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Alberta goalkeepers star for Canada’s women’s team on Commonwealth turf

Erin McLeod

Erin McLeod

A friendly match on a cool Edmonton autumn night resulted in a 3-0 victory for the Canadian women’s soccer team over South Korea.

The conditions were about as good as you could ask for during this season at Commonwealth Stadium. Though the CFL lines were still visible on the turf, the atmosphere that the crowd of over 12,000 provided made that Canadian football stadium a European football stadium.

Despite a home-field advantage, it wasn’t Canada but rather South Korea whom developed the majority of the scoring chances in the first half. However, a great save made in the eighth minute by Canadian goalkeeper Erin McLeod set the tone for what was to come for the rest of the half.

McLeod admitted that her teammates might not have been “game fit,” considering that this is the first time they’ve played together in a while. However, she showed no signs of rust. McLeod put on a clinic; making key saves to keep the pressing South Koreans off of the scoreboard.

“I don’t think [McLeod] ever has [any rust],” forward Christine Sinclair said.

Even head coach John Herdman was very impressed with his goalkeeper.

“[McLeod] is arguably the best [female goalkeeper] in the world,” Herdman said.
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Slovenes say they’ve booked a friendly with Canada

sloveniaThe Slovenian Football Federation announced that its men’s national side will host Canada in a Nov. 19 friendly.

Canada is already booked to play the Czech Republic on Nov. 15, and having back-to-back games will allow new coach Benito Floro a chance to have an extended look at the team, which hasn’t scored in eight consecutive international matches, including a goalless run at the Gold Cup.

The Slovenes indicated that a deal to play Canada was made after an initial push to play Ireland in the November international window didn’t come to pass. The Irish play the Poles on Nov. 19.

Canada’s most recent international match saw it lose 3-0 to Australia, and concede a goal almost immediately after the opening kickoff.
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Canada names roster for CONCACAF U-17 Women’s Championship

Bev Priestman

Bev Priestman

Canada has finalized its roster for the CONCACAF U-17 women’s championships.

Coach Bev Priestman confirmed the final roster on Tuesday. Canada begins the CONCACAF tourney on Halloween, with a date in Jamaica against Guatemala. Only the top two teams from the tournament get to the *-17 Women’s World Cup in Costa Rica, as the hosts have already got one of the CONCACAF slots.

That means Canada has to get to the final.

Fullback Sura Yekka is just 16, and was born in 1997, meaning she’d be eligible to play for Canada’s U-17 team. But she’s in Edmonton right now, with the senior team as it prepares to face South Korea on Wednesday. So, if there’s a notable name not on the roster for the U-17s, It’s Yekka, simply for the fact that she’s already been identified by national women’s coach John Herdman to be fast-tracked through the program.
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For Stephanie Labbe, CanWNT scrimmage against FCE Reserves was a flashback

Stephanie Labbe

Stephanie Labbe

The sky was orange, giving way to dusk. The temperature hovered near the freezing mark. At one end of the field, if a ball was kicked over the goal, it went into a meadow that separates the Victoria Soccer Club’s outdoor-field complex from a Leon’s furniture warehouse.

On one side, FC Edmonton’s reserves in blue. On the other, the Canadian national women’s team in red.

North Edmonton was the setting for the women’s team’s first official training session ahead of next Wednesday’s friendly against South Korea. And, for the keeper on the women’s team’s side — the one who watched some of the errant FC Edmonton shots sail over her head and into the meadow — Friday’s training session had a sense of deja vu to it.

For Stephanie Labbe, it was a homecoming. She’s the only former member of the 2004 Edmonton Aviators to be on the current national team. Back when the cash-strapped Aviators played their one and only tumultuous W-League season, they’d often train on fields like this, in chilly conditions. They’d use school fields and community parks.

“For me, this was definitely a flashback,” said Labbbe. “From the Aviators to the Alberta team, I was going back to my roots. Definitely, in 2002, when the (FIFA) Under-19 Championship was here, that was my first exposure to the national team. I was in the stadium watching them. Now, to be back here, with the national team, it feels like I have come full circle.”
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Argentina bookends goals around halftime break to end Canada’s U17 WC hopes

2013_FIFA_U-17_World_CupThe Argentines scored just seconds before the first half came to a close, and again right after the second half kicked off.

Those two goals sentenced Canada to an early exit from the U-17 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates. Canada finished the group stage with two draws and a loss, and will be heading home. Canada finished third in the group, but its record wasn’t good enough for a wild-card spot. The final score was 3-0, but the damage was done by those pair of goals wrapped around the halftime break.

Canada showed its nerves right off the opening kickoff, as holding midfielder Jordan Haynes attempted a drop pass. But the ball went into a no-man’s land, and Argentine forward Ivan Luis Leszczuk picked off the ball, and stroked a shot over the bar just six seconds into the match.

But, while the Argentines dominated possession through the opening stages of the game, the favourites weren’t able to create more clear-cut chances. Really, most of the first 45 minutes were cagey in nature, with Canada soaking up the pressure, and the Argentines looking unwilling to up their play a gear.

Canada’s Hanson Boakai had the best chance for the men in red, but his bad-angle effort in the 20th minute was clipped wide of the Argentina goal.
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Canada’s search for a goal will continue Nov. 15 against the Czechs

imgres-1The Canadian Soccer Association and the Football Association of the Czech Republic have announced plans for a Nov. 15 friendly between the two nations.

