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Recap & Highlights: Canada falls to U.S. despite strong showing at SheBelieves Cup

Bev Priestman made her head coaching debut for the Canadian women’s national team who returned to action for the first time in almost a year.

Soccer: She Believs Cup Women’s Soccer-Canada at USA
United States defender Becky Sauerbrunn (4) and Canada forward Nichelle Prince (15) battle for the ball during the first half of a SheBelieves Cup match at Exploria Stadium
Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

TORONTO, Canada—“This wasn’t what we were expecting.”

For the first time in almost a year, the Canadian women’s national team returned to action Thursday evening, welcomed back with a date against the hosts and current world no. 1 United States at the 2021 SheBelieves Cup.

Making her debut on the touchline was newly appointed head coach Bev Priestman, tasked with overcoming the defending World Cup champions in her first match in charge, without several key starters to boot—including all-time leading scorer Christine Sinclair and reigning Canadian Player of the Year Kadeisha Buchanan.

Naming a starting XI that included a mixture of youngsters and veterans, Preistman’s side started the match off strong, keeping USA at bay for the most part. The team had to adjust slightly when goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan was forced to come off after appearing to tweak something in the first half, however, Stephanie Labbe’s ability to step in seamlessly helped ease any early question marks in goal.

Both sides would enter halftime looking for the first breakthrough, and after the break, it’d actually be the Canadians with the best opportunity to do so. Attacker Nichelle Price showed some great pace to track down a wayward back-pass before squaring a ball over to Janine Beckie, however, the Manchester City midfielder couldn’t find the finish 1-on-1 with the keeper.

The Canadians made another strong case to get on the board when fullback Allysha Chapman’s cross appeared to strike an arm in the U.S. box, however, the referee (perhaps somewhat surprisingly) didn’t agree.

That decision could have drastically changed the tide of the match because in the 80th minute, it would be the hosts who’d eventually manage to breakthrough as substitute Rose Lavelle pounced on a loose ball following a free kick and made no mistake.

Teammate of Janine Beckie at Manchester City, Lavelle’s goal would end up being the difference maker as the match would finish 1-0.

Considering Canada had gone almost a full calendar year without a competitive fixture—and the calibre of talent missing—the result is a positive one for Priestman and co. despite the loss, as they’ll look to continue their strong start against Argentina on Sunday. In the words of the U.S.-based FS1 broadcasters: “this wasn’t what we were expecting.”

In the loss, Sophie Schmidt would make her 200th appearance for Canada, becoming just the third Canadian to reach the feat, while 24 year old Evelyne Viens would earn her first cap.

Defender Vanessa Gilles also earned a ton of love for the shift she put in Thursday evening.

Black Lives Matter

(Canada Soccer)

Prior to kickoff, the Canadian women’s national team players all took a knee in protest against racial injustice. A strong, symbolic gesture, the team then released a statement on social media platforms, making their stance on the issue crystal-clear:

“We understand the honour and privilege it is to represent Canada, to wear the maple leaf and compete on the world stage. With that privilege comes the opportunity to use our platforms to cultivate real change,” wrote Canada Soccer’s Women’s National Team Players. “We stand on guard for all. We stand on guard for thee. Black Lives Matter.

A strong statement and powerful message. Well done, CanWNT.