The United States Women’s National Team hosts the eighth edition of the SheBelieves Cup, a four-team round-robin invitational tournament that typically attracts a high level of competition. These three matches represent some of the final opportunities for players to impress the manager before the summer’s World Cup. The opening opponent is the main regional rival, Canada, a rematch of the 2022 CONCACAF Women’s Championship final. The faceoff is scheduled for Exploria Stadium, a 25,500-seat venue in Orlando, Florida.
This is the 64th all-time meeting between the two nationals, with the USWNT holding a 52-4-7 advantage. Canada is currently ranked at sixth in the world by FIFA. The Canucks qualified for the upcoming World Cup by finishing atop Group B at last year’s CONCACAF Championship. Last year was particularly strong for the program, posting a mere three losses in 17 matches.
Heading into the tournament, the team elected to go on strike due to alleged “pay equity concerns and budget cuts by the country’s soccer association.” Players claimed that “training camp days, full camp windows, and the number of players and staff invited into camps” were cut. After missing a single day of training, the group returned to the field upon “facing the threat of legal action from Canada Soccer,” although several leading figures claim that the fight for “lasting change” will continue in the future. The tournament is being played “under protest.”
Bev Priestman was hired to be the manager in October 2020, a relatively unheralded name whose previous experience was with Canada and England youth national team sides. The 36-year-old validated the program’s choice by claiming the gold medal at the 2020 Summer Olympics. She has yet to claim a victory over the USWNT.
Canada announces final squad for SheBelieves Cup— Canada Soccer (@CanadaSoccerEN) February 13, 2023
Canada's first match will be against the hosts USA on Thursday 16 February at 19.00 ET/16.00 PT.
Priestman named a 23-player roster for the SheBelieves Cup. The manager cited the absence of several talents due to “long-term injuries,” but there is “a great opportunity to explore” new options. Notable members of the pre-camp squad were left out of the final group, including Victoria Pickett and Bianca St-Georges.
GOALKEEPERS (3): Sabrina D’Angelo (Arsenal), Lysianne Proulx (Torreense), Kailen Sheridan (San Diego Wave)
DEFENDERS (7): Kadeisha Buchanan (Chelsea), Vanessa Gilles (Lyon), Shelina Zadorsky (Tottenham Hotspur), Jade Rose (Harvard Crimson), Gabrielle Carle (Washington Spirit), Allysha Chapman (Houston Dash), Ashley Lawrence (Paris Saint-Germain)
FORWARDS (7): Janine Beckie (Portland Thorns), Jordyn Huitema (OL Reign), Cloé Lacasse (Benfica), Clarissa Larisey (Häcken), Adriana Leon (Manchester United), Evelyne Viens (Kristianstad), Jenna Hellstrom (Dijon)
Priestman typically deploys a 4-2-3-1 formation but has also utilized a 4-4-2. Over the past year, the team created more chances and held a greater share of possession, looking far more dangerous on the attack. Total Football Analysis notes that both fullbacks are “expected to advance up the field as often as possible in order to control the wings and give the wide forwards the freedom to cut inside,” while the well-drilled center backs maintain a disciplined structure in the low block.
Following the retirement of all-time goalkeeping great Stephanie Labbé, the new number one is Kailen Sheridan, quickly demonstrating her value with a Golden Glove performance at last year’s CONCACAF W Championship. The 27-year-old competes with San Diego Wave, where she was named to the NWSL’s Best XI in 2021 and 2022. She is more of a stay-at-home shot-stopper instead of an adventurous box-controller, relying on quick reactions and full extensions to make saves. Her ability to deny penalties is a true asset, constantly on display with her club.
Vanessa Gilles, a former French youth international who started in the CONCACAF W Championship final, should get the call at center back, providing physicality and aggression. The 26-year-old Lyon defender refuses to get pushed around while dispensing heavy tackles and claiming every possible header in her area. In complement is Kadeisha Buchanan of Chelsea, another strong ball-winner who has thrice won Canadian Player of the Year. She possesses an elite mix of athleticism and technical ability, causing problems for the opponent on both sides of the game.
Gabrielle Carle recently joined the Washington Spirit and, despite already having made 35 senior appearances at the age of 24, seems to be assuming a more prominent role with the Canadian program. She is comfortable crossing the ball with both feet and times her slide tackles to perfection. On the other side of the formation is Ashley Lawrence of Paris Saint-Germain, a fantastic presence in the final third with the ability to hit curving passes that dip in behind the back-line. The modern fullback is the ideal embodiment of the position when winning the ball, shuttling, and creating scoring opportunities.
One of the most consistent members of the squad, Quinn puts in hard work on defense and serves as a safety option during the build-up. The OL Reign midfielder spreads the ball all over the field and often looks to switch possession to the far-side winger. Her partner is likely to be the veteran option, Sophie Schmidt of the Houston Dash. Her long-range shooting and late movement into the box could add a necessary additional scoring option.
Manchester United’s Adriana Leon patrols the wing, as Total Football Analysis praises her ability to “get in the right areas” and “create space for her teammates” with an “eye for positioning and space.” She often operates as an extra striker and drifts inward while charging at goal. Adding additional menace to the attack is Janine Beckie of the Portland Thorns, a far more prolific scorer at the international level than club, with 36 finishes in 98 caps. The 28-year-old Colorado native makes curling runs off of the striker and works hard to force turnovers.
At 39 years old, Christine Sinclair continues to hold an important role for the squad, typically sitting in the hole behind the striker. While production has slowed since her prime, her playmaking remains an essential asset, able to slip the ball through a crowd with an impeccable touch. She is perhaps most dangerous on set pieces and has the veteran knowledge to get open or trick a goalkeeper with a free kick. Of course, there is still the occasional fantastic finish as the 14-time Canada Soccer Player of the Year and all-time leading international scorer pursues 200 goals.
Leading the line is the program’s young star, Jordyn Huitema, who has found the back of the net 15 times since making her senior debut in 2017. The OL Reign forward “thrives off crosses and deliveries into the penalty area,” utilizing “excellent timing of movement, strong heading power, and proficient finishing.” She covers the width of the field and will get into physical battles with opponents. Her passing and target playing are also adequate for the target role, drawing defenders and finding teammates in open space.
Canada is at the end of a golden generation, attempting to build a bridge to a younger group while simultaneously phasing out and relying on aging veterans. The hosts have already begun this process, with all of the expected bumps and bruises along the way. This match will likely serve as the biggest test for the USWNT at the SheBelieves Cup, one of the final opportunities to kick into high gear ahead of the summer’s looming World Cup.
The match is scheduled for Thursday, February 16th at 7:00 p.m. Eastern, 4:00 p.m. Pacific. Viewing options include HBO Max, Telemundo, Peacock, Universo, and FUBO TV (free trial).