Canada and U.S. renew women's soccer rivalry at SheBelieves Cup in Orlando

·4 min read

History and the world rankings are on his side when it comes to playing Canada.

But U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski wasn't providing any bulletin-board material ahead of Thursday's game between the North American rivals at the SheBelieves Cup in Orlando.

The Canadian women, tied for eighth with Brazil in the FIFA world rankings, have only won three of 60 meetings (3-50-7) with the top-ranked Americans. And new Canada coach Bev Priestman is facing the U.S. without captain Christine Sinclair, Diana Matheson, Erin McLeod, Kadeisha Buchanan, Ashley Lawrence and Jordyn Huitema, who are either injured or back in Europe with their clubs.

The six players have 845 caps and 229 international goals between them. The 37-year-old Sinclair leads the soccer world with 186 international goals.

Asked about the Canadian absences, Andonovski said his team won't change much.

"The approach to the game is not going to be any different," he told reporters Wednesday. "Needless to say, Christine Sinclair is an unbelievable player — the greatest goal-scorer of all time. Missing her, I'm sure, is going to create issues for the Canadian national team.

"But they have such a talented roster that I'm pretty sure they're going to be able to create or present different challenges for us. So our mentality or our approach is not changing. But our strategy may change in terms of how we're going to defend now since Sinc is not there. Or how we're going to attack since (centre back) Kadeisha Buchanan is not there."

The game marks the debut of the 34-year-old Priestman as Canada coach. The former Canadian and England assistant coach took over the senior side in November after Kenneth Heiner-Moller accepted a coaching job in his native Denmark.

After the U.S., Canada will face Brazil on Feb. 21 and No 31 Argentina on Feb 24 at Exploria Stadium.

Canada was blanked 3-0 by the U.S. the last time they met, in the final of the CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Championship in February 2020.

"Regardless of circumstance and what this past year has brought, any time you get on the field with Canada-U. S. it's going to be a battle," said Canadian midfielder Desiree Scott. "And that doesn't change."

Perhaps the most famous battle between the two came in the semifinals of the 2012 London Olympics, when Sinclair scored three goals in a losing cause as the U.S. won 4-3 after extra time. Canada went on to defeat France to claim the first of two straight Olympic bronze medals.

Despite the absences, Canada has experience in its side in Florida.

Midfielder Sophie Schmidt will hit the 200-cap plateau if she plays, joining Sinclair (296 caps) and Matheson (206 caps) in the double-century club. Scott goes into the game with 157 caps while midfielder Jessie Fleming has 77, fullback Allysha Chapman 75, goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe 72, forward Janine Beckie 70, defender Shelina Zadorsky 66 and defender Quinn, who goes by one name, 59.

There will be chances for others to showcase their skills.

"It's a great opportunity for anybody to step up and try and get their name on that (Tokyo) Olympic roster," said Priestman.

The Canadian women last played March 10 when they tied Brazil 2-2 at a tournament in France.

The Americans are coming off a two-game sweep last month of No. 26 Colombia, which stretched their unbeaten streak to 34 games. They have scored two or more goals in 30 of those games.

The U.S. is also unbeaten in its last 50 home matches (45-0-5) during which it has outscored its opponents 179-27, including a margin of 49-3 during its last 12 matches on American soil.

On the plus side, the last 14 meetings with Canada since 2011 have produced three ties and four one-goal wins for the U.S.

Andonovski, meanwhile, has won all 13 of his matches at the American helm.

"One of my top all-time favourite coaches," said Scott, who played for him at FC Kansas City in the NWSL. "He is just a coach that allows you to be so confident playing underneath him. He allows you to bring your own individual identity and be free within the environment.

"He obviously is tactically sound, he knows what he's talking about football-wise, but then just encourages you to go out and be you. I can say that one of the most confident, best seasons I've had was playing under Vlatko. He just has a way of connecting with his players and he's coach you really want to play and fight for"


Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 17, 2021

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press