USWNT-Canada: The Sequel is Just Never as Good

USA TODAY Sports

The United States and Canada met on Sunday night in Toronto. It was the first time the two sides had met since the U.S. defeated Canada in an Olympic semifinal the Canadians have always felt was stolen from them by the referee. Ten months later, Canada was again on the losing end of a match that definitely didn't live up to the hype.

It was billed as "The Rematch." For the first time since the epic 2012 Olympic semifinal in London, the United States Women's National Team and the Canada Women's National Team would meet.

For Canada, it would be revenge. A chance to right the wrong they believed was done ten months ago in Manchester. For the U.S., it was, really, just another friendly and a chance for some young players to get some time in front of a big crowd against decent competition. Maybe, somewhere deep down it was about showing that they were in fact the deserved winners that night last August at Old Trafford, that this was still the dominant team in CONCACAF, but really, it was just one more meaningless game. The kind where the U.S. underwhelms for 70 or 80 minutes, then finds one or two moments of brilliance.

There was a sold-out crowd at BMO, flag waving, six-second counting, ready to erupt, ready to see a wrong that could never be righted at least avenged a little bit. Except it didn't happen. Because nothing much happened at all.

Sure, the U.S. won 3-0, and yes, Sydney Leroux made most of an entire country all kinds of angry, but really, "The Rematch" was kind of a dud. Think the original Toy Story, and how it was kind of mind-blowing back in 1995. That semifinal was the first time we met Woody and Buzz. This was Toy Story 2, if the entire plot of that movie had just been a Ken Burns documentary about what the toys did when Andy was around.

The crowd had big plans to count to six every time Nicole Barnhart got the ball, a nod to that crime committed in August when Canada keeper Erin McLeod was whistled for time wasting after holding the ball for too long - a sequence that would eventually bring the U.S. equal in Manchester. The 22,453 at BMO did get to sing their six second chorus a few times, but Canada only managed two shots, and none on goal. Oh, Canada, where the seconds are apparently shorter.

Mostly, the Canadians were happy to sit back, complete with five defenders, and let the U.S. play through the midfield. And mostly the U.S. was happy to let the Canadians do the same and everyone did this weird passing drill for more than an hour. Christine Sinclair, Canada's electric striker - the one who scored a hat trick in that semifinal and was ready to carry her team on her back to the gold medal match, the one who has 145 international goals, sitting behind only Abby Wambach and Mia Hamm on the all-time list - was mostly a non-factor. Sinclair's usual style, to take over, to run at keepers, to shoot, was instead replaced by a kind of nonchalance.

The U.S. offense was apparently suffering from the same kind of malaise. Seventy minutes as if the two sides had shown up and said "is there any way we can reschedule? I just don't feel like it today. No? It has to be today? Sigh."

But then, Alex Morgan, because of course it would be Alex Morgan. And Morgan somehow managed to score the same goal twice in a row, two minutes apart. In the 70th minute, Morgan received a pass from Wambach, dribbled up the wing, beat a few defenders and then slotted a shot past McLeod to the far post.

In the original version, this is where Canada fights back. Where they push forward, where Sinclair takes charge and carries the team on her back if she has to. Everyone fights for every ball. Canada presses and presses and finds the equalizer. Heads get stomped on if that is what needs to happen. But the sequel is never as good as the original. And so in this one, Canada lets Morgan score the same exact goal again - this time on a long floating pass from Tobin Heath over the Canada defense - two minutes later.

Down by two, Canada did push forward, but never really threatened the U.S. 17-year-old defender Kadeisha Buchanan was probably the one bright spot on the night for Canada, and gave Wambach in particular trouble throughout the match.

And then there was Leroux. Born and raised in Canada, but opting to play for the U.S., Leroux isn't particularly well-liked in Canada these days. She entered the match in the 74th minute, with the U.S. already leading by two, and was promptly booed every time she touched the ball. In the third minute of stoppage time, Wambach was able to play the ball to Leroux who was making a run up the left side. The U.S. striker had a step on her defender and was able to take a touch past McLeod, who had come out to meet Leroux and gone down too early, before coolly putting the ball into the open net.

Here was perhaps the moment of revenge, that poetic justice we were all promised, although likely not the one the sold-out crowd at BMO had in mind. After scoring to put the U.S. up 3-0, Leroux faced the crowd that had taunted her, held out the U.S. crest on her jersey, and then put her finger to her lips to shush them.

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