So we can agree now that Canada can defend, right? They can defend.
The Canadian national women’s team did that in spades June 19 against Germany. But a great performance on the backline, highlighted by Rhian Wilkinson and a stunning performance by goalkeeper Erin McLeod, is only half of the game. Coach Jon Herdman will need to build their play in the other two thirds of the pitch in the two years before Canada host the 2015 Women’s World Cup.
Describing every event that takes place for Canada between now and 2015 as a prelude could become cliche pretty quickly. But it’s true: CONCACAF has retired the Women’s Gold Cup in favour of a standalone qualifying tournament, meaning that there are very few competitive games between now and then for the hosts. So a chance to get a blue-chip challenge like this — away to second-ranked Germany, who didn’t go to the Olympics — is a valuable chance to see what Canada needs to do in order to hang with the world’s elite teams.
The key: go forward. It wasn’t just that Germany had the balance of the play, but that Canada was powerless to even start a move. They were outshot 8-2, and Germany won a stunning 15 corners to zero pour les rouges. The passing needed to be crisper; I recall seeing slow passes roll on the carpet only to be picked off before Canada even made it past the centre line.
Part of that is power and part of that is organization. They’ve got a good solid bedrock: they’re committed to winning and pulling off tough wins against good opposition as well as frustrating offenses that should have done better. (Célia Okoyino da Mbabi was half crazy by the end.) Part of that is building an offence that works. Without Melissa Tancredi, Christine Sinclair had nothing to work with, though I really liked debutant Melissa Busque.
What they have is what they’re going to have to work with; they’re going to have to take that attitude they take to defending and spread it to a resilient attack. They’ve got time. But they’ve got to start now.
Programming note: Still dealing with hacking issues; this was sitting half-written in the can until now. If you notice anything fishy, please notify me immediately by email.