Despite a tough loss, Bev Priestman is encouraged by the direction of Canadian female soccer players
Bev Priestman had every right to launch into a heated rant after the Canadian women’s team lost Monday’s CONCACAF W Championship final in Monterrey, Mexico.
USA took a slim 1-0 lead at the Estadio BBVA thanks to a 78th-minute goal from Alex Morgan, a goal that was the by-product of a questionable penalty decision moments earlier when Canadian fullback Allysha Chapman was found to have tripped. Rose Lavelle from behind inside the penalty area.
The American player fell far too easily, and although replays showed there was hardly any contact, the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) booth did not intervene and the call stood . Still, Canada’s coach took it all in stride and was graceful in the loss, acknowledging the United States as the best team of the night.
« I think it was a soft penalty. But these things happen. A penalty is a penalty, and that’s a decision that was made, » Priestman told reporters after the game.
She later added, « I don’t take [anything] away from the United States, they brought it to us, and all the credit goes to them. »
In revenge for losing to Canada in the semi-finals of the Tokyo Olympics last summer, the United States were crowned queens of CONCACAF and also qualified for the 2024 Paris Olympics. will now face Jamaica, the third team in this tournament, in a September 2023 play-off to determine who will win the other Olympic spot offered in the CONCACAF region.
WATCH | USA beat Canada to secure Olympic berth:
US losses still sting
Defeats against the United States always sting. Before Canada’s win in Tokyo, that’s about all he knew against the Americans, as the Reds hadn’t beaten their neighbors in 37 straight games, a streak that dated back to their previous victory on March 11. 2001.
Despite Monday’s loss, there were still plenty of positives for Canada at this CONCACAF tournament.
For starters, goaltender Kailen Sheridan cleared up any doubts about whether she was ready to take over from Stephanie Labbé. For six years, Sheridan served as Labbé’s understudy, unable to topple the veteran as Canada’s starter. When Labbé retired earlier this year, Sheridan became the No. 1 again and she started off on a run by posting four shutouts and winning the Golden Glove award as the CONCACAF W Championship’s top goalkeeper.
Although she came out the loser on Monday, it was Sheridan’s best performance in Mexico, making a number of fabulous saves to prevent the Americans from dominating most of the match with their surging attack. It’s no exaggeration to suggest that the damage could have been far worse for Canada had it not been for Sheridan’s heroic efforts on the night.
« A lot of people talk about Stéphanie Labbé in the [Tokyo] Olympics, and how big shoes to fill. Kailen showed she was ready… I thought she was fantastic. [She] showed his leadership, showed his calm and collected approach with and without the ball, » Priestman said.
Equally impressive for Canada was Vanessa Gilles. It’s amazing to think that she only made six appearances for the national team before the Olympics last year. But Priestman made a bold move by trading her in the starting lineup to Tokyo at the expense of the more experienced Shelina Zadorsky.
This move paid huge dividends. Gilles forged a partnership with Kadeisha Buchanan who has since become one of the best central defensive duos in the international game, and she has played in 20 of Canada’s 28 games since 2021. The Ottawa native has had a tour de force in Mexico in a Canadian backline who has recorded four shutouts and conceded only once in five games.
Gilles puts his body on the line
Against the United States, Gilles regularly put his body on the line, making a number of important tackles, interceptions and clearances that stopped the Americans in their tracks as they advanced on offense.
« What an absolute warrior, » enthused Priestman. « The best players play in big games like this and deal with threats, and I thought Vanessa was outstanding. »
At the other end of the field, Canada’s offense flourished and benefited from a variety of goal sources, rather than simply relying on Christine Sinclair to provide the offensive spark. Eight different players scored all 12 goals for the team, with midfielder Julia Grosso scoring three times to win the Gold Boot (on a tiebreaker) as the competition’s top scorer.
Janine Beckie not only scored her 35th goal for Canada, but she was her team’s most effective creator with her dynamic and dangerous play on the right wing, and had three tournament-high assists.
Fullback Jayde Riviere, 21, had his best run for Canada in Mexico, supporting the attack with his bombardment from the flanks, while Jessie Fleming netted three times to solidify his status as the one of the best midfielders in the whole. CONCACAF region.
All of this gives Priestman plenty to work with as Canada spends the next 12 months preparing for the 2023 FIFA World Cup which will be co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand.
« The most important thing for us is that we keep moving forward, » Priestman said. « I’m incredibly proud of them, and that’s the motivation now… [to] do what we want to do, which is to conquer the World Cup. It’s our first hurdle, and hopefully we’ll come out of a great World Cup and then we’ll get to Paris. »