Deflated, Mentally Drained Canada Loses SheBelieves Cup Opener
It wasn’t the result Canada was looking for as they lost their opening SheBelieves Cup tilt to arch rival USA.
Thursday night at Exploria Stadium in Orlando, Florida saw the Canadian women’s national team begin their tournament stateside following significant distraction cutbacks and a fiscal dispute with Canada Soccer.
It wasn’t a good night for Bev Priestman and her group as they fell to the US two-Nik in front of some 25,000 fans in attendance.
Canada, who had announced they would be playing in protest after being forced back to the pitch by Canada Soccer under threat of legal action, arrived at the stadium wearing purple shirts.
Purple is the color and symbol of gender equality, with the team also writing “Enough is Enough” on shirts which they wore during warm-up and during the national anthems.
Before kickoff, both the Canadian and the American teams held hands in the circle to show support and togetherness.
Kickoff saw the home side get right to work attacking, putting pressure right away on the visitors.
In the third minute, the US had its first shot on target but Kailen Sheridan came up with a massive save on Ashley Sanchez, who’s shot was millimeters from going in.
Four minutes later the US opened the scoring when Mallory Swanson from the top of the box managed to beat Sheridan to make it 1-0 for the home team.
In the 34th minute, Swanson was at it again forcing a horrible giveaway with Sheridan out of her net waiting for a pass, with Swanson able to score into an empty net.
While the second half had no goals, though we saw a bit of a fightback from Canada – but it looked like a team who was mentally and emotionally drained.
After the game, Priestman was asked if she expected a performance like that after a taxing week.
“You think the players are superhuman?”, she asked. “I felt for what was in front of me and was frustrated on the sideline. We started flat and it’s the result of the emotional training days lost and, not to make excuses, but I think the US started really well and it was difficult and what we saw was a blend of a lot of things”.
Canada will now travel tomorrow to Nashville to face Brazil on Sunday night. Priestman was asked how she expects her team to respond to the opening loss.
“I think we need to push through and that team didn’t give a lot of effort, and that is difficult as a coach but I couldn’t fault their effort. You could see how flat they were but we need to use this tournament, and we won’t roll over and now we need to get ready for game two.”
It hasn’t been easy for Priestman, who has had to find ways to motivate her group despite the ongoing struggle with pay equity and gender equality – a topic which persisted both pre and post game.
“It’s difficult, and I am still on the sideline and I am frustrated and exhausted and they are exhausted. But, we have to find a way and this can be a reason why this team goes and wins a World Cup, and these moments make you and adversity makes you and you have to drive the group forward, but at the same time you have a group of players that feel like they are not fairly treated and with that some emotional turmoil, and I have to push the group and that’s my job and it’s a difficult situation.”
Priestman was asked to give her thoughts on the team wearing purple shirts and wristbands, and she was actually wearing one herself to show her support for gender equality.
“Obviously as a coach, I am in a difficult position. The purple represents equality and I believe in equality and I work with the players, but I also work with Canada Soccer and I believe anybody should be given the same opportunities. But it was a powerful moment, and you have strong women who stand for great values and achieved incredible things on the world stage and they are sending a clear message about what the future should be and that’s something I am behind.”
I asked Priestman if she felt there were any positives she could take out of tonight or if she felt this one was for the memory banks to be wiped.
“I think there were some positive moments and when we did what we talked about going into the game there were little spells, and I think we need to move forward. What I will say is that was game one and game two you climb again and game three you climb even higher, and that’s what It felt like to me. I am hoping some of the emotion and exhaustion can subside as we push on because this group are high performers that want to win and will want to win the next game and we need to focus on game two”.
Canada will next face Brazil on Sunday at Geodis Park in Nashville with kickoff scheduled for 6:30 pm and can be seen on OneSoccer.