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Canada women handed chance to close in on World No. 1 USA in Vancouver friendly

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The two rivals will meet at BC Place in November.

Soccer: 2016 CONCACAF Women's Olympic Qualifying - Finals-Canada at USA Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Fresh off a pair of comfortable wins over Costa Rica, Canada’s women’s national team will take on sterner opposition in November when they meet the United States in a double-header. The first match will be played at BC Place in Vancouver on November 9, with a return leg south of the border following three days later.

Having been knocked out of the 2015 Women’s World Cup at the quarter-final stage, Canada improved to claim the bronze medal at last summer’s Olympic Games and are now preparing for the next two tournaments, to be held in 2019 and 2020 respectively.

They played the two Olympic finalists, Sweden and Germany, in April - beating the former 1-0 before suffering a 2-1 defeat to the latter - and will now take on the team FIFA places top of its world rankings. Canada sit fourth.

The rivalry between the two teams goes beyond mere geography. At the Olympic Games in London in 2012, Canada suffered an agonizing defeat in one of the greatest games the tournament has ever seen, taking the lead three times only to be pegged back on each occasion and beaten by an Alex Morgan goal in the final minute of extra time.

As if the loss was not painful enough, the USA’s third goal - to tie the game late and send it to an additional 30 minutes - came after Canadian goalkeeper Erin McLeod was bizarrely penalized for holding on to the ball for too long. The resulting free-kick taken inside McLeod’s area led to a penalty converted by Abby Wambach.

“There is always a friendly rivalry with the USA and it’s also hard to forget London 2012 - that memory sticks with you,” Canada coach John Herdman said. “But what this match offers us, at near the beginning of our four-year cycle, is a chance to get another true tier-one test with a young team.

“By the end of this year we will have played the Olympic gold and silver medallists and the world’s number one team, so this match will really give us a good indication of where our gaps are, two and three years out from the FIFA Women’s World Cup [in] France 2019 and the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.”

Christine Sinclair scored a hat-trick in that 2012 match and is still going strong five years later, now age 34. Around her, though, Herdman is developing an exciting crop of young players, with fellow veterans Melissa Tancredi, Marie-Eve Nault and Rhian Wilkinson having retired from international soccer in February.

Kadeisha Buchanan, of Lyon, and Ashley Lawrence, of Paris Saint-Germain, both of whom are in their early 20s, went head-to-head in the Champions League final in June, with Buchanan’s team triumphing on penalties. Both stayed on the field for the full 120 minutes.

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Jessie Fleming, still in college with the UCLA Bruins, has won a remarkable 45 caps by the age of 19 having made her debut at 15 and Janine Beckie, who plays for the Houston Dash in the National Women’s Soccer League, has netted 18 goals in her first 34 games for Canada.

In Vancouver, though, all eyes are likely to be on 16-year-old Chilliwack-born Jordyn Huitema. She scored twice after coming off the bench in the second match against Costa Rica at BMO Field.

“It’s a good opportunity for this new generation, including Fleming, Lawrence, Buchanan and young Huitema, who have not experienced the USA too often in their international careers, to go out with a fresh perspective and positive mindset,” Herdman added.

“We are only three spots back from them, with three close matches in our recent history, and these players have been accustomed to success. It’s exciting.”