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
The task for this team is really a simple one. They need to finish in the top two at this tournament to claim a spot in next summer's Olympics. That means that Canada can still earn a spot without having to overcome the United States but if they want to once again be crowned Champions of CONCACAF that is likely something they want to do.
The tournament runs from January 19-29 with Canada's group stage games taking place on January 19th against Haiti, January 21st against Cuba, and January 23rd against Costa Rica. If Canada manages to finish top two in their group they would move on to a must win semifinal against one of the United States, Mexico, Guatemala, and Dominican Republic.
If all goes according to plan Canada will get three wins in their group and then likely end up playing against Mexico in the semi-finals. It would be foolish to look past the group stage but if there is one game that you want to circle on your calendar it would be that semi-final which will take place on January 27th. The final on the 29th is a much less important game as both teams will have already qualified but if it does end up being another border battle it will be worth tuning in for.
In the build up to these matches we will be adding some more coverage of the women's national team including, hopefully, an interview with one of the ladies named to this roster.
On the conference call today, which James Grossi was kind enough to share his notes from with me, John Herdman was very candid and willing to answer many questions from the various reporters who took part. That approach to dealing with the media is something fairly new and refreshing when it comes to Canadian coaches and was welcomed by everyone I have spoken to about it.
Herdman noted that they are approaching this tournament as a big deal and realize that they will have to perform if they want to win and qualify for the Olympics. The coach also noted that he has been working with the players both on and off the field to try and add new elements to their game, even remarking that there is still room for improvement with the older players.
One of the most interesting points in the conference call came when Herdman was asked who would be his starting keeper in the tournament and he replied that he would choose between McLeod and LeBlanc on the basis of the needs in a specific match as both are top class keepers.
Herdman also commented on the one new face in the team, Chelsea Buckland. He felt that she earned the call thanks to her performance in the camp leading up to the friendly against Sweden. She impressed the coaching staff with her ability to work with the other forwards on the team and the fact that she scored in her 20 minutes against Sweden was a boost to her chances of making this squad.
The final note from the conference call that was worth mentioning was the coaches response to the comments that Sinclair made last week in her conference call after being named the Canadian Female Player of the Year. Sinclair commented that the current relationship between the players, the coach, and the CSA was the best she had ever experienced in her time with the national team. Herdman commented that he has a rule which is "understand before you can be understood". As a part of that he stressed the need to have open lines of communication and to allow players the chance to freely speak their minds. He went on to say that the players have enjoyed being able to contribute their own voices in the team.
On the whole there seems to be a really positive feeling around the team right now which will hopefully lead to a strong showing when they take the field. Playing in front of a home crowd will certainly help and the goal is clear so it should be much better come January then it was this past summer.