It is usually kind, but lately home soil has been very tough on Canadian Soccer. Last month the women's national team bowed out of the World Cup in the quarterfinals in Vancouver and two nights ago the men's national team saw their Gold Cup dreams ended in Toronto.
Last night in Hamilton, it was the Canadian Women's Pan Am soccer team that were the latest victim to a home field set back. While they weren't eliminated, a 2-0 loss to Costa Rica means their tournament is now on life support.
Without Women's World Cup standouts Kadiesha Buchanan and Ashley Lawrence, who had both returned to West Virginia for academic reasons, winning this game was made significantly more difficult. Costa Rica, on the other hand, was fielding their top team.
"I think it was a tough test, and we knew that," explained Canadian coach Daniel Worthington. "Costa Rica have just come out of a World Cup, they have the full squad here and they were within inches of making a knockout round for the World Cup."
In their place the Canadian team fielded a number of youngster and debutants. The average age of the Canadian starting eleven was just under 18 years of age, whereas Costa Rica only had two under 20 players in their entire squad.
From the start this tournament the goal was developing the youth of the Canadian national team, and seeing who could play into the conversation for next year's Olympic Games. With senior head coach John Herdman on the bench there is no better opportunity for many of these young players.
"We've had eight new international caps over two games over two games, and coming in to this tournament was all about the youth focus and the next level of players," said Worthington post match. "So with Buchanan and Lawrence not here we got two 16 year olds on the park tonight and what an opportunity to grow from that."
One of those 16-year-olds was Gabriel Carle, who plays her club soccer for Dynamo de Quebec. Playing as a striker she was impressive, making confident runs on the ball and contributing off it as well. She played well beyond her years, something Herdman was quick to point out after the match.
Her 17-year-old Dynamo teammate Marie Levasseur was the player of the match for Canada coming off the bench. From the moment she was introduced she added a missing spark to the Canadian midfield. She hit one shot off of the post and forced a difficult save out of the Costa Rican keeper.
Canada was also without starting goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe, who was suspended due to a red card she received early in the first match. In her place 19-year-old Kailen Sheriden was solid as she vocally led the team throughout the match.
The team now has a must win game against Brazil that will serve as a massive test. Brazil also have a squad very close to what they used at the World Cup, and are fresh off of a 7-1 drubbing of Ecuador. This included 5 goals from star forward Christiane.
"[They're] fast paced and well organized offensively, and maybe a little bit disorganized defensively which we can take advantage of," said Canadian forward Janine Beckie. "They can put the ball in the back of the net so we are going to have to be really tight and organized as a defense."
Canada will also have the added boost of the return of Buchanan and Lawrence, who Herdman confirmed would be back in camp before the next match. Labbe has also served her suspension.
It would be a huge upset that would see Canada continue in this tournament, and they need to hope Costa Rica don't blast Ecuador as well. But they hope that with Canada behind him they will be able to pull it off.
"There's nothing like playing in front of your home crowd," said Beckie with a smile, "and I think, it's an advantage for sure so we are hoping to have a big crowd out there on Sunday."