3 takeaways from CanWNT's Concacaf W Championship title challenge
TORONTO – The reigning Olympic gold medallists will have to try and qualify for the 2024 Olympics via a play-off against Jamaica after losing the CONCACAF Women’s Championship final 1-0 to the United States.
Here are three takeaways from Canada's performance over the last two weeks.
The kids are alright
Despite the sour finish, one of the bright spots from this tournament was watching some of the youngest members in Bev Priestman’s squad truly make a name for themselves within the national team.
Players such as Jordyn Huitema, serial starter Jayde Riviere and Golden Boot winner Julia Grosso (three goals and one assist) exhibited their market value - and it’s only going to go up.
Huitema and Grosso, in particular, were game-changing substitutes throughout the five matches including coming inches away from finding a late equalizer against the Americans. Their initiative was applauded by Priestman after the match.
"The bounce back from the group after [the penalty] they showed that they were willing to do anything to get the result back. We gave it everything and that’s all you can ask."
STAY GOLDEN ✨#CanWNT star on the rise (and Olympic gold medalist 🥇) Julia Grosso picks up the Golden Boot award for the 2022 Concacaf W Championship with three goals to her name 🍁⚽#CWC | 🔴 https://t.co/vaNZBkxE2i pic.twitter.com/k16cWmoEBy— OneSoccer (@onesoccer) July 19, 2022
So while veterans Christine Sinclair, Desiree Scott, Sophie Schmidt, and Allysha Chapman approach the twilight of their careers, their natural replacements attest they are more than capable to step in.
They do need more opportunities to showcase their abilities consistently, but it is anticipated this will arrive shortly after earning words of encouragement from Priestman throughout the tournament.
Knowing the future is in good hands paints a promising picture.
Core defensive triangle is working
Canada’s starting backline featuring Kadeisha Buchanan, Vanessa Gilles, and goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan is arguably one of the most solid defensive triangles around.
The trio did not have an incredible amount of work to do throughout the tournament (Canada only faced 10 shots before the final), but their individual and subsequently collective performance against the United States prevented a blowout.
To stress this even further, the USWNT had an expected goal ratio of 3.14 against Canada which had 0.53.
The ever-so-composed Buchanan kept Alex Morgan quiet and was the only Canadian to play every minute of the tournament, Gilles threw her body on the line while acting as a threat on set-pieces (five shots all tournament), and Sheridan won Goalkeeper of the Tournament.
"That trust now between the backline and Kailen is there," said Priestman after the match. "And it's just the start really, and that’s the exciting part.
"Top, top, players play in big games like this and deal with threats that they've got, and I thought Vanessa was outstanding," she added.
"Then she goes and plays center-forward and she was outstanding as well. Vanessa showed her class, howed why she's there and is a big part of us moving forward."
Add in the efforts of Riviere and Ashley Lawrence on the wings too, and the back five are an incredibly vital cog in the machine that helps Canada find the success they have been.
Lack of cutting edge hurt in the end
Despite putting in a commendable effort, this Canada team won't be able to completely avoid criticism.
After a goalless friendly against South Korea before heading to Mexico, Canada dug deep and found their confidence throughout the CONCACAF tournament.
But when it came down it in the final – they couldn't find that last gear.
Against the United States, it seemed like Priestman's side was apprehensive right from kick-off and did not truly threaten their opponents until after the 80th minute.
It was too little too late in the most important game of the year and their uncharacteristic approach to the final was not something only viewers noticed, either.
"A great game, but I knew it was going to be tight. It's fine margins at this level," said Priestman.
"Do I think it was our best performance against a Tier 1 team? No," she added. "But that's what finals are about. These things happen. The most important thing for us is that we keep moving forward."
Additionally, Gilles admitted the team did not put their best foot forward for the final while Sheridan echoed the same sentiment saying the team was disappointed with the performance because the squad feels they are better than what they displayed.
The Olympic gold will forever be a cherished moment but when facing top-tier competition, Canada are still a sliver behind.
The lack of a cutting, competitive edge in matches with heaps of pressure begs more questions for Priestman ahead of the Women’s World Cup and Olympic play-off next year.
Teams like the USA, England, Sweden, Spain, and more have a collective self-assurance Canada sometimes lacks.
The sixth-ranked team in the world needs to start justifying their standing – and fast.