Tough T&T next for Canada in Olympic qualifiers

Canada's Kadeisha Buchanan. (Darryl Dyck/CP)

HOUSTON, TEXAS – It wasn’t one of the tougher defensive nights Kadeisha Buchanan faced on Thursday in the Canadian women’s team’s 5-0 rout of Guyana at the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament.

While the game may not have taken a huge physical toll on the centre back, it was a test of her mental focus to not switch off and get caught asleep at the wheel.

“It’s more mentally draining than physically draining because Guyana wasn’t attacking as much, so you tend to get into a lull in positioning,” Buchanan said after Canada wrapped up training on Saturday. “You don’t take the extra steps you need to take to defend and recover so it’s more mental.

“It’s definitely hard when they’re not pressing you as much and you have that free time. You’ve just got to check in with your teammates and be 100 percent focused.”

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Buchanan and her Canadian teammates can expect a sterner test from Trinidad and Tobago on Sunday when the teams meet in Houston. Canada beat Trinidad 4-0 in December in Brazil, but this won’t be the same T&T team as they have a new coach in charge and some changes have been made to the squad.

Canada can still expect much of the possession and shouldn’t have trouble getting chances as they did against Guyana, while Trinidad will have a bit more of a bite on the counter-attack and could punish the Reds given the right opportunity.

“They have to be aware of the transition of the Trinidad team,” Canadian coach John Herdman said. “You watch them in the CONCACAF tournament in 2014 and they held the U.S. for long periods and stayed in the game and were narrowly beaten by Mexico and with Costa Rica, there was a draw with them. We know that this team, on their day, can hurt teams.”

Trinidad nearly qualified for last summer’s FIFA Women’s World Cup and have managed to punch above their weight despite lacking a lot of the funding for their program that the stronger nations in the CONCACAF region can boast.

They lost to the Americans by a goal in the group stage of that 2014 qualifying tournament and just missed a World Cup berth when they were eliminated in the semifinals in heartbreaking fashion on penalty kicks to Costa Rica before dropping a two-leg playoff to Colombia by a single goal.

Canada knows they need better crosses as they had all kinds of possession on the wings against Guyana, but their balls into the middle lacked quality. Not every team will allow as much possession as Guyana so Canada won’t have the opportunity to spurn many chances and still hope to win.

They did get two goals off corner kicks and the Canadians know that these are the times when they can work on becoming more clinical with bigger games ahead.

“We had 65 crosses the other night against Guyana and we scored one goal from them so the girls had a little chuckle about that but there’s some serious searching around what we have to do in and around the box,” Herdman said. “We’ve got to start putting them away. All it would have taken the other night was an early goal on the breakaway and I think Trinidad can do that to you. They can punish you if you don’t take your chances.”

These games are a chance for Buchanan to get some more playing time with fellow centre backs she wouldn’t have tons of experience playing with before.

With Lauren Sesselmann, Carmelina Moscato, and Emily Zurrer all omitted from the squad for the tournament, Buchanan started the Guyana game with Shelina Zadorsky. Rebecca Quinn is also an option.

Buchanan and Quinn were at the heart of the Canadian back line at the 2014 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Canada. Buchanan also worked with Zadorsky at last summer’s Pan American Games. All three players have lots of games in their future and the three could form the core of the heart of the Canadian back line for years to come.

Buchanan and Quinn still have one year left at NCAA schools West Virginia and Duke while Zadorsky was allocated to the Washington Spirit of the NWSL.

“They’re different players and have different personalities but at the end of the day, they each get the job done and we get shutouts,” Buchanan said. “I think the end game is the game, it’s just we do different things to achieve it.”

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