The game will kick off in Olomouc, and will be played at 5 p.m. local time, to keep away from the colder night temperatures.

The game will mark the 10th anniversary of the last (and only) time the two nations faced each other. On Nov. 15, 2003, the Czechs thrashed Canada 5-1 in a friendly, with Tomasz Radzinski scoring a late consolation goal for the Canadians after the home side marched to a five-goal lead. Colin Miller was the interim coach of Canada at that time.

The Czechs won’t be going to the World Cup in 2014, as they finished third in a qualifying group that featured Denmark and Italy.
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Fortune on Canada’s side in 1-1 draw with Iran at U-17 World Cup

Jordan Hamilton

Jordan Hamilton

Note to the Canadian team. Don’t wash the soccer gear. Before the final group stage game against Argentina, do everything that you did before Tuesday’s U-17 World Cup match against Iran.

You don’t want to do anything to disturb that luck.

Sometimes, draws feel like losses. And, sometimes, they feel like wins. Tuesday’s 1-1 draw with Iran definitely falls into the latter category.

Iran should have won this match. Instead, with Argentina and Austria still to play on Tuesday, every match so far in Group E has been a draw. And that means that Canada knows it goes into its final group-stage match with the Argentines with a real chance of making it to the knockout stages.

With the score tied 1-1, Iran wasted two golden opportunities to score the match winner. In the 70th minute, Amir Mazloum nutmegged Canadian right back Eric Davies, then swerved around keeper Marco Carducci. Instead of hitting the open net, he put his effort off the near post, and the rebound chance was skied over the bar.
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Canadian prospect Matt Greer impresses with Philadelphia Union academy

Matt Greer: Born in the United States, but his parents and family are from Manitoba.

Matt Greer: Born in the United States, but his parents and family are from Manitoba.

WAYNE, PA. — You wonder if Pele started out this way. Or perhaps other greats playing the Beautiful Game,” Maradona, Beckham and now Messi.

That’s not to suggest that Matt Greer, the 17-year-old midfielder born in the U.S.A. but with Canadian citizenship as well due to his parents, is ticketed for the same kind of soccer immortality. If showing skills at a young age — then diligently training under the watchful tutelage of men who know what it takes to make it — is the trick to having a successful career, he’s on the right track.

“I think there are two to three kids on our team that have a real chance to play at the next level,” said Peter Fuller, head coach of the Philadelphia Union’s Academy 18-year-old team where Greer plays. “He’s one of them.

“One of the reasons I like Matt is that he’s real different than most others you’d see play. He’s willing to try things. He’s great at beating people off the dribble and he has a knack for scoring goals out of midfield.

“First off, he has an innate ability you either have or don’t have. The other thing is he’s not afraid of making a mistake or afraid of failure.

“That’s allowed him to do things other kids can do but won’t even bother to try.”
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Canada shows some offensive flair in U-17 World Cup opener

Canada lines up before the kickoff of its U-17 World Cup match against Austria. PHOTO: CANADA SOCCER

Canada lines up before the kickoff of its U-17 World Cup match against Austria. PHOTO: CANADA SOCCER

Sure, it’s disappointing that the Canadian side couldn’t hold on to a 2-1 lead against Austria in their U-17 World Cup opener.

A 2-2 draw was likely a fair result based on the run of play in Saturday’s group-stage curtain raiser for both sides. Both teams hit posts. Both sides entertained with positive play.

And, that’s the hope for Canadian supporters, isn’t it? After struggling to see Canada’s national team go scoreless in eight straight matches, it’s refreshing to see, at the youth level, that there are some truly creative players.

Both sides could have had more goals. Canadian midfielder Marco Bustos had a fantastic first-half effort denied by the fingertips of Austrian keeper Alexander Schlager. And, with less than 20 minutes to play and the score level at 2-2, Bustos saw his drive go off the bar.

Hanson Boakai also had a chance on the break just before halftime. But he was also denied by Schlager.
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Herdman believes cold Edmonton conditions will be tempered by warm reception from fans

Sura Yekka: She's 16 but could get her first senior cap

Sura Yekka: She’s 16 but could get her first senior cap

According to the Weather Network’s 14-day advance forecast, Edmonton will, ahem, enjoy a high of 3 C and a low of -2 C on Oct. 30. Canada’s friendly at Commonwealth Stadium against South Korea will be kicked off in the evening; so, unless, there’s a change in the weather trend, coach John Herdman’s charges can expect to be playing in subzero conditions.

(Accuweather is calling for a high of 9 C and a low of -5 C; World Weather Online predicts a high of -3 C, a low of -6 C; judging by the spread, it’s fair to say that long-range forecasts aren’t 100 per cent reliable. But this is fact: According to Environment Canada, last year, on Oct. 30, Edmonton’s high temp was -4.6 C, and the low was -10.7 C. And it snowed).

And even though the late autumn/early winter conditions in Edmonton won’t be anything close to the July conditions we’ll see at the 2015 Women’s World Cup, Herdman said that getting a friendly in at the stadium where Canada will open the tournament will be vital to the team’s preparations. And, he said the cold can be a coaching tool, to see “if the players can focus on the task at hand.”

“For us, it (the weather) makes no difference. We just want to make sure we experience those (World Cup) stadiums.

“The more people we’ll put into the stands the warmer it will be.”
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