HOUSTON, TEXAS – Trinidad and Tobago was supposed to be Canada’s toughest opponent of the group stage at the CONCACAF women’s Olympic qualifying championship.
T&T ended up not really being much of a challenge at all.
Canada has still yet to face a real test at this tournament as it clinched a spot in the semifinals with a comprehensive 6-0 dismantling of Trinidad on Sunday at BBVA Compass Stadium.
The most notable of the six goals that Canada got from six different scorers was the 159th career strike from captain Christine Sinclair that moved her ahead of Mia Hamm on the all-time international goal scoring list.
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“It’s so nice to get it off my back. It’s been a couple games without scoring a goal and it kept weighing on me a little bit and you guys [the media] are continually asking me about it,” Sinclair said. “So it’s nice to get it out of the way and allow my team to focus on our focus for this tournament which is qualifying for the Olympics.”
Diana Matheson and Melissa Tancredi scored in the first half and Sinclair, Kadeisha Buchanan, Janine Beckie, and Jessie Fleming found the net in the second half to give Canada 11 goals in the tournament after they beat Guyana 5-0 on Thursday night.
Sinclair didn’t start this game, coming on as a sub just past the hour mark. The Canadian captain scored two minutes after coming on the field when she was given acres of space in the Trinidad penalty area and beat goalkeeper Kimika Forbes with a low shot at the short side.
“Mia Hamm was just so big and such an amazing player and now Christine’s past her and I have no doubt she’s going to pass Abby [Wambach] eventually,” said Matheson, who wore the captain’s armband at the start of the game with Sinclair on the bench.
“For her to score that many goals over the years is an incredible accomplishment. I think it’s pretty unbelievable what she’s done.”
Wambach retired late last year with 184 international goals for the United States and Sinclair has given no indication that her playing days are coming to an end anytime soon.
Canada had been warning how wary they were of Trinidad’s ability at stinging on the counter-attack better than Guyana did on Thursday night.
But they probably didn’t count on having an opponent whose backline melted away on a number of occasions. Trinidad allowed the Canadians ample time to pick their spots without any real involvement from a back line that was deplorably porous, especially in the second half.
“You can’t compare what Trinidad have got compared to Canada. They do a hell of a job to get the team out and even compete so I fully respect the coaches,” Canadian coach John Herdman said. “This is the way it is and you see it in Europe when England will go play Kazakhstan and these other countries that aren’t at the same level and don’t have the same resources.”
Trinidad did get a chance on the half hour mark when they forced a turnover from Desiree Scott. Goalkeeper Erin McLeod came up big to make the save and the more the game went on, the well-regimented and fitter Canadians took advantage of the tiring Trinidad squad.
Tancredi’s goal was her first since the London Olympics in 2012 and marked another instance of Trinidad being completely absent in their defensive duties. It snapped a 24-game goalless drought for the veteran forward.
The goal came as a result of an inch perfect cross in from Ashley Lawrence to be sure. Nobody tracked Tancredi’s run from the edge of the penalty area and she was all alone to head home from in close.
Tancredi declined a media request after the game.
In other Group B action from earlier in the day, Guatemala took the early lead but couldn’t hold on and was beaten 2-1 by Guyana. It’s the first ever win for the Guyanese at an Olympic qualifying event.
Canada plays Guatemala on Tuesday night in advance of next Friday semifinal, which will determine whether or not the Reds will go to the Rio Olympics.