Canada's women's national team head coach John Herdman has his work cut out for him after watching his side come out flat in dropping a 2-0 result to Brazil in front of 28,604 at BMO Field on Saturday afternoon. The Canadians looked nervous early on and Brazil made them pay for their mistakes.
The shakiness was most apparent at the back with Allysha Chapman wiping out and Kadeisha Buchanan unable to cleanly clear the area that gave Marta an easy look for Brazil's first goal just over eleven minutes into the game.
The early goal put the red and white on their heels for the remainder of the first half. To the credit of Brazil, Canada's women were under pressure every time the ball was in the possession of a player wearing a red shirt.
With Erin McLeod sidelined with an injury, Stephanie Labbe got the goalkeeping duty against Brazil. Labbe didn't look up to the task in the first 45 minutes. Marta's first goal couldn't be pinned on the keeper, but the second from 25 yards out should never have found the back of the net. Labbe lunged to her left to make a play at the shot and just missed the ball completely.
Herdman wouldn't tip his hand after the match as to whether Kailen Sheridan will be between the sticks when these two teams meet again on Tuesday night at TD Place in Ottawa. He did suggest that the battle for the goalkeeping job is definitely on as the team continues on the road to Rio.
Although Herdman wasn't enthusiastic about Labbe's performance he was less than impressed with his team in transition. He suggested that 2015 player of the year Kadeisha Buchanan was too slow to close down Marta on Brazil's second goal.
Not only was Canada porous defensively in the first half, the team failed to generate anything remotely viable in attack.
Christine Sinclair had, by her standards, a rather pedestrian afternoon as she is still working toward full fitness in time for the Rio games. Sinclair has been hampered with a leg injury, but was able to soldier through nearly 75 minutes before giving way to Melissa Tancredi. When asked about the substitution after the match Herdman stated with tongue firmly implanted in cheek that, "she's (Sinclair) not good enough anymore." He went on to say that he was managing her minutes and wants to allow Ottawa fans to get a good look at her on Tuesday night.
Canada put in a stronger effort going forward in the second half, but the Brazilians did a stout job defensively maintaining shape and withstanding the barrage early on after halftime.
Midfielder Ashley Lawrence was named player of the game for Canada and her coach had praise for her and some of the other young players in the squad. Herdman specifically pointed to solid play from Nichelle Prince, Lawrence, Jessie Fleming and 17 year old Deanne Rose as positives that he'll take away from this match.
This series of friendlies against Brazil will serve Herdman, his staff and the team well in preparation for the Olympics in Rio in just less than two months. This team will have to perform better under pressure against top opposition. Herdman noted after the match that the overall performance wasn't a major concern to him; it was his team cracking under pressure in critical moments.
This is a young team; there has been a fair amount of turnover in the squad since it crashed out in the Quarterfinal of the World Cup just eleven months ago. The youth of the team was evident in the number of mistakes that it made on Saturday afternoon. Canada will need to clean up those mistakes if this team is going to have any hope of repeating or bettering the bronze medal showing from the London games four years ago.