CONCACAF Olympic Qualfiying: Canada v USA

Both teams are through so it’s really just a glorified friendly, right? Don’t think so. Both teams came here with a goal to qualify and a goal to re-establish themselves. The USA have less to prove but having lost on penalties to Japan in last year’s World Cup they seem to be taking a no more Mister Nice Guy approach and are setting about each game trying to impose themselves start to finish. It was an easy task until they played Costa Rica in the semi finals where they went up against a team full of resolve that held them to a 1-0 lead at the half. A lead that was a thin as the crossbar that CR smoked a shot against in the first half that, had it gone in, would have made for a more interesting second half. As it was, CR faded and the States were never threatened.

Canada, on the other hand, had their most convincing performance when they needed it most. Against Mexico in the semi finals they were confident and calm. They controlled larges swathes of the match and then when they gave up a goal to make it a 2-1 game they held their nerve added a third and cruised the last part of the game.

Canada needs this to show that they are over the hell of the last World Cup. They need a solid showing against the States to show they are still capable of performing and being competitive against the world’s elite teams. Can they get a result? A lot will have to go their way if we’re being honest. Their squad is not nearly as deep as the USWNT. They do not match up particularly well in some parts of the field but for me these are the keys for Canada to do well.

  • Deny the USA possession of the ball in wide channels. The States are brutal on teams when they can get crosses into the box. I outlined a strategy for containing them using a 4-2-3-1. That was written when I thought Canada was a lot farther from competing than the semi finals showed. I still think there’s a time and place perhaps in this game to rotate Schmidt back alongside with Scott but for now I think if they can get the ball to Sinclair at the top of the diamond playing 4-4-2 I think they’ll do all right attacking the US central defenders. I’m just not as sold as everyone else, having seen where the States conceded goals from in the World Cup, that this is not their weakness (if they have one)
  • Desiree Scott has got to be one of the most influential players on the field. She was against Mexico and as a holding mid she’ll need to be even better today.
  • The US have several well-rehearsed corner kicks. The most ‘in your face’ one is when they put four people around the opposing keeper to box her in. Add in the four defenders that usually mark these players and it’s a jungle inside the six. Erin McLeod is starting in goal today (bit of a surprise). She will need to be very physical, as will her defenders, on the first few corner kicks and fight for space. Those corners will be pinged right at her, crossbar high and the US will fancy themselves winning those with players like Wambach going up for them
  • Candace Chapman. Chapman was a monster when she had to be against Mexico and was directly responsible for saving one goal in that game with a perfectly timed sliding tackle to cut out a well placed low cross that was about to be finished. She will need to organize, lead and physically dominate in this game.
  • Roybn Gale is listed as a starter. She has to play with confidence. She’s probably there for her speed and will be expected to get out to wide players and contain crosses. She hasn’t played much and this is asking a lot of her.
  • Christina Julien. Can’t have another frustrating game. Must be on and recognize the chances will be fewer and she will need to fight more to get on the ball and be dangerous.

It looks, from the pre-game notes, like this is Canada’s lineup:

—————————McLeod—————————

Gayle—–Chapman—-Woeller——Sesselmann

Parker——Scott (holding)—-Schmidt (attacking)—Kyle

————-Julien——–Sinclair————–

Americans going with:

  • Solo
  • Mitts, Rampone, Sauerbrunn, O’Hara
  • Rodriguez, Lloyd, Rapinoe, Lindsay
  • Wambach, Morgan

First half:

