The upcoming Algarve Cup presents Canadian forward Christine Sinclair with a chance to take another step closer to becoming the all-time top scorer in international women’s soccer.
On Friday, Sinclair was named to coach Kenneth Heiner-Møller’s 23-player roster for the annual exhibition tournament scheduled to take place from Feb. 26 to March 9 in Portugal.
Sinclair, a 35-year-old native of Burnaby, has 178 goals in 275 appearances for Canada. She currently ranks second in all-time scoring in the international women’s game, behind retired American forward Abby Wambach (184 goals).
Veteran midfielder Diana Matheson (201 caps) was also named to the Canadian roster for the Algarve Cup, returning from a foot injury that sidelined her since last October.
Goalkeeper Erin McLeod (116 caps) is back in the squad after dealing with a foot injury last year.
“The return of Matheson and McLeod is great for the team both on and off the pitch,” Heiner-Møller said in a news release.
“Both veterans are important people within our team, and important players with tremendous experience on the international stage, so their return at this point is excellent news for the squad.”
With an average age of 25.5-years-old, Canada’s roster has five players with over 100 international appearances – including Sinclair and Matheson who have over 200 caps each. The squad features three teenagers in Julia Grosso, Jordyn Huitema, and striker Deanne Rose, who turns 20 during the tournament.
Canada will face Iceland in its opening Group A match at the Algarve Cup on Feb. 27. The Reds then take on Scotland on March 1.
“Iceland and Scotland are very compact teams that are hard to unlock and they both have dangerous counterattacks, so we know these are not going to be easy matches, or ones with a high score line,” Heiner-Møller said.
“Like us, Scotland is preparing for the FIFA Women’s World Cup, but for them it is their first time in the competition and they have a very talented team, who are certainly hungry to make an impact. Iceland is also a very good team, with some very talented players who bring speed and pace. Both these matches will be challenging, but great tests for us at this time in our preparations.”
Among 12 teams at this year’s competition are three nations in the top 10 of FIFA’s world rankings: Canada (No. 5), the Netherlands (No. 7) and Sweden (No. 9).
This tournament will serve as preparation for Canada for this year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup, which runs from June 7 to July 7 in France. Canada will compete in an opening round group with the Netherlands, New Zealand and Cameroon.
“We are definitely using this as an opportunity to assess players for this summer’s squad, and to look at how partnerships are solidifying within the matches, not only for those who will form the core of our squad, but also as the finishers who will have a critical role stepping on to the pitch to make a difference in big games,” Heiner-Møller said.
Seven of the 12 teams competing in the Algarve Cup will also compete at the World Cup in France.
Canada won the annual Algarve Cup in 2016, and finished as runners-up the following year.
Last year’s Algarve Cup marked the debut of Heiner-Møller, who took over from John Herdman as coach of the Canadian women’s team.
Canada’s roster for Algarve Cup
Goalkeepers: Stephanie Labbe (North Carolina Courage), Erin McLeod (Växjö DFF) and Kailen Sheridan (Sky Blue FC).
Defenders: Allysha Chapman (Houston Dash), Kadeisha Buchanan (Olympique Lyonnais), Shelina Zadorsky (Orlando Pride),Ashley Lawrence (Paris Saint-Germain), Shannon Woeller (Eskilstuna United DFF), Lindsay Agnew(Houston Dash) and Jenna Hellstrom (Växjö DFF).
Midfielders: Rebecca Quinn (Rebecca Quinn), Julia Grosso (University of Texas at Austin), Diana Matheson (Utah Royals), Desiree Scott (Utah Royals), Sophie Schmidt(unattached), Gabrielle Carle (Florida State University) and Jessie Fleming (UCLA).
Forwards: Deanne Rose (University of Florida), Jordyn Huitema (Vancouver Whitecaps FC Girls Elite), Christine Sinclair (Portland Thorns), Nichelle Prince (Houston Dash), Janine Beckie (Manchester City) and Adriana Leon(West Ham United).