Before last night Christine Sinclair had been a bit of a ghost during the Olympic qualifying tournament. It wasn't that she had played poorly, she had a handful of assists and a milestone goal in the group stage. But having started only one game, and not appearing at all in the final group game, the narrative became more about what Canada had been able to do without their star player.
But with an Olympic berth on the line Sinclair reminded everyone, as if they had ever forgotten, that she is still one of the best in the world. She scored twice, including a second half golazo, to give Canada a 3-1 victory over Costa Rica. Deanne Rose also scored for Canada.
Sinclair now has 161 goals for the Canadian women's team, having passed Mia Hamm in the group stage for second all time in women's soccer. She is now 21 goals behind Abby Wambach of the United States for the all time lead.
It may have been Sinclair's best performance since she scored a hat-trick against Wambach and the United States at the 2012 Summer Olympics. It's only fitting that it earned Canada a berth at the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
The team has done so in emphatic fashion, outscoring their opponents 24-1 thus far while never trailing in the tournament. They will have to wait until Sunday's final against the United States to see if they can add an exclamation mark, but its safe to say Canada are looking strong heading into the Rio Olympics.
Last night was their first real test of the tournament, as they breezed through the group stage. Costa Rica, however, are no pushovers having finished runner up at the 2014 Gold Cup and losing only once in the group stage of the World cup this past summer.
But Canada hardly stumbled along the way, looking completely dominant in what was a must win game for the national team program. Even when they conceded a second half penalty to bring Costa Rica to within one goal they looked calm and composed.
John Herdman deserves plenty of credit for this, as he managed the situation perfectly. After letting the team settle down following the Costa Rican goal, he introduced Melissa Tancredi and Nichelle Prince to kill off the game.
Prince was particularly effective, and continued her standout tournament. Yesterday was her 21st birthday, and she celebrated by giving tired Costa Rican defenders all sorts of problems with her speed and skill.
The combination would eventually be too much, as she would break through a slot a pass to Rose late in the half. Rose would deflect the ball off her head and into the back of the net to all but guarantee Canada a berth in Rio.
After playing a young lineup for most of the tournament, Herdman would elect to use his veterans in the crucial match. 8 of the players on the pitch were World Cup starters from last year, and Dianna Matheson likely would have been if she was healthy this past summer.
But after Sinclair limped off to the bench it would be the young players who would finish off what she had started. There was something oddly poetic in this: the young players having the backs of the veterans as they make their final push for Olympic glory.
Now they will be hand in hand in Brazil as they try to make their final ever Olympic final. But first, a chance at a small measure of revenge as they take on the United States tomorrow in the Olympic qualifying final.
While nothing tangible is on the line in the match, as both sides have already qualified for the Olympics, there is never "nothing on the line" when Canada and the US meet. Canada have already looked plenty confident in this qualifying campaign, but a win over the best team in the world would do wonders heading into the summer.