It is hard to imagine another 16 years passing before Canada’s women’s national team finally beats the United States again.
Four days after their 1-1 draw in Vancouver, the Canadians fell to a 3-1 defeat in San Jose on Sunday night but the evidence over 180 minutes suggests the gap between the two rivals is narrowing.
Canada have not beaten the U.S. since the Algarve Cup in 2001 and have now suffered defeat on 48 of the 58 occasions these two countries have met.
They played this match without three key players in Ashley Lawrence, Kadeisha Buchanan and Sophie Schmidt due to their European club commitments.
But they deserved the superbly worked equalizer that was finished by Janine Beckie shortly after half-time. Unfortunately, it only served to wake the hosts from their slumber and Alex Morgan restored a lead that would be added to by Carli Lloyd late on.
Canada lined up in much the same 4-4-1-1 formation that they had used at BC Place, with Adriana Leon starting having impressed off the bench in the first game and Maegen Kelly replacing Lawrence, who had presumably returned to Paris Saint-Germain, at right-back.
The U.S. were quicker out of the blocks and took the lead when Julie Ertz flicked in a corner at the near post for a goal that the Canadian defence will not want to watch back. Ertz’s header eluded three players in white shirts as well as goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe.
Morgan, playing as a lone centre forward, was comfortably the best player on the pitch throughout and nearly orchestrated a second by spinning behind the defence to cross for the excellent Megan Rapinoe, who could only knock the ball wide of the post under Labbe’s challenge.
Gradually, though, Canada grew into the game and Christine Sinclair had the chance to level the score when she pounced on an errant back pass only to send an awkward shot wide.
The three-woman U.S. midfield was proving an effective inhibitor of Jessie Fleming, who did not have the best game by her increasingly high standards.
But shortly after half-time, Canada took a more direct route to goal to equalize. Sinclair sparked a break by knocking a pass down the right that substitute Nichelle Prince latched on to, burning Abby Dahlkemper for pace before getting her head up to pick out Beckie for a simple finish.
Great passing from Canada leads to a @janinebeckie4 goal. Started off from a great play from Captain @sincy12 to make the pass to @nichelleprince7, Prince makes the tap pass to Beckie. It's all tied up at 1. @CanadaSoccerEN pic.twitter.com/bQ2g3O6hM2— Women's Sports Highlights (@WSportHilites) November 13, 2017
That sparked a reaction from the Americans, though Canada will again be disappointed with how the goal that followed came about.
They may rightfully be aggrieved that a studs-up tackle by Kelley O’Hara, who appeared to dive in after having her shirt tugged by Kelly, went unpunished.
But Canada only have themselves to blame for the way Fleming dribbled herself into a tight spot with little support, allowing Christen Press to turn the ball over and pick out Morgan in the box with the help of Rapinoe’s decoy run.
Morgan finished clinically and in the end, the quality of Jill O’Hara’s vastly experienced group of forwards told. Lloyd added a third with a first-time finish after Morgan had brilliantly flicked a Rapinoe cross from the left into her path.
A number of substitutions and Canada’s search for a goal had opened the game up by that stage but for much of this game at Avaya Stadium, the outcome was far from a foregone conclusion.
USA: Naeher; Smith (Short 66), Dahlkemper, Sauerbrunn, O’Hara; Mewis (Lloyd 75), Ertz (Sullivan 75), Horan; Press (Williams 82), Morgan, Rapinoe.
Unused subs: Harris, Sonnett, Long.
Canada: Labbe; Kelly (Agnew 61), Quinn, Zadorsky, Chapman; Rose (Prince 31), Fleming, Scott (Young 72), Leon (Riviere 72); Beckie (Grosso 90), Sinclair (Huitema 61).
Unused subs: Sheridan, D’Angelo.