Canadian youngsters shine in CONCACAF win

Canada's Rebecca Quinn (5) celebrates with Canada's Melissa Tancredi after scoring a goal against Guatemala during the second half of a CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament soccer match Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016, in Houston. Canada won 10-0. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

It’s tough to say the Canadian women’s team has been truly tested thus far at the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament.

They defeated their first two opponents, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago, by a combined score of 11-0. Tuesday’s meeting versus Guatemala was no different.

Melissa Tancredi, Gabrielle Carle, Janine Beckie, Nichelle Prince and Rebecca Quinn all found the back of the net and backup goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe earned a clean sheet.

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Here are my observations from Canada’s 10-0 victory over Guatemala to claim top spot in Group B:

Spreading out minutes
Coach John Herdman elected to rest most of his starters, including captain Christine Sinclair and No. 1 goalkeeper Erin McLeod. As a result, Stephanie Labbe made her 24th appearance between the pipes, while veteran Rhian Wilkinson wore the arm band. Rebecca Quinn saw her first action of the tournament in a central midfield role, while Gabrielle Carle, Janine Beckie, Nichelle Prince and Jessie Fleming were all in the starting XI.

The youngsters showed their hunger to score.

Carle netted her first senior goal to give Canada a 2-0 lead at the 27 minute mark. The 17-year-old displayed her ability to go 1-v-1 and get in behind defenders over the course of 90 minutes. Her drive is impressive and surely her enthusiasm for scoring will be infectious going forward.

Prince had many touches and brought in the ball nearly 40 yards unscathed to neatly tuck it in one of her three on the night.

Beckie took ownership on set pieces and had a lovely first-touch finish on Canada’s third tally.

Quinn not only scored her first, second and third senior goals for a hat trick, but also showed her versatility playing in the middle. She’s suited up as a centre-back in the past, but has experience in both positions in the NCAA ranks.

And let's not forget Fleming, as the 17-year-old midfielder was active with an 88 percent passing accuracy rate, the highest on the team.

Partnership formed
Prior to the start of the tournament, I wondered how the coaching staff would approach the centre-back position. Who would be partnered with Kadeisha Buchanan? Things are now clearer. Shelina Zadorsky looks to have found a home on Buchanan’s left. Despite a number of lineup changes over the span of three matches in Houston, one constant remained: the duo of Buchanan and Zadorsky.

Although Zadorsky is three years older than Buchanan, the latter has significantly more experience with the senior side. The trio of games has allowed Zadorsky to find her comfort level and learn how to communicate with her partner. At the ages of 21 and 24, respectively, the two will have a chance to grow together. Not to be overlooked is Zadorsky’s strength on the left side. When I spoke to her a month ago, she told me she prided herself on lefty.

Making it count
The final numbers show Canada with a possession rate of 68 percent, which was indicative of the score and the fashion in which the Reds dominated.

Canada finished with a pass accuracy rate of 91 percent at the end of the night.

Of the 33 shots, 10 ended up in the back of the net, seven others were on target, one was off the woodwork and 15 were off target. Beckie had the most shots with 11, followed by Prince (seven) and Carle (five).

Notes: With the group stage in the books, Sophie Schmidt finished with the most completed passes for Canada at 126. Nichelle Prince, Melissa Tancredi, Ashley Lawrence and Rebecca Quinn led the way with three goals each and, Josee Belanger had the most assists with three. Canada had just one caution over three matches and it went to Desiree Scott… Up next for Canada is a must win semifinal versus Costa Rica. The winner qualifies for the Rio Olympics. Although Canada has never lost to Costa Rica, don’t let that fool you. The Central American nation is quickly making a name for itself with recent MAC Hermann winner Raquel Rodríguez consistently finding the back of the net, and 29-year-old coach Amelia Valverde at the helm. They also had a solid FIFA Women’s World Cup debut last summer with two draws and one loss.