It’s once again time for the United States to confront their neighbors to the north, perennial underdog foe Canada. If the overarching theme of the previous New Zealand and South Korea friendlies was everybody have fun and don’t get hurt, these games against Canada are more let’s be consistent and also don’t get hurt.
This will probably be a more interesting game for Canada than the United States, at least in terms of looking for clues about the development of the squad. With key players Sophie Schmidt and Kadeisha Buchanan still in Europe with their teams (Canada was able to finagle defender Ashley Lawrence from PSG and onto this roster), John Herdman has a lot of teenagers in camp, including three 16-year-olds. It should tell you something that Canada’s next big-hype player is 19-year-old Jessie Fleming and she already has 45 senior team caps since debuting at 15. This is a team rebuilding its youth infrastructure, and Herdman is casting about for kids who can take up the mantle of his aging core.
That means this is the United States’ game to lose. They’ve brought pretty much a first-selection roster, barring a few debateable choices here and there. They’ve even brought along four goalkeepers for two friendlies, although one hopes that really they have three available as Alyssa Naeher is allowed to sit some games out and rest. Roster-wise, the US is a relative embarrassment of riches at any position compared to Canada. That’s not to say it will be an easy game; any time you have players like Christine Sinclair and Desiree Scott on the field you’ll have to stay sharp and keep your feet under you at all times. But if the US can deal with the physical aspect of Canada’s game and not get pressured into turnovers, then there’s no reason for them not to look decently comfortable in the buildup.
US players to watch this time around include Taylor Smith, who is back from a shoulder injury. We’ll see if she’s 90-minutes back or sub-in-off-the-bench-for-one-game back. Same for Tobin Heath. Also eyes will undoubtedly be on Andi Sullivan, who could add great depth at midfield in partnership with Julie Ertz and/or Sam Mewis, but only got one half in the previous friendlies against South Korea before she had to return to school.
On the Canadian side, the non-Sinclair names to watch include wunderkind Jessie Fleming (please go look at this gif of her from her freshman year at UCLA if you haven’t already done so) and FCKC’s Maegan Kelly, who qualifies to play for Canada through her father, who is from Toronto. Kelly continues in a line of American players Herdman has convinced to give Canada a try, including Lauren Sesselmann and Janine Beckie, and is coming off a quietly solid season with KC acting mostly as a sub, with five goals and one assist in 667 minutes.
GOALKEEPERS (4): Adrianna Franch (Portland Thorns FC), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars), Jane Campbell (Houston Dash), Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride)
DEFENDERS (8): Abby Dahlkemper (NC Courage), Sofia Huerta (Chicago Red Stars), Kelley O’Hara (Sky Blue FC), Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City), Casey Short (Chicago Red Stars), Taylor Smith (NC Courage), Emily Sonnett (Portland Thorns FC), Chioma Ubogagu (Orlando Pride)
MIDFIELDERS (6): Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC), Carli Lloyd (Houston Dash), Allie Long (Portland Thorns FC), Samantha Mewis (NC Courage), Andi Sullivan (Stanford)
FORWARDS (5): Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns FC), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride), Christen Press (Chicago Red Stars), Megan Rapinoe (Seattle Reign FC), Lynn Williams (NC Courage)
GOALKEEPERS (3): Stephanie Labbe (Washington Spirit), Sabrina D’Angelo (North Carolina Courage), Kailen Sheridan (Sky Blue FC)
DEFENDERS (7): Lindsay Agnew (Washington Spirit), Allysha Chapman (Boston Breakers), Jayde Riviere (Vancouver Whitecaps FC Girls Elite), Shelina Zadorsky (Washington Spirit), Rebecca Quinn (Duke University), Ariel Young (Ottawa Fury), Ashley Lawrence (Paris Saint-Germain)
MIDFIELDERS (4): Jessie Fleming (UCLA), Julia Grosso (Vancouver Whitecaps FC Girls Elite), Maegan Kelly (FC Kansas City), Desiree Scott (FC Kansas City)
FORWARDS (6): Christine Sinclair (Portland Thorns), Janine Beckie (Houston Dash), Deanne Rose (University of Florida), Adriana Leon (Boston Breakers), Nichelle Prince (Houston Dash), Jordyn Huitema (Vancouver Whitecaps FC Girls Elite)
Schedule and TV
Game 1, BC Place, Vancouver
November 9, 10 PM ET, ESPN2, Univision, UDN
Game 2, Avaya Stadium, San Jose
November 12, 9 PM ET, FS1