Sinclair one step closer to history as Canada cruises past Mexico

Christine Sinclair explains why she is excited for this version of Team Canada as it heads to France for the Women’s World Cup.

• Mexico 0, Canada 3 (Fleming 20’, Sinclair 53’, Leon 82’)
• Canada beats Mexico in Women’s World Cup tune-up match
• Christine Sinclair scores 181st goal for Canada; now 4 away from record

TORONTO – Christine Sinclair’s date with destiny draws closer, as she looks poised to make history on the biggest stage in women’s sports.

Already her country’s top scorer, Sinclair netted her 181st international goal and collected an assist to guide Canada to a 3-0 win over Mexico in a friendly on Saturday before an announced crowd of 19,610 fans at BMO Field.

Sinclair, a 35-year-old native of Burnaby, B.C., now needs only four goals to surpass retired U.S. star Abby Wambach as the all-time leading international scorer in women’s soccer. If all goes well, Sinclair will write her name into the record books next month at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in France.

Sinclair, though, remains focused not on the goal-scoring milestone but on winning the World Cup, and thus adding the one honour missing from her impressive resume, which includes 14 Canadian player of the year awards.

“It’ll be nice if and when it happens; I’m not going to lie. I’m proud of the amount of goals I’ve scored and my national team career. But, heading into the World Cup, it is by no means my focus. If it happens in France, it happens in France. If it doesn’t, we’ll deal with that later. I’m sure it will come, but as soon as we get on that plane to Europe it’s all about helping this team trying to win the World Cup,” Sinclair told reporters after the game.

The Canadian side remains unbeaten in 2019, with six wins from eight matches, and just one goal conceded. Saturday’s game was Canada’s final tune-up on home soil before competing in the Women’s World Cup. Surely, tougher times await them in France.

The Reds’ all-time record against Mexico now stands at 21-1-2. Canada is fifth in the current FIFA world rankings, 21 spots above Mexico, and the disparity between the two sides was on full display in this match. The Canadians carried the bulk of the play on the afternoon, pinning the Mexicans inside their half for long stretches as they dictated the pace of the game. Canadian goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe had little to do.

Canadian coach Kenneth Heiner-Moller, who went to his bench by making six substitutes during Saturday’s contest, praised his side for what he called “a winning performance,” and that it was exactly what his team needed ahead of the World Cup. Notably, the victory was earned without starting central defender Kadeisha Buchanan – her pro club Olympique Lyon beat Barcelona in Saturday’s UEFA Women’s Champions League final in Budapest, Hungary.

“We showed the depth of the squad, and also some of the key players – [Sinclair] being one, Desiree Scott, Jessie Fleming – just being at that level where we need them to be when we go into the World Cup,” said Heiner-Moller, who will announce his World Cup roster next week.

Sinclair also thinks highly of this current Canadian squad.

“My time on the national team has been a roller-coaster, a journey, ups and downs. I can honestly say I’ve been waiting my entire career for this team, in that they’re so talented [and] have the depth to be able to compete at World Cups and Olympics. That excites me. We’re just so much more talented than we have ever been,” stated Sinclair, who debuted for the senior team as a teenager in 2000.

Sinclair partnered with Nichelle Prince and Janine Beckie up front in a 4-3-3 formation, dropping deep and assuming more of a playmaking role in linking up effectively with her two attacking cohorts. Sinclair and Beckie, in particular, had great chemistry and displayed great tactical understanding with each other, especially on the first two goals.

Sinclair called Beckie a “world-class” player, who is easy to play off of on the pitch.

“The relationship between her and I has been something we’ve been building for four years. It just keeps getting better and better. Today, you saw it click. … If [Beckie] is not scoring goals, she usually has a hand in them one way or another,” Sinclair said.

The home team laid siege upon the visitors’ penalty area straight away, with both Sinclair and Beckie spurning scoring chances. Even with those pair of misses, it was clear the Mexicans were in store for a long afternoon.

The breakthrough came midway through the first half on a well-worked play started by defender Allysha Chapman. Beckie delivered a through ball that released Sinclair into the Mexican’s box, and the Canadian captain adroitly cut it back for Jessie Fleming to slot past goalkeeper Cecilia Santiago. It was Fleming’s eighth goal in 65 appearances for Canada.

Beckie and Sinclair nearly hooked up again early in the second-half, but Canada’s captain couldn’t connect on a header after Beckie floated a great cross to her at the far post. Sinclair made amends minutes later, latching onto a pass from Beckie and firing a low shot inside the near post from close range.

Sinclair’s 181st goal came in her 281st appearance for Canada. It was also the 16th time she scored against Mexico. Sinclair was subbed out in the 74th minute, replaced by 18-year-old Jordyn Huitema, and was given a standing ovation as she walked off the field.

Substitute Adrian Leon made it 3-0 when she scored a header off a perfect cross played into the box by Ashley Lawrence, who earned her 75th for Canada on the day.

NOTES: The FIFA World Cup in France runs from June 7 to July 7. Canada will compete in Group E, with games against No. 46 Cameroon (June 10 in Montpellier), No. 19 New Zealand (June 15 in Grenoble) and No. 8 Holland (June 20 in Reims)… Canada’s final World Cup tune-up game is against Spain in Pamplona later this month… Saturday was Canada’s first home game since it earned a 1-0 win over Brazil in Ottawa on Sept. 2, 2018… Canada is now 13-4-2 since Heiner-Moller took over from coach John Herdman in January, 2018…

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