"Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."
- Albert Einstein
Today the Canadian National team proved that they are insane in the best way possible. They went toe-to-toe with the Americans when they had no reason to believe that they could hold their own. History was clearly on the side of the Americans along with the present. That they are the current world number one team according to FIFA, 2011 World Cup Finalists, and have never missed out on an Olympic Gold Medal match. Add in the fact that Canada had not beaten them since a 3-0 win at the Algrave Cup on March 11, 2001 and have an all-time record of just 3-5-44 against their neighbours to the south.
In the past, much to their detriment, Canada has not been insane enough when it came to playing the US. They would often play a defensive game and just purely hope to steal something on the counter attack with a whole lot of just hoofing the ball clear. It meant that Canada often got away from their own game and became victims of a sustained attack by an offense with too many weapons to deny for a full 90 minutes. Too many times they have given the US too much respect and almost played like they were afraid to lose to them and like they did not even have a real chance of winning.
That was certainly not the case in London though. The United States were the pre-tournament favourites to win the gold medal while Canada were not expected to be much more than also rans. So why would Canada believe that this game would be any different and that they could actually do more than just roll over.History did not get in the way of Canada today. They followed the instructions of head coach John Herdman early in the game and dealt with the opening onslaught of the Americans which has undone the Canadians many times before. Then they went on the attack and proved that the early blows for the US were not enough to stop them from taking the game to their opposition. They were rewarded for their efforts with three goals on the day, all from national treasure Christine Sinclair.
The striking part though was that Canada had plenty of chances to fold under pressure and let things return to the status quo. They allowed a terrible equalizer from a Megan Rapinoe corner to level the score at 1-1 but they bounced back and went on the attack again. They could have caved after Rapinoe scored a lovely goal for her second, but they didn't and after a few minutes of regrouping again took the lead. Then what really could have been the knock out blow, a questionable call from the official who decided to employ the six second rule and an Abby Wambach penalty conversion. Canada did not let that knock them down though. They got back into the game and continued to battle until the 123rd minute before being falling behind for the first time thanks to a last gasp effort from Alex Morgan.
Canada truly lived up to what Einstein would consider insanity. They expected that things would be different against the US this time and they could actually win the match despite having failed to do so over and over in the past. They showed insanity within the game as well by expecting that each time they went ahead they could go on and win the match and each time they conceded they believed they could get it back. The only thing that stopped them and their insane effort to beat the US was the final whistle.
Now we need them to carry on this insanity in the future and not just against the Americans. This team needs to keep forgetting about the past, about rankings, about how things are expected to turn out and instead believe that in spite of all of that they beat anyone out there on any given day. It is insane to think that it is going to be different next time but only if you do the same thing every time. That is where Canada needs to step away from being insane. Today they showed that by sticking to a good game plan they could match the Americans. The issues of Canada playing into the American's game from the past were much less evident and that is key.
This team is starting to develop its own identity and even though a lot of that continues to be focused around their captain Sinclair it has been about more than just her. It is proving to be a team that has some solid skill, has a whole lot of heart, and is starting to develop a case of insanity.
Hopefully now the insanity will spread to their fans. I for one was struggling today actually believing that Canada could respond every time the Americans scored or that they could actually go toe-to-toe for a complete match. That is something that needs to change. As fans we should have as much belief in the team as they showed today and not sit there watching and waiting for it to go all wrong. Getting screwed by an official is nothing new for Canadian fans but today the players did not let it be an excuse, they kept fighting. That is the same mentality we should take towards soccer in this nation. No matter how many times we get knocked down by good punches or cheap shots we get back up and keep on battling.
I love that our women showed some insanity today and hope our fans do as well. We do not need to accept being second best or celebrate our lovable losers. We do need to take pride in a team that gave their all for 120 plus minutes though, as that game was far more important than the final score. For the players and fans it should serve as a launching point towards 2015 as we should all be insane enough to think this team is now ready to take on any challenge in their way regardless of what has happened in the past.