That’s how both Canadian women’s team coach John Herdman and his American counterpart Jill Ellis describe the sentiment when their sides meet.
They’ve battled one another across the globe, at the Olympics, at World Cups, and although Thursday’s meeting in Vancouver is just a friendly, the players on both sides know there’s intensity and plenty of passion whenever they go head-to-head.
It’s been nearly six years since Canada last played the U.S. in Vancouver. Back then the visitors came away with a 4-0 victory in the final of the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Tournament. But, there’s been plenty of change in personnel since that match.
Herdman has gone with a younger roster for this game, electing to select a number of new players to expose them to the national team. Canada will be without the services of mainstays Sophie Schmidt and Kadeisha Buchanan – they were not released by their respective European clubs because this game falls outside of the FIFA window.
“It will also be an opportunity for some of the younger members of our core, like Rebecca Quinn, Janine Beckie, Jessie Fleming and Shelina Zadorsky, to step up and take greater leadership roles,” Herdman said.
What also makes Canada versus U.S. matches so fascinating is the close company many of the players on both teams keep with one another. Some suited up together in the college environment, while others have spent years on the same professional teams.
Here’s a closer look at the North American derby throughout the years:
1 — The U.S. is the top-ranked team in women’s soccer. They were surpassed earlier in 2017 by Germany for a few months, but reclaimed and retained top spot in the FIFA world rankings with wins over Sweden, Norway, Brazil, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea. Canada sits fifth in the world after dropping from an all-time high of fourth. The Canadians have also played fewer matches in 2017.
5 — Christine Sinclair will be facing off against five of her teammates from the Portland Thorns of the National Women’s Soccer League. The Canadian captain, goalkeeper Adrianna Franch, defender Emily Sonnett, midfielders Lindsey Horan and Allie Long, and forward Tobin Heath captured this year’s NWSL title. Horan was named MVP in the championship match after she scored the winner in a 1-0 victory over the North Carolina Courage.
6 — Number of wins for Canada in 2017. The team has a record of 6-1-2. The two losses came versus Spain and Germany. Canada has outscored its opponents 17 to 7.
9 — The U.S.’s roster includes nine players who played against Canada in February 2016 during Olympic Qualifying, their last meeting.
11 — No Canadian player has scored more times against the Americans than Sinclair, with 11 goals.
23.33 — The average age of this Canadian roster. Six teenagers make up the group, with the youngest at 16, both Jordyn Huitema and Jayde Riviere. The oldest player is 34-year-old Sinclair.
47 — The U.S.’s all-time record versus Canada is 47-3-6.
168 — It’s no longer “Chasing Mia,” it’s “Chasing Abby” for Sinclair. With 168 international goals, the Canadian captain is now looking at Abby Wambach’s record of 184. Sinclair surpassed Mia Hamm (158 goals) last February.
1986 — The first ever match between Canada and the U.S. was played July 7, 1986, at the National Sports Center in Blaine, Minnesota.
2001 – The last time Canada beat the U.S. was at the 2001 Algarve Cup. Sinclair scored once, while Charmaine Hooper netted a brace. Karina LeBlanc was in goal and earned the clean sheet.
2012 — That game. Old Trafford. Olympics. Instant classic. Sinclair put on a performance of a generation. Over 26,000 fans filled the stands at Manchester’s historic stadium for the semifinal that saw the captain put three past Hope Solo, only to have Canada’s dreams of a gold medal match dashed by an Alex Morgan header in the 123rd minute. While the 2002 U-19 group piqued Canadian’s interest in the women’s game, the 2012 Olympics made this team a household name. Two members of that Olympic bronze medal side will face the U.S. in Vancouver: Sinclair and Desiree Scott.
28,255 — Over 28,000 fans were on hand at Winnipeg’s Investors Group Field in May 2014 to see Canada and the U.S. play to a 1-1 draw. Defender Kadeisha Buchanan scored for the home side, while Sydney Leroux tied the game late. In 1990, the only other time these two teams played in the Manitoba capital, just 800 watched a 4-1 U.S. victory at the Winnipeg Soccer Complex.
47,784 — The aforementioned U-19 group battled the Americans at Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium in 2002 in the final of the U-19 Women’s World Championship (the tournament was later rebranded as the U-20 Women’s World Cup) in front of a then-record 47,784 crowd. The gold medal match saw Canada fall in extra time, but it would kick-start the careers of a number of long-time national team players, including goalkeeper Erin McLeod, defenders Carmelina Moscato and Candace Chapman, along with strikers Kara Lang and Brittany Timko. Of that team, only Sinclair remains, while goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris still plays for the Americans.