BURLINGTON, Canada—The Canadian women's national team is back in action on Friday afternoon, taking on Wales in a friendly match.
Missing a few regulars — including Kadeisha Buchanan, Adriana Leon, and Kailen Sheridan — for various reasons, the match (and the one against England on Tuesday) will serve as a chance for Bev Priestman to take an extended look at some of the other players battling for roster spots for the Olympic Games in Tokyo this summer.
“We will use this as an opportunity to continue to build on the progress made in the 2021 SheBelieves Cup, with a greater emphasis on partnerships and chemistry as we move closer to the Olympic Games, given we now have key players available,” said Canada Head Coach Bev Priestman in a press release. “I think we can’t underestimate Wales.
“They have players playing week in week out in the Women’s Super League in England. They are a difficult team to break down, and it’s going to offer us the opportunity to experience a certain style of play, which will only help up in our preparation for Tokyo 2020.”
Canada aren’t the only side using these friendlies to get a look at some newer players. Wales have seven players with zero caps for the senior national team, and a further five with less than 10.
Only five of the 26 players called up are over the age of 30, so it’s clear Gemma Grainger is using this match to take a bit of a look at the next generation.
Priestman has also called up a few players with little international experience, as there are eight players in the Canada camp with less than five caps: Rylee Foster, Cloé Lacasse, Samantha Chang, Jade Rose, Jordyn Listro, Vanessa Gilles, Evelyne Viens and Sarah Stratigakis.
Canada have only played Wales once before, a 4-0 win at the Algarve Cup in 2002. Christine Sinclair scored twice in that game, the 22nd and 23rd goals of her illustrious international career.
It will also be Sinclair’s first time representing her country in over a year — she last played for Canada in March 2020 — as she missed the SheBelieves Cup with an injury. The same can be said of Ashley Lawrence and Jordyn Huitema, who didn’t play in that tournament because of travel restrictions.
The match is available on OneSoccer’s YouTube channel, starting at 1 pm EST. A stream will also be embedded above.
Players To Watch
There’s a lot of talent on both teams, from veteran leaders to up-and-coming young stars. Here are three on each team in particular to keep an eye out for.
Jess Fishlock (Wales)
Since making her debut in 2006, midfielder Jess Fishlock has gone on to become Wales’ record holder for international appearances, for men or women, with 120 caps. In that span, she’s scored 30 goals.
The 34-year-old is the five-time Welsh Footballer of the Year, including winning it four times in a row (2011-2014 and 2018), and has won the UEFA Women’s Champions League and NWSL Shield, among many other things. Simply put, she’s arguably the best women’s footballer Wales has ever produced.
She plays her club soccer alongside Canada’s Quinn at OL Reign in the NWSL, but spent the first half of this season on loan at Reading in the Women’s Super League. In all competitions, she made 22 appearances for Reading, scoring twice, but will be returning to OL Reign after this international window.
Look for her to be the central figure in the Wales midfield on Friday.
Janine Beckie (Canada)
Janine Beckie has had a productive season for Manchester City this season, scoring five goals in 21 matches across all competitions. She’s currently in good form, having scored in each of City’s last two matches before the international break — a 2-1 win over Barcelona in the Champions League, and a 3-0 win over Tottenham in the WSL.
Beckie could also reach a big milestone over the next few days — if she plays against both Wales and England, she’ll reach 75 caps for Canada. In the 73 appearances she’s made thus far since making her debut in 2015, Beckie has scored 31 goals and won an Olympic bronze medal.
Helen Ward (Wales)
If Jess Fishlock isn’t the best-ever Welsh women’s footballer, Helen Ward is.
The 34-year-old Watford striker (on loan a division up at London Bees) is Wales’ all-time record goalscorer, with 42 goals in 89 appearances since her international debut in 2008. After playing for the England U23s before switching to Wales, she has become a long-time regular for the national team.
Joining forces with Fishlock and the other players at Gemma Grainger’s disposal, Ward could cause problems for the Canadian defenders.
