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Canadian defender Buchanan sends the Americans message after message in Winnipeg

14139001652_c03df59259_zFor the Canadian women’s national team, Thursday’s friendly against the United States didn’t quite feel like a preparation for the 2015 Women’s World Cup.

Coach John Herdman decided to populate three-quarters of his back four with teenagers — players who could very well be playing for Canada at the coming U-20 Women’s World Cup before they get shots to play in the big senior tourney in 2015.

And a large, boisterous crowd in Winnipeg — kudos to the city for doing a great job getting butts in seats on a weekday evening on a night when there’s a full slate of NHL playoff action on the TV — saw Canada take a first-half lead, only to settle for a 1-1 draw.

Three teens — Kadeisha Buchanan, Sura Yekka and Rebecca Quinn — all went the full 90 for Canada. Herdman had said he needed to get his young players into friendlies against a-list opposition, but even Mr. Spock would have let out a yelp of surprise to see Canada decide to stare down Abby Wambach and Sydney Leroux with a crew of teenagers.
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Impact’s Bernier has high regard for FCE coach Miller

Patrice Bernier

Patrice Bernier

Montreal Impact midfielder Patrice Bernier has a lot of respect for FC Edmonton coach Colin Miller.

Miller was in his first stint as the interim coach of men’s national team back in 2003, and he called up Bernier to the squad for a friendly against the Czech Republic. It was Bernier’s first cap for the national team.

“I know Colin from the national team,” Bernier said Tuesday after he and his Montreal Impact teammates finished their training session at a blustery Clarke Stadium. “I know how he expects his team to play.”

He expects a Miller coached team to be a very tight-knit unit and “to come out with conviction.”

Because he knows Miller, Bernier won’t take FC Edmonton for granted when the two teams meet Wednesday in the first leg of their Amway Canadian Championship semifinal. It doesn’t matter to Bernier that Montreal is the defending champion and MLS big-shot, and FC Edmonton sits in last in the 10-team NASL.
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Fixture clash: Floro looking to add two MLS players to Canada’s roster for May friendlies

Benito Floro

Benito Floro

Canadian men’s national team coach Benito Floro is hopeful that he can negotiate the releases of a couple of MLS-based players for a pair of upcoming friendlies.

Floro said Thursday that going with an entirely European-based lineup for an upcoming camp in Austria — with friendlies against Bulgaria (May 23) and Moldova (May 27) — would leave the team short in two positions.

“I would need two MLS players for the two positions,” said Floro. “But we will have to depend on the MLS clubs if they will release them or not.”’
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Looking at the glass half-full: Assessing Canada’s 3-2 U17WWC loss to Venezuela

Marie Levasseur

Marie Levasseur

Without coming off too much like bad high-school newspaper journalism (“they did their best, but, despite their best efforts, came up short”), it’s difficult to assess Canada’s 3-2 loss to Venezuela at the quarter-final stage of the U-17 Women’s World Cup in Costa Rica.

Canada’s most glaring problems came in the centre of the defence, where the team was punished regularly for its high line, and not being able to cope with the physical presence of Venezuelan striker Gabriela Garcia. But, we have to remember that these are girls who would are at the Grade 11 age (or maybe even less). We have to remember that defensive awareness comes at a later age than other soccer skills.

So, really, where Canada struggled on Thursday — controlling the speedy Veneuzuelan counterattack — can easily be chalked up to the inexperience of youth.

And, while it’s difficult to go out the U-17 Women’s World Cup, at least it’s better to lose 3-2 — and show some real positive offensive glimpses — than go out to one of those oh-so-Canadian 1-0 or 2-0 defeats, where the commentators will say that we showed great heart but couldn’t create many chances.
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Jones’s late defensive heroics help Canada reach U17 WC quarter-finals

Rachel Jones

Rachel Jones

When you deal with teenagers, you accept that they may screw up. But, you’re happy when they learn lessons from their mistakes.

So, would Canada’s U-17 women’s team learn from their mistakes? That is, would they be able to protect a two-goal lead this time around?

On Saturday, the Canadians were in a must-win match against U-17 Women’s World Cup Group B leader, Ghana. In fact, the African side had already clinched a spot in the quarters, while the Canadians knew that if they won their final Group B match, they’d clinch the other quarter-final spot. It wouldn’t matter how the North Korea-Germany match played out.

And, at halftime, on the strength of a Marie Levasseur brace, Canada was up 2-0.

But we’ve seen this script before. In the Group B opener, Canada had a 2-0 lead, then went through a panicked five-minute spell where the European champions were allowed to score two quick goals. Canada had to settle for a tie.
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Herdman: No Canadian free agent is worthy of taking vacant allocation spot in NWSL

Desiree Scott, left, with John Herdman at a recent Canadian Soccer Association event in Winnipeg.

Desiree Scott, left, with John Herdman at a recent Canadian Soccer Association event in Winnipeg.

When the deal was made to transfer national-team midfielder Desiree Scott from FC Kansas City of the NWSL to Notts County, the Canadian Soccer Association made the decision not to replace her spot in the American pro league.

So, this year, the Canadian Soccer Association will foot the bill for 15 players rather than the previously-agreed-to 16.

In a conference call with Canadian media ahead of the Cyprus Cup, national women’s team coach John Herdman said that Scott’s decision to make the move to England caught him by surprise. And, then he made a rather frank assessment: He didn’t feel that Canada had another free agent who would merit the 16th spot.

“At this stage, we don’t have that depth of talent. My commitment is to put the best Canadian players in that league, and I can’t make that commitment at this point.”
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Canada loses U-17 Women’s CONCACAF final in penalties

Marie Mychele Metivier

Marie Mychele Metivier

Because both Canada and Mexico had already qualified for the U-17 Women’s World Cup by winning their semifinal matches, the CONCACAF U-17 Women’s Championship final had the feel of a friendly.

After both teams played to a 0-0 draw in Jamaica Saturday, they went right to penalty kicks. No extra time (which is common practice at the U-17 level, as you don’t want teens playing 120 minutes). And the Mexicans triumphed in the shootout, 4-2 — as El Tri and the Canadian women shared in the schadenfreude of knowing that their American neighbours weren’t going to the World Cup.

“I’m really, really proud of the girls. If you look at what this team’s about, it’s about future national team players,” said Canadian Head Coach Bev Priestman on the Canada Soccer website. “I think losing on penalties it’s hard for the girls but ultimately, there have been some girls who stepped up in this tournament and are knocking on the door.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Canada announces roster for Czech Republic and Slovenia friendlies

Karl Ouimette

Karl Ouimette

Karl Ouimette will have the chance to earn his first national-team cap.

The inclusion of the Montreal Impact defender was the most notable item on national team coach Benito Floro’s roster for friendlies against the Czech Republic (Nov. 15) and Slovenia (Nov. 19).

The roster, announced Friday, also features three unattached players — all-time Canadian leading scorer Dwayne De Rosario, who had his contract option declined by D.C. United last week, Issey Nakajima-Farran and Stefan Cebara.

“From here to the first official games [qualifying matches], it’s important to focus on our level of play,” said Floro in a release issued by the Canadian Soccer Association. “It is necessary to pay attention in how we defend and attack so for me the best result is to take it step by step to improve our level.”
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Canada qualifies for the Women’s U-17 World Cup with win over host Jamaicans

Marie Mychele Metivier

Marie Mychele Metivier

Canada will join Mexico and Costa Rica as CONCACAF representatives at the U17 Women’s World Cup.

As winners of the CONCACAF semifinals, held Thursday in Jamaica, Canada and Mexico earned their World Cup invites. Costa Rica qualifies automatically as the host nation.

The Jamaican supporters packed the stadium in Montego Bay for the semifinal against Canada. To rally the home nation, there was no charge to watch the game.

But the Canadian scored within three minutes to give the hosts a sober reality check, and went on to a comfortable 5-0 win.

And, in the irony of ironies, the Americans, who beat Canada in their final-group stage game to earn the right to play lower-ranked Mexico in the other semifinal, suffered a major upset. Instead of taking advantage of Mexico, the Americans lost in penalties after a 1-1 draw.
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Canadian loss to Americans made all the worse because of Richards injury

Mika Richards

Mika Richards

It’s one thing to see a professional player down on the turf for a long period of time, and then stretchered off the field. But at least you can say to yourself that hey, that’s a pro on the field, (s)he knows the risks of playing the game. That’s why that person gets a paycheque.

But, when a teenage amateur player — on the field because of national pride and the chance to develop her young career — lays on the ground, it’s a lot harder to watch.

Canadian defender Mika Richards was on the turf for several minutes. And it put Canada’s 2-0 loss to the United States in a different light. Yes, Canadian keeper Rylee Foster made an outstanding double save on the ensuing American penalty kick but, with the game already lost, and Canada down to 10 players, it didn’t feel all that glorious. After all, these two teams’ final U-17 Women’s CONCACAF Championship group-stage game wasn’t a do-or-die affair; both had already qualified to move on.

Late in the match, after losing the ball to U.S. forward Mallory Pugh, Richards chased down her quarry from behind and tugged on the American’s jersey. Pugh went down, and in the process of going to the turf, her elbow looked to inadvertently crash against Richards’ face. But, replays showed that Richards was actually going down in pain before the contact was made. After the incident, Richards was motionless on the pitch for several minutes, being attended to by medical teams. Meanwhile, the referee placed the ball on the spot — after all, Richards did foul Pugh in the penalty area — and waited for the Jamaican hosts’ volunteer crews to take the injured player off the pitch. And, as Richards was strapped to the stretcher, she was sheepishly shown a yellow card for that initial shirt-tug.
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