Canada coach makes the most of injury absences, gives others a chance to shine

While Bev Priestman remains frustrated in her attempt to call in a full squad due to injury and other reasons, the Canada coach still sees her glass as half-full.

"Look at the last three (international) windows. I'm not sure this team's ever had this level of (roster) depletion ," Priestman told a virtual media availability Monday.

Janine Beckie (Portland), Vanessa Gilles (Olympique Lyonnais, France), Deanne Rose (Reading, England), Allysha Chapman (Houston Dash) and collegiate players Simi Awujo and Zoe Burns (USC), Jade Rose (Harvard) and Jayde Riviere (University of Michigan) are all unavailable for November friendlies in Brazil.

"The consistency and the fluidity and the partnerships are naturally disrupted," Priestman said of the roster holes. "At the end of the day though what I would say is I think the team's better off for it because I've found more talent. More talent have performed. They've put their best foot forward.

"It's going to be an incredible difficult job to pick what could be 26 or 23 players going into that (2023) World Cup (In Australia and New Zealand)."

According to Canada Soccer, Priestman has called in 50 different players to camp in her first two years at the helm. Thirty-eight of those have played a match, helping Priestman to a 17-5-10 record — and the Olympic gold medal.

Priestman was without captain Christine Sinclair, Ashley Lawrence, Gabrielle Carle, Deanne Rose, Gilles and Riviere for October wins over Argentina and Morocco.

In September, Canada was missing Kadeisha Buchanan, Lawrence, Chapman, Gilles, Riviere and Deanne Rose for the two game trip to Australia.

Despite the roster holes, the Canadian women are riding a four-game win streak going into the Brazil trip.

Sinclair, Lawrence and Carle return to the roster for the games against No. 9 Brazil on Nov. 11 in Santos and Nov. 15 in Sao Paulo.

The 39-year-old Sinclair led the Portland Thorns to the NSWL title on Saturday in a 2-0 win over fellow Canadian Desiree Scott and the Kansas City Current.

Sinclair and Scott are two of the eight NWSL players in the 25-player Canadian squad.

Deanne Rose and Chapman remain out injured while Gilles is just returning from an injury layoff. Beckie, in a social media post, explained she is taking a "planned break … after almost 15 months in season" -- a campaign that started with Manchester City and finished with the Portland Thorns.

The missing college players have school commitments.

With roster spots available, Priestman has summoned three members of the Canadian under-17 team.

It's the first senior invites for fullback Ella Ottey and forwards Amanda Allen and Annabelle Chukwu. All three were among Canada's top performers at the recent FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup in India, where the young Canadians failed to make the knockout round after going 0-1-2 in pool play.

Optimism aside, Priestman is hoping to get everyone back healthy come February, minus Deanne Rose who is recovering from a long-term Achilles injury. Canada opens its World Cup campaign against Nigeria on July 23 in Melbourne.

Priestman says Canada Soccer is in the final stage of setting up games for the February international window in a tournament setting -- the Canadians played at the Arnold Clark Cup in England this February. The hope is Canada will host a game in April.

The Canadian women will likely play some pre-World Cup games in Australia in June.

Both Canada and Brazil have qualified for next year's World Cup.

Their most recent meeting was at the Tokyo Olympics where the Canadians prevailed 4-3 in a penalty shootout after the quarterfinal game finished knotted at 0-0. Canada also downed Brazil 2-1 in the bronze-medal game at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Canada has an 8-9-9 record against Brazil since they first met in 1996.


CANADA

Goalkeepers: Sabrina D'Angelo, Vittsjo GIK (Sweden); Lysianne Proulx, SCU Torreense (Portugal); Kailen Sheridan, San Diego Wave (NWSL).

Defenders: Kadeisha Buchanan, Chelsea (England); Gabrielle Carle, Kristianstads DFF (Sweden); Ashley Lawrence, Paris Saint-Germain (France); Marie Levasseur, Fleury FC (France); Ella Ottey, National Development Centre Ontario; Bianca St-Georges, Chicago Red Stars (NWSL); Sura Yekka, Le Havre AC (France); Shelina Zadorsky, Tottenham (England).

Midfielders: Jessie Fleming, Chelsea (England); Julia Grosso, Juventus (Italy); Quinn, OL Reign (NWSL); Sophie Schmidt, Houston Dash (NWSL); Desiree Scott, Kansas City Current (NWSL); Christine Sinclair (capt.), Portland Thorns (NWLS).

Forwards: Amanda Allen, National Development Centre Ontario; Annabelle Chukwu, National Development Centre Ontario; Jordyn Huitema, OL Reign (NWSL); Cloe Lacasse, SL Benfica (Portugal); Clarissa Larisey, Glasgow Celtic (Scotland); Adriana Leon, Manchester United (England); Nichelle Prince, Houston Dash (NWSL); Evelyne Viens, Kristianstads DFF (Sweden).

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 31, 2022.

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press