April 13th, 2024

In its stiffest test yet at the CONCACAF W Gold Cup, Canada renews rivalry with U.S.

By Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press on March 5, 2024.

Canada's national women soccer coach Bev Priestman, centre, runs practice Thursday, October 26, 2023 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

After facing opponents ranked 50th or worse at the CONCACAF W Gold Cup, Olympic champion Canada renews its rivalry with the second-ranked U.S. on Wednesday in San Diego in the tournament semifinal.

“You have to respect, obviously, the quality that they’ve got,” said Canada coach Bev Priestman. “And it’s the test that we need.

“You think where we want to be July 25th (the start of the women’s football tournament at the Paris Olympics), it’s going to take these tests along the way like we’ve had with Brazil and other top nations that really stretched us. We want to be stretched. These are the games you live for. As a coach, as a player. And it’ll be an exciting one.”

The early semifinal at Snapdragon Stadium sees No. 11 Brazil take on No. 35 Mexico. Brazil has held the upper hand in the past with a 14-2-1 career record against the Mexicans, who last won in 2019 at the Universiade Tournament by a 2-0 score.

While the 10th-ranked Canadians dispatched the Americans 1-0 in the Tokyo Olympic semifinal in August 2021, their career record against the U.S. is 4-53-7. Still the 18 meetings since 2011 – during which Canada has gone 1-14-3 — have featured three ties, six one-goal wins for the U.S. and one one-goal win for Canada (at the Tokyo Olympics).

The Americans have won the two meetings since Tokyo, 1-0 in the CONCACAF W final in July 2022 and 2-0 in the SheBelieves Cup in February 2023 (when the Canadians were at loggerheads with Canada Soccer over lack of progress in labour negotiations).

Priestman just wants her players to be themselves Wednesday.

“Us at our best, giving our best on a good day, we can beat the States,” she said. “That’s all I’m going to ask of the group – is to take our identity, our strengths into this game. Go and deliver them. Go and be as brave as you were (in Tokyo) … We do that, we win the game.”

The U.S. is currently a team in transition, upset 2-0 by Mexico in the group stage.

“We’re very familiar with Canada “¦ It’s just one of those opponents that you play so consistently that we know what to expect,” said U.S. interim coach Twila Kilgore. “We can expect a battle.”

Emma Hayes, currently in charge of England’s Chelsea, is set to take over the U.S. starting in June with friendlies against South Korea in Commerce City, Colo., and St. Paul, Minn.

Kilgore, who will join Hayes’ staff as an assistant coach, has been in charge since Vlatko Andonovski stepped down last August. Kilgore, an assistant under Andonovski for 1½ years, is the first American-born woman to earn U.S. Soccer’s top-level Pro Licence.

The Canadians advanced to the knockout round as the top seed after defeating No. 104 El Salvador, No. 50 Paraguay and No. 43 Costa Rica in Houston by a combined score of 13-0.

That meant a rematch with Costa Rica, after the Central Americans became the eight seed after winning a drawing of lots with Puerto Rico. The Costa Ricans proved to be a tougher out in the quarterfinals, with Canada needing extra time before Evelyne Viens scored in the 104th minute for a 1-0 win Saturday in Los Angeles.

The U.S., advanced as the fourth seed, defeated No. 23 Colombia, 3-0 in a chippy contest – there were seven yellow cards issued, including four to Colombia – with the fifth seed Sunday.

American defender Tierna Davidson, asked if she thought the semifinal might be more football and less theatrics/attitude, suggested she still expected some niggle against the Canadians.

“There’s definitely still going to be some of the getting under each other’s skin because it’s a rivalry and that’s just kind of how it goes,” she said. “The game of soccer is not just with the ball. It’s also emotional and that’s just what kind of happens in these games. It’s an exciting part of the game.

“But it’s about the balance of keeping our heads and maintaining our goals that are right in front of us. Playing a little bit of that game but also playing a game with the ball “¦ It’s always a fun rivalry game. We’ll see what happens.”

Canada’s Jessie Fleming, Vanessa Gilles and Viens were named to the tournament’s team of the quarterfinals.

Follow @NeilMDavidson on X platform, formerly known as Twitter

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 5, 2024

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