  • 1-0 USA in the fourth minute. Long ball from the back flicked on by Wambach. Morgan easily outraces Woeller to the ball and then does well to brush off a semi-desperate challenge from Chapman before coolly slotting past helpless McLeod.
  • In Morgan (and Leroux if she comes on) the USA have more pace than Canada may be capable of dealing with. If Sesselmann and Gayle come in to narrow the field, the States kill you wide. It’ll be a tough game if Canada don’t control service to strikers and wide players from midfield. Right now they’re doing all right in midfield but that may not be enough
  • Julien tries to drop into a wide channel and release Sincy. Not the shape we want. That should be Parker, who needs to get more involved, laying the ball on for Julien with Sinclair staying central for the next ball across goal.
  • Julien comes close! Put through perfectly in close by Sinclair but Solo does well to come out and smother.
  • By the way, I’d be hopeless as an official media type if you’re supposed to be neutral. Just about jumped out of my seat when it looked like Julien was going to score there!
  • So far Rapinoe is probably the best midfielder on the pitch. That’s not a sustainable scenario for Canada. Need Parker and Schmidt to ask some questions off this American back four.
  • 2-0 USA. This Morgan v Woeller match up is a big problem for Canada. She blows by the Canadian centre back and crosses superbly for Wambach who bravely meets it at the near post ahead of McLeod.
  • And it’s 3-0. USA rampant now. Lloyd off post, rebound to Morgan, squares to Wambach. Goal. Canada adrift right now.
  • Woeller struggling but several are really. Kyle’s barely been involved. Parker not much better. But this really is turning into a clinic by the States. Lloyd and Rapinoe running midfield now and doing it with class.
  • Brilliant decision from Sundhage to put Morgan up front. She knew Chapman would have to mark Wambach and if Canada started Woeller ahead of Moscato, the difference in pace would show and it has.
  • First hints of frustration and nastiness now in the 34th. Julien with a hack on  O’Hara is met immediately by a crude off the ball hack on Julien by Rapinoe. Ref and AR miss both. Crowd didn’t.
  • Julien sprung by Scott after some nice possession but called offside. She was clean through. Marginal call. Replays inconclusive.
  • Julien sprung again. This time by Parker in her first incisive pass of the half. USA called for offside but it wasn’t. In clean with only Solo to beat and Solo stones her on a  great save.

So what do you do if you’re Herdman? Woeller is really struggling against Morgan but if you accept the result has slipped away do you use this as a great chance for her to learn and try to cope with a top world class striker and keep her in? I would. She’s just 21 years old and this kind of experience doesn’t come around very often. Canada’s not going to win this game. Do you do the same with Julien? How long will Tancredi be in the picture given she’s 30 years old? Same with Kyle really. She’s been non-existent but she’s only 23. Do you put 27 year old Timko in to give a bit more experience in midfield?

Canada’s only realistic substitutions come at the expense of taking youth out and putting players who are perhaps not likely to be around at the next World Cup. Could be time for Mottershead to make an appearance too although I think that may be a bit much given how good players like Lloyd and Rapinoe are.

If you’re Herdman and you think you’re still in with a shout, then you you have to put Moscato in for Woeller, Tancredi for Julien and then maybe hold on to see how the first 15 minutes of the second half look.

Gayle’s done well and Chapman has coped with the onslaught. Schmidt has been solid and Scott has generally done well but occasionally been overwhelmed. Sesselmann has kept her head above water but distribution has been desperate at times and ordinary at best.

2nd half

  • Canada opts to bring in Tancredi for Kyle. Canada go back to what worked against Mexico: Sinclair at the top of the diamond with Scott behind her and Schmidt and Parker wide. Tancredi and Julien up front
  • Cheney is in for Wambach for the States
  • Voyageurs launch into “We love you Canada, we do, we love you Canada, we do, Oh Canada we love you.” Which is nice…but that’s what Arsenal fans went with for an impressive 15 straight minutes when they got their asses handed to them 8-2 at Old Trafford earlier this season. Black humour?
  • Tancredi really throwing herself about earlier. Nice run and back heel to overlapping Schmidt leads to a near goal for Canada.
  • Gayle comes off just 8 mins in and Wilkinson takes over at right back. Not sure but Wilkinson begins her shift with a meg and a nice ball forward to Sinclair.
  • Morgan with another and it’s 4-0. Beats the offside trap according to the AR but not the crowd who boo lustily after the replay. Still Wilkinson slid and missed her, McLeod had a chance to separate her from the ball and didn’t and finally Woeller had perhaps the best chance of the three and Morgan eluded them all and slots into an empty net. Great through ball by Cheney.
  • 61′: Moscato in for ….Schmidt. She seems to have moved Scott from holding mid out to the left where Schmidt was and will play the holding role.
  • And Leroux comes in to a hail of boos. Sundhage just twisting the knife a bit now 😉
  • You can see any residue of belief has evaporated now and Canada are playing for a respectable scoreline now. Except Tancredi. She looks angry and may hurt someone…
  • Moscato dispossessed 30 yards out and it quickly leads to a Cheney half volley and McLeod’s best save of the night. Full control looks a lot like cruise control for the States right now.
  • Zero atmosphere in BC Place right now. There’s just a quiet hope the USA don’t get another goal and a feint, fairly unrealistic one that Canada somehow conjure one to break the USA shutout streak that has lasted from the first minute of their first game here.
  • All done here. 4-0 the final. The Americans technique, athleticism and confidence is just far beyond what Canada can offer. It’s still a considerable gulf between the two if this game is the measuring stick you choose. Wambach first off the US bench to congratulate teammates and commiserate with Canadians. Meanwhile Leblanc is the first to go to McLeod in the Canadian goal. Classy.

