VANCOUVER – The Canadian women’s soccer team earned a rare result against the world No. 1 United States on Thursday night, claiming a 1-1 draw before 28,017 fans at BC Place.
Alex Morgan scored for the Americans before substitute Adriana Leon equalized for the home side in the opener of this two-match friendly series between the North American rivals.
Canada’s all-time record against the U.S. is now 3-47-7.
“I just think the performance completely was different,” Canadian midfielder Desiree Scott said following the match. “I never have ended [a game] against the U.S. feeling the way I did, almost like we did win.
“Just super proud of everyone who left absolutely everything on the pitch, but also just the way we built in the attack and the confidence we had on the ball and that fear of the U.S. is not there anymore, which I think is great and you can see that in the way we’re playing. The crowd was incredible. Everyone tonight just really showed up, and we’re taking steps forward for sure.”
Morgan opened the scoring for the Americans in the 30th minute, punishing the Canadian defence for some sloppiness at the back. The American forward showed genuine hunger as she attacked a loose ball in the penalty area, beating a number of Canadian players to the ball, including Shelina Zadorsky, who appeared to misjudge its movement, before firing a shot past goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe.
Arguably, Labbe could have prevented the entire play to begin with had she elected to catch a lofted ball into her area rather than punch it just outside the 18-yard box.
Leon scored a poacher’s goal to equalize in the 57th minute to bring the match level, banging home an unconventional cross from Christine Sinclair. The Canadian captain reacted smartly to hit a ball across goal after Rebecca Quinn smashed an effort off the crossbar. The play was generated off a corner kick created by a long distance shot from Janine Beckie, who hit a curling effort that American goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher did well to push out of danger.
“Honestly, all I remember was [Sinclair] kicking it towards the back post and I just helped it go in,” Leon said of her goal. “I was worried it wasn’t going to cross the line. I just remember everyone’s hands were up and we were so just so stoked that we scored to tie it up.”
Canada is hoping to use the result as a springboard to move even up the world rankings ahead of the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Canada is currently ranked fifth. The U.S. is No. 1.
“This group of women, as young as they are, have shown they’re a different breed,” coach John Herdman stated following the match.
“There’s an exciting future for Canada here. I don’t think we’ve ever seen a performance like that before, where we controlled parts of the game against the U.S. And I think if they’re honest they’ll say they got out of BC Place pretty lucky tonight.”
Beyond the goals there were other opportunities in this match.
It was the U.S. who carved out the first chance in the 11th minute. Megan Rapinoe showed her quality, managing to get a pinpoint shot off from outside the box despite being marked by three Canadians, including Quinn, who she wrong-footed with ease. The fancy footwork ultimately didn’t prove fruitful, however, as Rapinoe’s effort beat Labbe before rebounding to safety off the post.
Leon had Canada’s first opportunity in the 34th minute, finding herself with a half breakaway, but she couldn’t beat Naeher. Moments later Nichelle Prince just missed the top left corner with a shot from the right side.
Lindsey Horan showed off her power from a set piece situation, blasting a powerful free kick from a central position. Her shot was dipping, but Labbe acrobatically extended herself to push the ball over the crossbar.
Just before halftime, Quinn had a half chance, rising well to win a header from a corner, but her effort went over the goal.
In the 84th minute Canadian newcomer Maegen Kelly hit the post, as she managed to slip in behind the American defence with a well-timed run. Naeher did well to deflect the shot toward the upright.
These two teams will square off again on Sunday in San Jose, California.
“Playing at home is always a pleasure,” said midfielder Jesse Fleming. “At the end of the game, my mind wanted to play them again right away. I’m not sure how my legs feel about that. But I think the whole team, we want at ‘em again. So, I think we’re excited to get a second go at them and go after the win.”