Vanessa Gilles (Canada)
One of the standout players at the SheBelieves Cup, Vanessa Gilles has a chance this week to prove to Bev Priestman that she should be in the conversation to start for Canada.
At the SheBelieves Cup, she was like a brick wall for Canada against the United States—the best team in the world. Between big tackles and important clearances, Gilles was Canada’s best player on the night, and kept them within reach of a major upset.
With Shelina Zadorsky's regular partner Kadeisha Buchanan missing from the squad, Gilles should get a chance to start at least one of the two upcoming matches.
Angharad James (Wales)
Already with 83 international caps at just 26 years old, Angharad James is one of the most experienced players on either side in this match.
Not to be confused with the 17th–18th century Welsh harpist and poet, James made her international debut at age 17 in 2011, and has been playing in the WSL since making her first team debut for Arsenal that same year.
Like Fishlock, James is also leaving Reading for the NWSL this year, as she’ll join North Carolina Courage in the near future.
Rylee Foster (Canada)
Yet to make her first senior national team appearance, 22-year-old Liverpool goalkeeper Rylee Foster could very well make her debut in one of these friendlies.
Kailen Sheridan is missing from the squad due to an injury suffered at the SheBelieves Cup, so Stephanie Labbé is probably Canada’s go-to starter for this international window. That leaves one of Foster and 38-year-old Erin McLeod left to start the match Labbé doesn’t start (assuming Priestman will rotate the squad a bit).
If Labbé is saved for the England game on Tuesday, we could see Priestman hand Foster her debut between the sticks on Friday afternoon against a pair of her Liverpool teammates, Wales’ Rhiannon Roberts and Ceri Holland.
Foster has made five appearances across all competitions for Liverpool this season.
Rylee Foster (Liverpool), Stephanie Labbé (FC Rosengård), Erin McLeod (Orlando Pride)
Vanessa Gilles (Bordeaux), Jade Rose (Super REX Ontario), Shelina Zadorsky (Tottenham Hotspur), Lindsay Agnew (North Carolina Courage), Gabrielle Carle (Florida State Seminoles), Allysha Chapman (Houston Dash), Ashley Lawrence (Paris Saint-Germain), Jayde Riviere (Michigan Wolverines)
Samantha Chang (South Carolina Gamecocks), Jessie Fleming (Chelsea), Julia Grosso (Texas Longhorns), Jordyn Listro (Kansas City), Quinn (OL Reign), Sophie Schmidt (Houston Dash), Desiree Scott (Kansas City), Sarah Stratigakis (Michigan Wolverines)
Janine Beckie (Manchester City), Jordyn Huitema (Paris Saint-Germain), Cloé Lacasse (Benfica), Nichelle Prince (Houston Dash), Deanne Rose (Florida Gators), Christine Sinclair (Portland Thorns), Evelyne Viens (NJ/NY Gotham FC)
Poppy Soper (Plymouth Argyle), Olivia Clark (Coventry United), Laura O’Sullivan (Cardiff City Ladies)
Bethan Roberts (Reading), Esther Morgan (Tottenham Hotspur), Lily Woodham (Reading), Ffion Morgan (Crystal Palace), Gemma Evans (Bristol City), Hayley Ladd (Manchester United), Sophie Ingle (Chelsea), Rhiannon Roberts (Liverpool)
Carrie Jones (Manchester United), Anna Filbey (Celtic), Kylie Nolan (Cardiff City Ladies), Charlie Estcourt (London Bees), Ceri Holland (Liverpool), Angharad James (Reading), Josie Green (Tottenham Hotspur), Georgia Walters (Blackburn Rovers), Jess Fishlock (Reading)
Maria Francis-Jones (Cardiff City Ladies), Elise Hughes (Blackburn Rovers), Rachel Rowe (Reading), Natasha Harding (Reading), Kayleigh Green (Brighton & Hove Albion), Helen Ward (London Bees)