Canadian skipper Christine Sinclair leads young squad against U.S.

Christine Sinclair. (Don Ryan/CP)

TORONTO — Captain Christine Sinclair will see plenty of familiar faces when she leads Canada out against the top-ranked Americans in a two-game series starting next week.

The U.S. squad features five Portland teammates who helped Thorns skipper Sinclair hoist the NWSL trophy after their 1-0 win over the North Carolina Courage on Oct. 14.

"An incredible group of girls," Sinclair said of the Thorns after winning the championship.

Now Portland goalkeeper Adrianna Franch, defender Emily Sonnett, midfielders Lindsey Horan and Allie Long and forward Tobin Heath are international rivals.

"I think for a lot of us (Canadians) playing in the NWSL now, we’ve become friends with them or teammates with them," Sinclair said in an interview. "We play with them, against them every day.

"It creates an interesting dynamic. But once you put on that national team jersey, all that’s forgotten."

Fifth-ranked Canada hosts the U.S. on Nov. 9 in Vancouver at B.C. Place Stadium before heading to San Jose for the Nov. 12 rematch.

The last time the Americans played at B.C. Place, they won the World Cup with a 5-2 victory over Japan before 53,341 on July 5, 2015.

Canada and the U.S. last met there in the championship game of the 2012 CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament when the Americans won 4-0. Some six months later, the two North American rivals faced off in an Olympic semifinal thriller at Old Trafford with the U.S. prevailing 4-3 after extra time — despite a Sinclair hat trick.

At 34, Sinclair remains a force. She played all but 17 minutes of the regular season, leading Portland with eight goals. The U.S. games will represent caps No. 260 and 261.

Sinclair will lead a 19-woman squad featuring six teenagers against the U.S. She and veteran midfielder Desiree Scott, who have 385 caps between them, account for more than half of the 731 caps spread among the squad.

The roster includes 11 veterans of the team that won bronze at the 2016 Rio Olympics. There are also four uncapped players: 25-year-old Maegan Kelly and teenagers Julia Grosso (17), Jayde Riviere (16) and Ariel Young (16).

Coach John Herdman said the young roster was in part due to chance rather than design.

Because the games fall outside the international window, coach John Herdman has not summoned European-based players like Kadeisha Buchanan, Ashley Lawrence, Erin McLeod, Sophie Schmidt, Shannon Woeller and Jenna Hellstrom.

"With that we had to dig into our depth chart," he said. "There’s definitely a couple of players there that are very exciting and some players that are getting opportunities to be part of the team."

The other teenagers on the roster are Jessie Fleming (19), Jordyn Huitema (16) and Deanne Rose (18).

Herdman plans to field his best available squad against the world No. 1 "particularly when you’re at home and your fans are coming out."

"At the same time this is the time for us to test our squad and, where we can, give these players opportunities," he added.

The average age of the roster is 23.3.

While the U.S. and Canada have played each other 56 times (the Americans lead the series 47-3-6), this is only the second time the two have played back-to-back games in a home-and-away format.

The last time Canada beat the U.S. was in 2001, a 3-0 decision at the Algarve Cup. The Canadians have gone 0-27-5 against the Americans since then.

Then again, few teams best the Americans. The U.S. record in its last 50 games, dating back to July 2015, is 41-5-4. Australia, France, England, Sweden (via penalty shootout at the 2016 Olympics) and China were the only teams to win during the stretch.

The Canada Soccer Association, in its release on the U.S. series, does note that the Canadians made the medal podium in Rio while the Americans "bowed out" in the quarter-finals.

Herdman, whose record against the U.S. with Canada is 0-7-2, says there is an excitement in the Canadian camp after getting back together for the first time since a June series against Costa Rica.

They know the challenge that awaits. The U.S. is riding a six-game win streak during which it has outscored its opposition 24-5.

"You know that if you’re not ready as a team, that a team like this can put you away pretty quickly," Herdman said. "And put the foot on the throat at the same time.

"But you know what we’ve shown as a Canadian group when our mindset’s right, we can tend to push this U.S. team as far as they can go as well. Our last five games we’ve been in the locker-room (at halftime) either at nil-all or 1-0 up. We’ve definitely made improvements against this team.

"So internally we’re looking at those solutions to find ways to prevent that U.S. team finishing strong against us, which they typically do to either tie or win the match."

The last time the two met was February 2016 when the Americans won 2-0 in the final of the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament in Houston. The game before that, the two played to a 1-1 tie in Winnipeg in May 2014.

Canada Roster

Goalkeepers: Stephanie Labbe, Stony Plain, Alta., Washington Spirit; Sabrina D’Angelo, Welland, Ont., North Carolina Courage; Kailen Sheridan, Whitby, Ont., Sky Blue FC.

Defenders: Lindsay Agnew, Kingston, Ont., Washington Spirit; Allysha Chapman, Courtice, Ont., Boston Breakers; Jayde Riviere, Markham, Ont., Markham Soccer Club & Vancouver Whitecaps FC Girls Elite; Shelina Zadorsky, London, Ont., Washington Spirit; Rebecca Quinn, Toronto, Duke University; Ariel Young, Ottawa, Ottawa Fury and Canada Soccer Regional EXCEL Super Centre.

Midfielders: Jessie Fleming, London, Ont., UCLA; Julia Grosso, Vancouver; Vancouver Whitecaps FC Girls Elite; Maegan Kelly, Kansas City & Toronto, FC Kansas City; Desiree Scott, Winnipeg, FC Kansas City.

Forwards: Christine Sinclair (capt.), Burnaby, B.C., Portland Thorns; Janine Beckie, Highlands Ranch, Colo., Houston Dash; Deanne Rose, Alliston, Ont., University of Florida; Adriana Leon, King City, Ont., Boston Breakers; Nichelle Prince, Ajax, Ont., Houston Dash; Jordyn Huitema, Chilliwack, B.C., Vancouver Whitecaps FC Girls Elite.

U.S. Roster

Goalkeepers: Jane Campbell, Houston Dash; Adrianna Franch, Portland Thorns FC; Ashlyn Harris, Orlando Pride; Alyssa Naeher, Chicago Red Stars.

Defenders: Abby Dahlkemper, North Carolina Courage; Sofia Huerta, Chicago Red Stars; Kelley O’Hara, Sky Blue FC; Becky Sauerbrunn, FC Kansas City; Casey Short, Chicago Red Stars; Taylor Smith, North Carolina Courage; Emily Sonnett, Portland Thorns FC; Chioma Ubogagu, Orlando Pride.

Midfielders: Julie Ertz, Chicago Red Stars; Lindsey Horan, Portland Thorns FC; Carli Lloyd, Houston Dash; Allie Long, Portland Thorns FC; Samantha Mewis, North Carolina Courage; Andi Sullivan, Stanford.

Forwards: Tobin Heath, Portland Thorns FC; Alex Morgan, Orlando Pride; Christen Press, Chicago Red Stars; Megan Rapinoe, Seattle Reign FC; Lynn Williams, North Carolina Courage.


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