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Matheson to help Canadian midfield from the sidelines

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John Herdman gave Diana Matheson as much time as he could but over the weekend, the Canadian head coach was forced to remove the midfielder of Canada’s roster for the CONCACAF women’s Olympic qualifying tournament in Vancouver.

The move was announced by a tweet that Matheson, who has been battling back from knee surgery in November, would be unable to participate and was replaced on the roster by Alyscha Mottershead of Syracuse University.

“(I waited) right to the last minute. We went right to the wire with Diana,” said Herdman after a Canadian team press conference on Monday. “It’s disappointing — we had our fingers crossed and the last fitness test just suggested that it wouldn’t be safe for that player.”

For her part, Matheson has remained with the squad and will be providing any help she can. She also still wants to experience a Canadian team playing in front of a home crowd because it’s something the players almost never get the chance to do.

Diana Matheson is flanked by teammates Robyn Gayle and Desiree Scott. PHOTO: BOB FRID/CANADA SOCCER
Diana Matheson is flanked by teammates Robyn Gayle and Desiree Scott. PHOTO: BOB FRID/CANADA SOCCER

“We play at home so rarely that it’s really special when you get in front of the home crowd so I’m obviously going to miss that but I’ll be with the team throughout everything,” said Matheson.

Matheson plays a key part in the midfield and despite being small in stature she’ll leave a big hole in the midfield. That said, with the likes of Kaylyn Kyle and Sophie Schmidt still patrolling the midfield, the Canadian team is still heavily favoured to easily knock off CONCACAF minnows like Haiti and Cuba as well as Costa Rica, which should be the toughest test of the teams that they’ll face in the group stage.

Instead of pulling the strings in the Canadian the midfield, Matheson will do the best she can to help from the sidelines and will still be working with the midfielders. She wants to do whatever she can to make sure Canada does the job and wins the group, which on paper at least, should mean an easier semifinal game likely against Mexico.

“The group stages are very important so that we don’t face the U.S. in the semi,” said Matheson. “The U.S. doesn’t want that and we don’t want that. We want to meet in the final so for that, the group games are very important, especially probably the third game against Costa Rica.”

What matters is that Matheson’s health isn’t risked now so that she would be healthy to take part in the Olympics, should Canada qualify.

“The medical stuff pushed it as much as far as we could but it just wasn’t to be and it’s a huge loss for the team but I think in this tournament we’ve got enough to get through,” said Herdman. “We need Diana for the Olympic Games and that’s where our goal is set.”

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