All done for now. I’ll maybe do an autopsy later on what Canada lacked and needs to address.

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8 Responses to CONCACAF Olympic Qualfiying: Canada v USA

  1. RR says:

    You’ve touched on the two glaring weak spots tonight — though rightly noted that Parker and Kyle (and I’d add Scott too) have not looked particularly sharp. Woeller absolutely does not have the pace, agility, or strength needed if she is to compete with the world’s top 20 teams — this isn’t a personal swipe, but an impassive, if not cold, observation.
    Julien in particular has not looked impressive to me in any match this tournament. She too lacks pace, and more importantly for a player up front — creativity and the ability to finish. With the benefit of instant reply at home, I’d have to say that her clean opportunity should, without doubt, have been burried.

    • Gregor says:

      I found it interesting that Herdman after the game shouldered the blame and says he got the team selection wrong while Sundhage got it right. I think he’s saying that to a large degree to protect his players but if he does believe that, then it has to raise some red flags. Why is he getting that wrong when most people right from the start were wondering about some of the decisions (like the ones you mention)?

      I’d like to know who he sees as just outside the squad of 2o picked for this and if he’s going to bring some of them in for a look because there’s too many structural flaws with this current squad to get on the podium in my opinion.

      I’d still like to see some variance from 4-4-2. Canada plays games where they are going to dominate opponents and then turn around and play a team like the USA that can dominate them. I just don’t see how they same formation can be expected to work in both scenarios. I’d never take the same formation and approach into a game against the States that I did against Cuba.

      • RR says:

        Yes, it would be interesting to have an insight into who’s on the periphery of Herdman’s radar. As Burnsie asked in another thread: “Can someone answer why coaches are selecting ‘bigger’ players when surely there are more athletic/quicker players out there with equal skill?”

        As to formation variance — you were suggesting a 4-2-3-1, I believe. Would that be for the flexibility it offers? i.e. effectively allowing the team to get six defensive players back deep while defending, yet still allowing multiple attacking options with a wider field on the attack? Or is there another benefit that I’ve completely overlooked? The only problem I could see is who’d join Scott as the other holding mid?

      • Colin Elmes says:

        RR- Number 8 would fit there nicely

  2. Colin Elmes says:

    Why is your best player upfront vs World No 1.? Why is Kyle on field to start?

    2 has been exposed for pace but frankly who in the womens game can keep up with 13? 15 is a free spirit who is probably difficult to coach but when on, watch out. We had no answer there.

    15 had a minger. Why take Schmidt off for Moscato when 15 had to go?

    Really ran out of subs. A number of them could have been removed.

    Lets be honest, they were playing Spain tonight. Said it was either going to be close(because US underperformed) or we were going to get a drubbing. Oh well. great spectacle for the womens game. We got to see the # 1 World ranked team for a week in our city and our girls accomplished what they set out to do.

    No need for an autopsy now Gregor. I did it for you.

  3. Larry says:

    Five games in eleven days, the outcome was somewhat inevitable with a squad not as deep as the USA. A more equitable result may have been 4-2. Great crowd and atmosphere at BC Place last night. Many players stayed around for an hour after the game to sign autographs. Wonderful to see, and great for the young female players in attendance. Unfortunately the officiating was sub par, and even worse when observed on the TV replay.

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