Are injuries still a concern for the CanWNT heading into 2023 World Cup?
It’s been a tough 2023 for CanWNT players and injuries.
As the start of the 2023 World Cup has rapidly approached, that has meant that several Canadians have been in a race against the clock to find themselves fit and healthy enough to participate down in Australia.
For some, their recovery timelines were too long to even have a chance at World Cup participation - a reality Janine Beckie faced early on, as she was ruled out of the tournament months ago after picking up a major knee injury in the Portland Thorns preseason, which was a big blow given her importance to this team.
Then, for others, it came down to the wire - before the final roster was announced, it was still yet unsure if Desiree Scott, Nichelle Prince and Deanne Rose would be in that final squad as they returned from major injuries.
Unfortunately, the race would be too tight for Scott, as she was ruled out on roster reveal day, but Prince and Rose did make it in the end, although they’re not quite at full match fitness after returning from a pair of similar Achilles' tears.
Along with Jade Rose, who was also ruled up last minute after picking up a late injury, that has left Canada without three key pieces in her, Scott and Beckie for this World Cup.
Plus, even more concerningly, as seen with the recoveries of Deanne Rose and Prince, things aren’t fully in the clear for the 23 players who made the cut either, as some of them will need to be managed throughout the World Cup.
Because of that, there are a few areas of concern heading into the tournament.
Namely, the winger depth is the big one. If Prince and Rose aren’t fully fit, Adriana Leon is the only other winger who has been to a World Cup or an Olympics, as Cloé Lacasse and Olivia Smith are at their first major tournament with Canada, leaving them with a lack of experience at that position.
Plus, Leon has hardly played this year, having seen the field for barely over 500 minutes at the club level since the fall of 2022, including just 274 minutes this year across her time with Manchester United and her short-term loan with the Portland Thorns. Because of that, her fitness could also be a concern, as she might not be able to go more than 45 to 60 minutes in games, putting more pressure on the others to step up.
The good news is that Rose should be at least good to go 30 minutes off the bench, as she was able to do that twice for Reading in the FAWSL before the end of the club season in May, but it will be a big ask for her to ramp that up to 60 or 90 minutes in a starting role at a World Cup.
And with Prince yet to see the field in a competitive setting in 2023, having suffered her injury two months after Rose’s, just going 15 to 30 minutes might be a big ask for her, that may only put more pressure on Rose to have to be able to start games, which is less than ideal.
The good news?
While there’s a lot to be concerned about between all of that, Leon has typically stepped up for her country no matter her club situation, while Lacasse looks primed for a much bigger role with this team after a fantastic club season. Then, Smith looks like she could be a real wild card, one who could grow into the tournament if eased into things properly, which could all help ease some of the pressure on Prince and Rose as they ease into a return.
Yet, this isn’t the only position of worry across the roster - the midfield is another big one, as Canada has only brought five natural midfielders in Scott’s absence, although Christine Sinclair and Ashley Lawrence can play there if need be.
Plus, two of Canada’s midfielders, Quinn and Julia Grosso, returned from injuries in the past two months, and while they appear to be fully fit and healthy for this tournament, that could be something worth keeping an eye on at that position if anything crops up.
Ditto at centre back, where Kadeisha Buchanan missed some time earlier this year, while Shelina Zadorksy only recently returned from a battle with illness, which is a bit of a concern as Canada only has only three natural centre backs on the roster between them and Vanessa Gilles after Jade Rose was ruled out. Gabrielle Carle can play there, as can Quinn, but it’d be a big ask for either of them to fill in at a key position of strength like that given it’s not their usual position.
Unfortunate news out of #CanWNT camp as Jade Rose is forced to withdraw less than two weeks away from the World Cup due to injury.— Benedict Rhodes (@BTFR17) July 7, 2023
Priestman: "We are naturally devastated for Jade and the contribution she could have made, but we are excited to see her return in the near future." https://t.co/269y7rHOIG
What that shows, however, is that Canada will need to be careful to manage their squad in this tournament, especially throughout the group stages.
If they’re able to ease the likes of Prince and Deanne Rose back into match fitness, while ensuring there are no setbacks for anyone who has recently returned from injury, they should be fine heading into the knockout round, should they make it that far.
But if they aren’t careful, they could quickly be in trouble at some key positions, ones that are already stretched thin heading into this tournament, quickly depleting their numbers, while putting pressure on an already tired squad.
Of course, that’s just the reality of this World Cup electing to only have 23-player squads, a big surprise given the gruelling club campaigns most players just dealt with, but Canada will need to be wary of that, as they load up to make a run towards glory this summer.
Head coach Bev Priestman has proven at being adept at managing rotation in these tournaments, so they’ve got that going for them, but they’ll need her to be at her very best to ensure that Canada’s 2023 injury troubles don’t end up stealing the spotlight for them down in Australia.