July 18th, 2024

Tough decisions as Bev Priestman unveils 18-player soccer roster for Paris Olympics

By Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press on July 1, 2024.

Canada's Simi Awujo, left, and Jessie Fleming celebrate winning in a shootout against Brazil in a SheBelieves Cup women’s soccer game, Saturday, April 6, 2024, in Atlanta. Canada coach Bev Priestman unveils her 18-player roster for the Paris Olympics. The eighth-ranked Canadian women open defence of their Olympic title July 25 against New Zealand. THE CANADIAN PRESS/(AP/Mike Stewart

Sydney Collins, Nichelle Prince and Quinn, winning their battle with injury, have made Canada coach Bev Priestman’s 18-player roster for the Paris Olympics.

Thirteen members of the women’s soccer squad named on Canada Day won gold in Tokyo and six – captain Jessie Fleming, Janine Beckie, Kadeisha Buchanan, Ashley Lawrence, Prince and Quinn – also earned bronze in 2016 in Rio.

The six veterans have a combined 717 caps, ranging from 149 for Buchanan to 97 for Prince.

Fifteen members of the Olympic roster were on last summer’s 23-player World Cup squad. Captain Christine Sinclair and veteran midfielder Sophie Schmidt have since retired from international football.

Collins, a defender/wingback, makes the squad after fracturing her ankle in February in the Canadian camp ahead of the CONCACAF W Gold Cup while Prince suffered a calf injury at the tournament, exiting in the 44th minute of a 4-0 win over El Salvador.

Quinn is back from a knee injury. Their last appearance for Canada – which marked a century of Canada caps for the veteran midfielder – was in the penalty shootout loss to the U.S. at the W Gold Cup on March 6.

Prince is no stranger to injury, having ruptured her Achilles in a friendly against Brazil in November 2022. The forward recovered in time to make Canada’s roster for last summer’s World Cup but only saw brief action off the bench.

The four alternates who will train and travel with the Olympic team – in case of injury – are goalkeeper Lysianne Proulx, defenders Gabrielle Carle and Shelina Zadorsky, and forward Deanne Rose.

The three outfield alternates are veterans with 100 caps for Zadorsky, 84 for Rose and 46 for Carle. Proulx is uncapped but has been a regular at recent camps. All four were on the World Cup roster.

Missing are midfielder/forward Olivia Smith, midfielder Emma Regan and forward Clarissa Larisey, who were on Priestman’s roster for June friendlies.

The 19-year-old Smith, who can play both midfielder and forward, had been thought a likely candidate because of her versatility and success in her rookie season as a pro in Portugal, where she was named best newcomer after scoring 16 goals for Sporting CP. But she and Larisey appear victims of the numbers game up front.

Priestman opted for forwards Janine Beckie, Jordyn Huitema, Cloe Lacasse, Adriana Leon, Prince and Evelyne Viens.

The return of Collins likely decided Carle’s place among the alternates.

There is also no place for veterans Desiree Scott and Allysha Chapman. The 36-year-old Scott, a defensive midfielder who has 187 caps, missed the 2023 season with a knee injury while the 35-year-old Chapman (a fullback with 99 caps) had a baby in February.

“It was a very difficult task, which speaks to the immense talent in this program,” Priestman said in a statement. “However, I believe we have a squad that blends experience and youth, is positionally balanced, and possesses incredible athleticism and football talent.

“With back-to-back games, intense heat, and Tier 1 opposition, it was really important to build a balanced team that could handle these critical factors for the tournament ahead of us.

Collins, Lacasse, Simi Awujo and Jade Rose are making their Olympic debuts.

The 20-year-old Awujo, a midfielder who plays collegiate soccer at USC, played her way onto the team with strong performances this year. Jade Rose, a 21-year-old from Harvard who was the 2023 Canada Soccer Young Player of the Year, has established herself in Canadas backline alongside Buchanan and Vanessa Gilles.

Fleming leads the side, having taken over the captaincy from Sinclair. The 26-year-old from London, Ont., has 132 caps, making her senior debut at just 15.

Canada opens defence of its Olympic title on July 25 against No. 28 New Zealand before facing No. 2 France on July 28 and No. 22 Colombia on July 31. The first two Group A games are at the Geoffroy-Guichard Stadium in Saint-Etienne with the third at the Nice Stadium.

The top two teams from each of the three groups, along with the two best third-placed sides, advance to the knockout rounds.

Canada is the only country to have reached the podium in women’s soccer at each of the last three Olympics.

“When I think back to 2012, it was this very team that inspired a nine-year-old girl to strive for greatness,” said Jade Rose. “And to have those dreams turn reality 12 years later is beyond anything I could possibly describe.

Canada qualified for the Paris Olympic in September by defeating No. 42 Jamaica 4-1 on aggregate in the two-match CONCACAF W Olympic Play-In.

“We know the rich history this program has at the Olympic Games,” said Priestman. “Many moments have inspired the young players in this group, not just in what was achieved but in how they achieved it. Those values and behaviours will continue to be critical factors in this team’s success.”

Canada is 10-1-4 since a disappointing 1-1-1 performance at last summer’s World Cup that saw Priestman’s team fail to make the knockout round. Two of the ties since turned into shootout losses to the U.S. while one became a shootout win over Brazil, which also accounted for the lone Canadian loss in regulation time since the World Cup.

Teams have until Wednesday to name their Olympic roster.

The Canadians head to Europe this week to play their final warm-ups during the July 8-16 FIFA international window that precedes the Olympic tournament.

Canada Roster

Goalkeepers: Sabrina D’Angelo, Welland, Ont., Arsenal (England); Kailen Sheridan, Whitby, Ont., San Diego Wave (NWSL)

Defenders: Kadeisha Buchanan, Brampton, Ont. Chelsea (England); Sydney Collins, Beaverton, Ore., North Carolina Courage (NWSL); Vanessa Gilles, Ottawa, Olympique Lyonnais (France); Ashley Lawrence, Caledon East, Ont., Chelsea (England); Jayde Riviere, Markham, Ont., Manchester United (England); Jade Rose, Markham, Ont., Harvard (NCAA).

Midfielders: Simi Awujo, Atlanta, USC (NCAA); Jessie Fleming (capt.), London, Ont., Portland Thorns (NWSL); Julia Grosso, Vancouver, unattached; Quinn, Toronto, Seattle Reign (NWSL).

Forwards: Janine Beckie, Highlands Ranch, Colo., Portland Thorns (NWSL); Jordyn Huitema, Chilliwack, B.C., Seattle Reign (NWSL); Cloe Lacasse, Sudbury, Ont., Arsenal (England); Adriana Leon, King City, Ont., Aston Villa (England); Nichelle Prince, Ajax, Ont., Houston Dash (NWSL); Evelyne Viens, L’Ancienne-Lorette, Que., AS Roma (Italy).

Alternates

Gabrielle Carle, Levis, Que., Washington Spirit (NWSL); Lysianne Proulx, Boucherville, Que., Bay FC (NWSL); Shelina Zadorsky, London, Ont., West Ham (England); Deanne Rose, Alliston, Ont., Leicester City (England).

Staff

Head Coach: Bev Priestman.

Assistant Coaches: Jasmine Mander, Andy Spence, Neil Wood.

Goalkeepers & Set Plays Coach: Jen Herst.

Follow @NeilMDavidson on X platform, formerly known as Twitter

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 1, 2024.

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