Both the United States and Canada have already qualified for the 2019 Women’s World Cup in this Concacaf championship. But that doesn’t mean nothing is at stake as they meet once again in the final game of the tournament - the United States needs to maintain its superiority over any opponent who could offer a real challenge, and Canada still wants to prove they can beat their richer, faster, more talented (arguable, Canada might say) sibling to the south. So this is a clash with a bit of history, although an extremely lopsided one, as the United States has a long record of not losing to Canada - though in their most recent meeting, a two-game home-and-away series, Canada very nearly snatched a narrow victory at home in Vancouver. Will this be the one for Canada?
Based on their current tournament play, with the United States firing pretty much on all cylinders and Canada looking a bit like they’re content to use cruise control, the edge goes to the US. But Canada also has the capability to play up to their opponent, and they’re no Concacaf minnow. They could definitely make this a tough game for the US; it’s just a matter of seeing if they can kick it into a much higher gear after not having to particularly hit high speeds in their run-up to the final.
Who to watch for
Look, the United States knows to keep an eye on Christine Sinclair. Christine Sinclair knows that they know. They know that she knows that they know. Sinclair is now a slightly-deeper-lying playmaker for Canada instead of the tip of the spear and they’ll be relying on more runs out of midfield from kids like Jessie Fleming and Julia Grosso, as well as for forwards Janine Beckie and Nichelle Prince to make the most of any opportunities in front of goal. Neither Beckie nor Prince is particularly known for having a low shot-to-conversion ratio but they can both break a back line with the right ball in.
The US might also try to focus on taking out Sophie Schmidt as Canada’s DM; she hasn’t looked the sharpest acting as a pivot back there for Canada and if they cut her out, that’ll force Jessie Fleming to do more work farther from the goal, and you definitely want Fleming as far from your goal as possible. For Canada she drifted laterally to be the provider in the half-space on either side of the field and can be sprung wide on the overlap as well. Canada may not try as much to play the slipped ball into the box against the US considering they’ll have much less time and space than they did against Panama and also that they finally broke Panama open by targeting players like Sinclair with crosses.
Projected USA lineup
There’s not a lot of reason to think Ellis will switch things up from her preferred starting XI for the qualifying game; her choice of subs might be impacted as Morgan Brian left the game against Jamaica late in the second half after a head-to-head collision, but it’s probably we’ll still see something like this:
Time, TV, and livestream
USA vs Canada
Wednesday, October 17
8 PM ET / 5 PM PT