An encouraging sign for improved offense for Canada’s Women’s Soccer, but the biggest test still looms


Although the Canadian women’s team entered this month’s CONCACAF Women’s Championship in Mexico as one of the favorites, questions remain about the power of their attack.

Taking nothing away from Canada’s performance at the Olympics last summer, its gold medal streak was achieved through defensive strength. The Reds have scored multiple goals just once in six games in Tokyo, and all four of their wins have come by either a goal or a penalty shootout.

A 0-0 draw against South Korea in an international friendly last month in Toronto, Canada’s only tune-up game for this CONCACAF competition, raised more concerns as Christine Sinclair watched the entire game from the bench.

But Canada found its mark in Mexico, scoring 12 goals and posting four shutout wins, including a 3-0 victory over Jamaica in Thursday’s semi-final at the Estadio Universitario in Monterrey.

In doing so, Canada qualified for next Monday’s final against the United States in which the winner automatically qualifies for the 2024 Paris Olympics and the 2024 CONCACAF Gold Cup. The second- and third-place nations in this competition could still qualify for the Olympics, but they are expected to play each other in a playoff in September 2023 to determine who goes to Paris.

WATCH | Fleming’s first goal propels Canada past Jamaica:

Canada knock out Jamaica to advance to CONCACAF final against USA

Jessie Fleming’s opening goal proved to be the winner as Canada beat Jamaica 3-0 in the CONCACAF Championship semi-finals.

Balanced Attack

What was particularly encouraging about Canada’s progress to the final was not that they scored so many goals, but who scored. Eight different Canadian players found the back of the net. It wasn’t Sinclair who carried the offensive charge, although the iconic captain did have one goal to her credit. The Canadians enjoyed a balanced score instead, with Jessie Fleming and Julia Grosso tied as the tournament’s leading scorers with three goals each.

« You talk about the challenges we’ve had, but those goals are coming from different players, which is exciting, » coach Bev Priestman said after Thursday’s game.

Canada is not simply relying on Sinclair and other poaching attackers to lead the attack. Instead, he gets attacking production from players all over the pitch – wingers, midfielders and full-backs. This committee goal scoring approach seems to be the new way forward for Canada.

» It’s necessary [be like that] because the coaches, the teams are improving, the game plans are getting stronger. The more you play and the more spotlight you have as a team, the better you get spotted. You have to adapt tactically and ask yourself different questions, and for that, it makes [us] harder to face, » Priestman said.

WATCH | Pair of Grosso nets against Trinidad and Tobago:

Julia Grosso scores a brace in Canada’s rout of Trinidad and Tobago

Julia Grosso scored her first two goals for Canada’s senior women’s soccer team in a dominating 6-0 win over Trinidad & Tobago at the CONCACAF W Championship in Guadalupe, Mexico.

Another positive: Six of the 12 goals were scored by players coming off the bench, which not only highlights the depth of this team, but also how Priestman was able to tip the balance of some tight games in Canada’s favor with its series of clever replacements.

Midfielder Sophie Schmidt sealed a 2-0 victory over Costa Rica in the group stage by scoring her 20th goal, her first in more than three years. Fullback Allysha Chapman completed the scoring against Jamaica with her second goal in 91 appearances for Canada. His only other goal came in 2015.

Schmidt (34) and Chapman (33) were once automatic starters for Canada, only to be pushed back into the depth chart by younger players since the Tokyo Olympics. But the veterans took their demotions in stride and produced when called by Priestman.

« I’m in heaven for the people on the scoresheet. You’re looking at an Allysha Chapman, a warrior… ‘Chappy’ has been an incredible player off the court, » Priestman said.

Of course, the Canadians’ offensive explosion in Mexico comes with something of an asterisk. Ranked No. 6 in the world, Canada are yet to be seriously tested after facing Trinidad and Tobago (No. 76), Panama (No. 57), Costa Rica (No. 37 ) and Jamaica (No. 51), all of whom bunkered and defended in a low block against the Olympic champions.

First game against USA since Tokyo

The top-ranked US will be a different matter altogether, as it more evenly matches Canada. The Americans have so many dangerous offensive weapons and saw nine different players score in Mexico. Like Canada, the United States have scored 12 goals in four shutout wins, so they won’t sit around and defend in numbers like the Reds’ overwhelmed opponents in the group stage.

At the same time, Priestman believes Canada’s somewhat laborious displays of breaking through their first-round opponents helped his side hone their attacking skills.

« I can’t analyze these tournaments too much because the styles [of teams] are so different… it’s not that simple and the teams are getting harder and harder. They put up with back fives [in defence] and do different things, which is great for us because it pushed us to be better, » Priestman said.

« Ultimately the team delivered… I think there’s another level, and I think playing a team like USA will bring out some of our strengths that maybe the teams [in the group stage] did not allow us to do. »

It will be the fifth time Canada and the United States have met in the CONCACAF final since the inaugural tournament in 1991. The nations have not faced each other since the Reds secured a dramatic victory on penalties in the semis -final of the Tokyo Olympics last summer.

« You always want to test yourself, and USA are an amazing team. I know they will definitely come into this game with Tokyo in the lead, they’ll want to address that. We’re not going to underestimate them. is a top team, but I’m really excited to take on this challenge again. There’s a lot at stake, » Priestman said.

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