(Frisco, TX) While the Canadian women’s national team may have a historically dismal losing record against their United States counterparts, the past several games between the two illustrate just how good the team from the north is becoming. While the U.S. Women’s national team were able to secure a 1-0 victory in their first game of 2014, Canada is shaping into a formidable foe with only eighteen months remaining until they host the Women’s FIFA World Cup.
The international friendly kicked off a year in which the U.S. is now squarely focused on qualifying for the World Cup later this fall. While the first half showed some rust on both national teams the U.S. women settled into a more offensive groove and were able to wear down the Canadian defense during the second half.
It was the 79th minute that forward Sydney Leroux broke through with the winning goal and sealed the win for the Americans. Leroux received a stellar pass from central defender Becky Sauerbrunn who made a quick run up into the goal box and caught the Canadian defense off their marks. Leroux standing by the left goal post was able to finish the play with a simple flick past goalie Erin McLeod.
Leroux who originally hails from British Columbia and has dual citizenship made the switch to play for the U.S. in 2008 and has dealt with her fair share of harassment from Canadian fans that feel that she should be lining up on the other side of the ball. Leroux hasn’t shied away from the controversy and in a multi-goal scoring spree last summer against Canada, Leroux proudly pointed to the U.S. crest on her jersey. Her celebration in Texas was much more mundane perhaps due to the fact that Leroux was reportedly asked by the U.S. Soccer federation to tone down any goal scoring festivities should she have the opportunity.
For Leroux however tonight solidified just how good the young striker is becoming as she notched her 25th international goal in only 44 appearances. With Alex Morgan nursing an injury and out for the immediate future, Leroux is proving that given a starting spot on the team she is most likely going to deliver. Leroux spoke with U.S. Soccer after the game.
“I always hope we’re going to get one. That’s how we play. We push to the very last second and I’m just happy we came out of this game 1-0. It was a very hard-fought game. It was a good game, it was physical, and I’m glad we came out on top.”
20,862 fans packed Toyota Stadium and while the score line may have been low the intensity that these two rivals display when on the pitch together has become quite electric. Canada earned three yellow cards in the first half alone and kept veteran forward Abby Wambach subdued by continually double teaming her and limiting her touches throughout the game. It was also obvious that the two month residency program instilled by their head coach John Herdman is instilling confidence in their team as they look to become one of the top squads in the world.
Tom Sermanni was pleased with the effort from his team and the second year U.S. head coach reflected this in his statements after the game with U.S. Soccer.
“I was delighted, really happy. I was a bit anxious about this game because we haven’t played a game in a long time. Players have had time off. Canada has played some internationals recently and they’ve been in residency for two months. They we’re really well prepared for this game. We were, as I expected a little bit rusty, so when I put all those factors together I was really delighted with how we played tonight.”
Sermanni is continuing to fine-tune his lineup enjoying a mix of veteran players but also giving his younger players a look as well. Morgan Brian who still has a year left at the University of Virginia earned her first start in the midfield and looked pretty comfortable in only her fourth appearance with the senior national team.
For the U.S. the next week will continue with more training in Florida before they begin a two game exchange with Russia. The first game will be on February 8th in Boca Raton. The two teams will meet again a few days later in Atlanta, GA on February 12th.