2017 was a year of transition for Canadian women’s soccer team

Canada's Christine Sinclair, centre. (Darryl Dyck/CP)

2017 was a year of transition for the Canadian women’s soccer team.

There was an ushering in of young talent with a number of debuts, while the team said goodbye to a handful of veterans who helped push the program to fifth in the world FIFA rankings.

Canada finished the year with 7-2-3 record, which included wins over Norway, Sweden, Russia, Denmark, Mexico and two against Costa Rica. The squad closed out the year in style, coming back from a two-goal deficit by scoring three times in the span of 15 minutes to beat Norway 3-2 — the first ever victory for Canada over the Scandinavians.

Here’s a closer look at the year that was…

HISTORY MADE
Defender Kadeisha Buchanan became the first Canadian to capture the UEFA Champions League title IN 2017. She and her club, Lyon, won the championship by defeating fellow Canadian Ashley Lawrence and Paris St-Germain on penalties.

That was one of the many highlights for Buchanan in 2017, as she was fittingly named Player of the Year by Canada Soccer. The 22-year-old also became only the second Canadian in history to win the MAC Hermann Trophy as the top NCAA player, following in the footsteps of Christine Sinclair.

Speaking of Canada’s captain, Sinclair hoisted her second National Women’s Soccer League title after her Portland Thorns defeated the North Carolina Courage in the championship game on Oct. 14 to become the first Canadian to win the trophy twice.

MILESTONES
Ashley Lawrence became the 33rd player to make her 50th international appearance for Canada on March 8 versus Spain.

Stephanie Labbé earned her 20th clean sheet when Canada beat Costa Rica in Toronto on June 11. The goalkeeper played the first half of the 6-0 win.

It was fitting that Desiree Scott suited up in her 125th game this summer in her hometown of Winnipeg when Canada hosted Costa Rica.

Janine Beckie scored the 20th goal of her senior career in the team’s final showing against Norway. She was Canada’s leading goalscorer for the second straight year with eight goals in 12 games.

No one logged more time on the pitch for Canada this year than defender Shelina Zadorsky. She played 1,080 minutes over 12 matches.

WELCOME ABOARD
Eight players made their senior squad debuts in 2017. They included Sarah Stratigakis, Alex Lamontagne, Lindsay Agnew, Jordyn Huitema, Maegan Kelly, Ariel Young, Jayde Riviere and Julia Grosso.

The team also said “welcome back” to Jenna Hellstrom, Amelia Pietrangelo and Shannon Woeller. All three of them have spent time playing professionally overseas and were called into their first camps after many years.

THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES
Canada’s first game of 2017 was also the final match for Melissa Tancredi, Rhian Wilkinson and Marie-Eve Nault. Head coach John Herdman elected to give Nault the captain’s armband that January night versus Mexico in Vancouver — a wonderful tribute to a defender who provided instrumental depth in helping capture Olympic bronze for Canada in 2012. The three players combined to represent Canada in 374 international matches over their lengthy and successful careers. Wilkinson is now a coach with Canada Soccer, Tancredi has begun her chiropractic career in Vancouver, while Nault continues to work in the sports field in her native Quebec.

Canada Soccer also honoured Olympic medalists Josée Bélanger, Jonelle Filigno, Robyn Gayle, Kaylyn Kyle, Lauren Sesselmann, Brittany Timko Baxter, Kelly Parker and Chelsea Stewart throughout 2017.

LOOKING AHEAD TO 2018
As Canada closed out 2017, Herdman stated he wanted to see more consistency in terms of a lineup next year.

“Building those connections between players is what produces the real quality I know we can see from this team,” he said.

That will be a significant factor as Canada prepares for the CONCACAF Women’s Championship to qualify for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France.

The CONCACAF Women’s Championship will take place in October and while the location has not yet been officially announced, it is expected to be hosted by United States. The top three teams will qualify for the World Cup in France.

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.