4 things to watch as CanWNT begin Concacaf W Championship prep vs. South Korea
TORONTO – The sole preparation match for the Canadian Women’s National team ahead of the CONCACAF W Championship in July is quickly approaching as the team hosts South Korea at BMO Field on June 26.
With eyes also set on the 2023 Women’s World Cup, here are four things to watch for in this summer's tournament:
Goalkeepers to test the waters?
Stephanie Labbé’s career has wrapped up leaving a gap in between the sticks on the national team. San Diego Wave’s Kailen Sheridan is largely considered the new starting goalkeeper but Sabrina D'Angelo (Vittsjö GIK) plus new additions Anna Karpenko (Harvard University) and Lysianne Proulx (unattached) creates threatening competition.
“Erin [McLeod] hasn't retired, but she's definitely collectively made that decision around focusing on club,” said Priestman in a recent press conference. “But I think it’s exciting we get to bring in two youth goalkeepers who’ve had an incredible showing at youth level.”
“I think Kailen has been listed as the number one, she's had an incredible season but so has Sabrina … Every player has to earn the right to start and I've been very big on that in the whole time I've been in. Players haven't started that maybe would be expected to, so I don't want to shut the door on anyone pushing Kailen.”
Fleming to hit 100 caps
After what seems like an eternity spent leading Canada’s midfield, Jessie Fleming is set to become the latest player to reach 100 national caps. Here is a subtle reminder she is only 24 years old.
The achievement solidifies her importance within the national team while simultaneously highlighting the hope for the future. Following an electrifying run at Tokyo 2020, where the London, Ont. native scored three decisive penalties on route to the gold medal, it seems we have entered a new era for Fleming. One where her heaps of experience carry forward into leadership.
How she dictates Canada’s midfield against South Korea and at future tournaments will testify to that.
Club connections to thrive at national level?
Transfer activity this summer has seen more Canadians connect at club level and this may have a positive impact on the national scale.
Janine Beckie departed Manchester City to join Christine Sinclair’s Portland Thorns while Evelyne Viens and Gabrielle Carle link up together at Kristianstads DFF. The NWSL duo notably combined for a goal in one of their first matches.
Additionally, Kadeisha Buchanan’s transfer to Chelsea means she will have the opportunity to play alongside Fleming, while Jorydn Huitema has made a switch over to Quinn's OL Reign in the NWSL, too.
Before the match, Priestman specifically praised the effort Viens and Carle have demonstrated on the pitch in Sweden.
“I can’t ignore Evelyne Viens’ goal-scoring ability you’re seeing in that league. Evelyne was on fire before the Olympic Games then went back to the NWSL, wasn't playing much. When you're a number nine that looks to score goals and you're not getting the minutes and the goals, I think it started to show in our environment. So I'm excited, she's making a real push, from afar I’m watching and her goal-scoring ability is standing out.”
“Gabby’s playing wide of a back three, which will be different than what she would play for us, so it'll be interesting to see how she comes in with that … I'm happy they've had a great number of minutes coming in.”
Balancing potential versus performance
The 28-player roster will be cut to 23 for the CONCACAF Championship meaning this clash against South Korea is a strategic move to assess players.
Finding the right squad balance for this summer’s tournament as well as the 2023 Women’s World Cup is a task Priestman does not take lightly.
“It would be short-sighted of me to take players that I don't think can make it to that World Cup. I've always got that in the back of my mind,” said Priestman.
“Particularly when you've got younger players who maybe haven't had as many minutes and all these sorts of things, it's the balance of potential versus performance. When you're going into a major tournament, I very much approached the Olympics like that, I'm going to pick a team that can win now - I have to do that. And I also have to invest in some players.”
“It's a real balancing act but I can't see myself taking a player this summer who I don't see that can get us to the 2023 World Cup and do well.”
There are 90 minutes to make an impression on Priestman, which five will fall short of the mark?