April 25th, 2024

Canada opens CONCACAF W Gold Cup play with lopsided 6-0 win over El Salvador

By The Canadian Press on February 22, 2024.

Jessie Fleming of Canada moves past Sinead Farrelly of Ireland during their Group B match at the FIFA Women's World Cup in Perth, Australia, Wednesday, July 26, 2023. Against the backdrop of a $40-million lawsuit filed against Canada Soccer's 2018 board of directors by the association representing the Canadian women's team, 10th-ranked Canada opens play at the inaugural CONCACAF W Gold Cup against No. 104 El Salvador. THE CANADIAN PRESS/James Worsfold

HOUSTON – Adriana Leon had two goals and Cloe Lacasse scored one and set up two more as Canada cruised to a 6-0 over El Salvador at the inaugural CONCACAF W Gold Cup on Thursday.

It was a first-ever meeting in senior CONCACAF play between No. 10 Canada and No. 104 El Salvador.

Jordyn Huitema, Kadeisha Buchanan and Olivia Smith also scored for Canada, which led 3-0 at the half and could have had a bigger cushion if not for errant finishing.

Canada outshot El Salvador 23-3 (10-3 in shots on target) and had 60 per cent possession.

No. 50 Paraguay edged No. 43 Costa Rica 1-0 in the opening of the Group C doubleheader at Shell Energy Stadium.

Canada faces Paraguay on Sunday and Costa Rica on Wednesday, with both games in Houston.

Thursday’s game was played against the backdrop of a $40-million lawsuit filed this week against 15 current and former Canada Soccer board directors by the association representing the Canadian women’s team. The lawsuit alleges “negligence and breach of fiduciary duty” by the 2018 board.

Midfielder Jessie Fleming, officially appointed captain earlier this week, led the Canadians out for her 124th cap.

Longtime skipper Christine Sinclair retired from international football in December. Thursday’s game was the first for the Canadians since Sinclair’s Dec. 5 swansong in Vancouver.

Canada wasted little time Thursday with Lacasse beating El Salvador goalkeeper Idalia Serrano in the third minute. A nice touch by Leon found Lacasse flying down the right flank and the Arsenal striker rounded past one defender and then fired a shot that deflected in off another defender.

The California-born Serrano spent four seasons at UCLA as a backup ‘keeper before switching to Utah Valley University.

A Canadian turnover gifted Brenda Ceren a chance in the 18th minute but her shot was stopped by Sabrina D’Angelo.

Canada had chances to pull further ahead but failed to convert until the 24th minute with Lacasse playing provider. Her cross sliced through the El Salvador defence for Huitema to tap in for her 19th goal.

Lacasse also assisted on the third goal in the 28th minute after a Huitema feed put her behind the El Salvador defence. Rather than go for goal, Lacasse unselfishly passed to a wide-open Leon.

Honduran referee Melissa Borjas issued four yellow cards in the first half of a chippy game, with Canadians Shelina Zadorsky, Huitema and Gabby Carle all cautioned.

Canada forward Nichelle Prince had to leave in the 44th minute after pulling up going after a ball.

Canada coach Bev Priestman went to her bench in the second half, sending on Smith, Julia Grosso, Evelyne Viens and Marie-Jasmine Alidou.

Canada upped the lead from the penalty spot after a Grosso cross hit a sliding Elaily Hernandez’s arm. With Fleming, Canada’s normal penalty-taker on the bench, Leon stepped up and buried the 59th-minute penalty for her 33rd goal.

Buchanan’s header off a Smith corner made it 5-0 in the 62nd minute. It was the defender’s fifth goal for Canada and her first since the 2019 World Cup.

Smith, 19, scored her first Canada goal with a fine strike from just outside the penalty box in the 86th minute, with a lengthy video review eventually negating the offside flag that went up.

Borjas issued six yellow cards in all, three to each team.

The Canadians qualified for the tournament by virtue of their CONCACAF Olympic playoff victory over Jamaica in September.

El Salvador went a perfect 6-0-0 in League B Group B of the Road to the W Gold Cup, reaching the main field with a 3-1 final qualifying win over Guatemala last Saturday in Carson, Calif.

Eleven members of the 23-woman El Salvador roster play in the U.S., with another four in Mexico and one in Nicaragua. The remaining seven play in El Salvador.

Canada was without the injured Sydney Collins, Jayde Riviere, Janine Beckie and Desiree Scott. Normal starters Kailen Sheridan, Vanessa Gilles and Ashley Lawrence were on the bench Thursday.

The 12-country Gold Cup runs through March 10 in Houston, Los Angeles, San Diego and Carson. The group winners, runners-ups and the two best third-place finishers will advance to the tournament’s quarterfinals.

The men’s CONCACAF Gold Cup has been held since 1991 with Canada winning in 2000.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 22, 2024.

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