July 21st, 2024

Sinclair ready for Brazil friendlies but Canada coach not saying much beyond that

By Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press on October 18, 2023.

Canada's coach Bev Priestman gestures during the Women's World Cup Group B soccer match between Australia and Canada in Melbourne, Australia, Monday, July 31, 2023. Looking to build on last month’s Olympic qualifying win over Jamaica, Canada coach Priestman names her roster for a pair of women’s soccer friendlies against No. 9 Brazil in Montreal and Halifax.THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Hamish Blair

Christine Sinclair is ready to go for Canada’s two friendlies against Brazil later this month. But coach Bev Priestman isn’t saying anything more about the future of the world’s all-time leading scorer.

“It’s obviously the question on everyone’s mind,” Priestman said Wednesday when asked about her 40-year-old captain’s future. “What I can confirm and what you see is obviously Christine is available and selected for this (FIFA international) window.

“We’ve obviously had some confidential conversations about where Christine’s at and what the future looms like. But I don’t feel like that’s my place to communicate that.”

Priestman added she was “thrilled to have her in the environment again.”

Sinclair was not definitive about her future after the World Cup this summer, essentially saying she is taking one game at a time.

The veteran from Burnaby, B.C., who has played 19 games for the NWSL’s Portland Thorns this season including 13 starts, is one of 26 players called up for games against Brazil on Oct. 28 at Saputo Stadium in Montreal and Oct. 31 in Halifax at Wanderers Ground.

Brazil is ranked ninth in the world, one place above Canada.

Sinclair was 16 when she made her senior debut for Canada in March 2000, at the time Canada’s youngest-ever player. Twenty-three years later, she has 327 caps including 312 starts. And her 190 international goals lead all men and women.

Her role has changed in recent times. She started against Nigeria and Australia at the World Cup and came on at halftime against Ireland, helping turn the tide in Canada’s favour along with fellow veteran Sophie Schmidt, who retired from international football after the tournament.

Sinclair came off the bench in Canada’s last outing, a 2-1 win over Jamaica last month in Toronto that sealed a return to the Olympics for the defending gold medallists. She did not see action in the opening leg of the two-game series in Jamaica.

Priestman has given a first call-up to Melissa Dagenais, saying the six-foot-one University of Miami goalkeeper has a lot to offer.

“Big tall ‘keeper. Great reach. All the attributes are there,” she said. “And so we wanted to invest in the future and have a chance to assess her and see what she looks like in our environment. (And) there’s other goalkeepers that we definitely also want to have a look at. Canada has been blessed with great goalkeepers and I think Melissa ticks a lot of boxes from the scouting that we’ve done.”

The graduate student from Saint-Hubert, Que., recorded her 13th career shutout on Saturday in the Hurricanes’ scoreless draw with North Carolina State. Dagenais made three saves to up her career total to 249, fourth-best in program history.

Dagenais joins No. 1 Kailen Sheridan and fellow ‘keepersSabrina D’Angelo”¯and Lysianne Proulx”¯on the Canada roster.

Midfielder Emma Regan, who plays for HB Koge in Denmark, returns to the senior squad after last being called up in 2018, when she made her debut in a 12-0 win over Cuba at the CONCACAF Women’s Championship. Fullback Jayde Riviere and forward Deanne Rose are back after missing the Jamaica playoff.

Other veterans on the squad include Kadeisha Buchanan, Jessie Fleming, Julia Grosso, Jordyn Huitema, Ashley Lawrence, Adriana Leon, Nichelle Prince, Shelina Zadorsky”¯and Quinn, who goes by one name.

Veteran midfielder Desiree Scott and forward Janine Beckie continue to work their way back from injury. Priestman says the hope is Scott will be available for the November window with Beckie returning early next year.

Fullback Allysha Chapman, who sits on 99 caps for Canada, is pregnant. Midfielder Simi Awujo, who attends USC, is not available.

Priestman said Regan was brought in for depth at defensive midfielder with Scott sidelined.

The coach said training will dictate who plays against Brazil, adding she expects “more rotation, more faces because we have to assess people now to be able to make roster selections for the Olympic Games (which open July 26).”

Canada, on goals by Vanessa Gilles and Evelyne Viens, beat Brazil 2-0 the last time they met, in February in Nashville at the SheBelieves Cup.

Canada has a 12-10-7 career record against the South Americans. Two of those wins came via penalty shootout including a quarterfinal matchup en route to gold at the Tokyo Olympics.

Brazil, coming off an eight-day training camp in September, has already announced a 24-woman squad that includes Marta, Kerolin, Debinha and Adriana.

“It’s not going to be easy,” Priestman said of the matchup.

Like Canada, Brazil came home early from the FIFA World Cup this summer. The Brazilians failed to reach the knockout round, finishing third in Group F with a 1-1-1 record after beating Panama 3-0, losing 2-1 to France and drawing Jamaica 0-0.

Veteran coach Pia Sundhage stepped down after the World Cup with Arthur Elias taking over the side.

Elias led Corinthians to four Brazilian championships and two Copa Libertadores titles.

The Canadian women last played in Montreal in October 2021, defeating New Zealand 1-0 as part of their celebration tour following the Tokyo Olympics. The last women’s national team game in the Maritimes was in May 2012 when Canada defeated China 1-0 in Moncton, N.B.

The Halifax game is already a sellout at the 6,400-capacity Wanderers Ground.

Priestman said she expects news soon about games in the remaining international windows this year.

Canada

Goalkeepers: Melissa Dagenais, University of Miami; Sabrina D’Angelo, Arsenal (England); Lysianne Proulx, Melbourne City”¯(Australia); Kailen Sheridan, San Diego Wave (NWSL).

Defenders: Kadeisha Buchanan, Chelsea (England); Gabrielle Carle, Washington Spirit (NWSL); Sydney Collins, North Carolina Courage (NWSL); Vanessa Gilles, Olympique Lyonnais (France); Ashley Lawrence, Chelsea (England); Jayde Riviere, Manchester United (England); Jade Rose, Harvard University; Bianca St-Georges, Chicago Red Stars (NWSL); Shelina Zadorsky, Tottenham (England).

Midfielders: Marie-Yasmine Alidou, SL Benfica (Portugal); Jessie Fleming, Chelsea (England); Julia Grosso, Juventus (Italy); Quinn, OL Reign (NWSL); Emma Regan, HB Køge (Denmark).

Forwards: Jordyn Huitema, OL Reign (NWSL); Cloé Lacasse, Arsenal (England); Adriana Leon, Aston Villa (England); Nichelle Prince, Houston Dash (NWSL); Deanne Rose, Leicester City (England); Christine Sinclair, Portland Thorns (NWSL); Olivia Smith, Sporting CP (Portugal); Evelyne Viens, AS Roma (Italy).

Follow @NeilMDavidson on X platform, formerly known as Twitter

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 18, 2023.

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