Canada, U.S. set to renew women’s soccer rivalry in Vancouver

Christine Sinclair talks about how the National Women’s Soccer League has altered the rivalry between the USA and Canada.

It’s always fun whenever Canada and the Unites States face off in women’s soccer.

Even though the U.S. has dominated this one-sided series over the years, the Canadians and American always seems to put on a show whenever they meet, be it in an exhibition match or a competitive game.

Lucky for us, we’ll get to enjoy a pair of Canada vs. USA encounters over the next few days. The teams will play each other in an international friendly on Thursday in Vancouver at BC Place, and again on Nov. 12 in San Jose, California.

Here’s what you need to know ahead of this two-match series.

WHERE THESE TEAMS ARE AT

The U.S. is currently No. 1 in the FIFA world rankings. The Americans were overtaken by Germany earlier this year, but regained the top spot following wins over Sweden, Norway, Brazil, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea. The Americans have won their last six games, outscoring their opponents 24-5 in that run.

Canada, meanwhile, is fifth in the world rankings, having previously climbed to an all-time high of fourth. The Reds have played nine games this year, with just two losses, including to Spain in the final of the Algarve Cup competition in April. Canada’s last two matches were in June, when they won a pair of friendlies over Costa Rica — a 3-1 victory in Winnipeg, followed by a 6-0 decision in Toronto.

THE RIVALRY

It’s a very entertaining one, but let’s not kid ourselves: the Americans have dominated their Canadian counterparts. The U.S.’s all-time record versus Canada is 47-3-6, and the Reds haven’t defeated the Americans since the 2001 Algarve Cup final. Christine Sinclair and Charmaine Hooper scored in a 3-0 win. Since then, Canada is winless in 32 games versus the U.S, with 27 losses.

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.

The last meeting between these sides was Feb. 21, 2016 when the U.S. earned a 2-0 win in Houston in an Olympic qualifier.

The first-ever match between Canada and the U.S. was played July 7, 1986, at the National Sports Center in Blaine, Minnesota. The U.S. won 2-0, but Canada rebounded with a 2-1 win two days later in the same venue.

WHO’S ON THE CANADIAN TEAM?

Captain Christine Sinclair – big surprise – made the 20-woman roster for these two games. The 34-year-old forward is Canada’s most experienced player, having made 259 appearances for the Reds. With 126 caps to her credit, midfielder Desiree Scott is the team’s second-most experienced player.

In total, there are 12 players on this squad who were members of last summer’s side that won a bronze medal at the Rio Olympics. These games fall outside the FIFA international window, so several Canadian players weren’t released by their European pro clubs, including Kadeisha Buchanan and Sophie Schmidt. Paris Saint-Germain’s Ashley Lawrence was originally left off the team, but she joined her teammates in Vancouver this week.

This is a young team, though, with the average age of the roster 23.33 years. There are six teenagers: Jordyn Huitema, Jayde Riviere and Ariel Young (all 16), Julia Grosso (17), Deanne Rose (18), and Jessie Fleming (19).

“At this stage in the planning for [the 2019 FIFA World Cup] it is a good time to provide a group of young players with the experience in preparing for and playing against the top-ranked team in the world,” Canadian coach John Herdman said.

“We are underdogs as always going into a match against the U.S., but when you have young hungry players, it brings a special quality.”

NEWCOMER MAEGAN KELLY

Canada’s roster features four uncapped players, including midfielder Maegan Kelly, a 25-year-old native of Kansas City. Although born in the United States, Kelly’s father is Canadian. She had previously reached out to John Herdman about playing for the Reds, and the Canadian coach finally invited her to camp after she signed with FC Kansas City of the National Women’s Soccer League this past April following several years spent playing abroad.

“I spent two years emailing John [Herdman] to get into camp. Every time he emailed me back, he said, ‘we need to see you do this’ or ‘we need to see you do that.’ I just made it one of my goals to be here, to take everything that he responded to me with to take it and grow with it. I wanted to get where I wanted to be — that’s here,” Kelly told Sportsnet in a recent one-on-one.

To read Sportsnet’s full Q&A with Maegan Kelly, CLICK HERE

THE NWSL EFFECT

Christine Sinclair will be facing off against five of her American teammates from the Portland Thorns of the National Women’s Soccer League in this two-game series. 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.

Sinclair explains how the launch of the NWSL in 2013 has effected the national team rivalry between Canada and the United States:

SINCLAIR EYEING WAMBACHS RECORD

With 168 goals to her credit, Christine Sinclair currently ranks second all-time in scoring in international women’s play, having moved past Mia Hamm (158) last year. Next up for Sinclair? Former American forward Abby Wambach’s record of 184 goals. No Canadian player has scored more times against the Americans than Sinclair, with 11 goals, so she could move closer to Wambach’s record by the end of these two games.

U.S. FOND OF BC PLACE

The last time the Americans played at Vancouver’s BC Place, they won the 2015 FIFA World Cup final with a 5-2 victory over Japan before 53,341 spectators.

IT’S LIKE CHRISTMAS

Canadian coach John Herman talks about what it is like to take on the United States: