It is early November but like retailers across the country, Canadian women’s national team coach John Herdman is ready to get into the holiday spirit. For him and his team, a home-and-home friendly series starting today in Vancouver represents the most wonderful time of the year.
“Whenever we play the U.S., it’s like Christmas,” said Herman at a press conference earlier this week. “I guess [they are] the team everyone wants to play.”
The United States are the defending World Cup winners, and have regained their first-place FIFA world ranking. As always, they are the measuring stick against which the rest of the women’s soccer world still compares itself.
For a Canadian program in transition, a pair of friendlies starting today at BC Place and culminating on November 12 in San Jose is a great opportunity to do just that. Canada has not played the United States since February 2016, when they lost 2-0.
That was their 47th loss to the United States - a team they have not beaten in almost two decades - across all competitions.
“Typically in the past it has been like a Rocky movie where Rocky never wins,” was the analogy Herdman used on Tuesday to describe games between the two countries. “When we play the U.S. it’s always a battle but there is never a happy ending for Canada.”
Herdman will be hoping a new cast of youngsters and an expected pro-Canadian crowd of 27,000 at BC Place will help finally change that narrative.
With European-based players like Sophie Schmidt and Kadeisha Buchanan unavailable, the Canada coach named a young lineup with six teenagers to face the United States. The average age of Herdman’s team is 23.3.
Jayde Riviere, 16 years of age, was called into her first senior national team camp alongside Julian Grosso (17) and Ariel Young (16). Promising youngster Jordyn Huitema (16), who already has a pair of goals for her country, is also on the roster, as is Jessie Fleming, who has 45 caps despite being just 19.
“I’m not frightened to give these young kids a shot,” said Herdman of his mentality despite a tough opponent. “This far out from a pinnacle event you provide players with opportunities that are ready. They’ve got to show they are ready.”
Herdman mentioned one of his last meetings with the States, May 2014 in Winnipeg, when he started a very young Canadian backline that included Buchanan, Rebecca Quinn and Sura Yekka.
Buchanan and Quinn have gone on to become mainstays in the national team and Herdman will be hoping a couple of his current crop of youngsters do the same. Huitema certainly seems to be in the conversation, but will compete with a strong group of Canadian forwards for the job.
There are no medals or trophies on the line today for the Canadian women, but a win nonetheless would be significant. Sooner or later, Canada will need to get past the gatekeeping United States in order to win a major tournament, and knowing they can beat them will only help.
Kick-off: 10:00 p.m. ET
Venue: BC Place (Vancouver, BC)
TV channel & live stream
TV: TSN1 (Canada), ESPN2 (United States)
Stream: TSN Go (Canada), WatchESPN (United States)
Canada got some good news earlier this week when it was confirmed that Ashley Lawrence has been added to their roster. Lawrence was previously expected to be unavailable as she plays for Paris Saint-Germain in France. This game falls outside the international window so European players were not expected to be available - as mentioned, Schmidt and Buchanan will not feature.
The United States will have some great memories when they walk on to the BC Place pitch today. The US won the 2015 World Cup in Canada, with the final being played in Vancouver.
Canada: Labbe; Chapman, Zadorsky, Quinn, Lawrence; Fleming, Scott, Sinclair; Rose, Prince, Beckie.
United States: Naeher; O’Hara, Sauerbrunn, Dahlkemper, Short; Ertz, Horan, Mewis; Williams, Rapinoe, Morgan