In Whitby we trust – the kids (and the vets) are all right in Canada Soccer, post Sinclair

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Published March 4, 2024 at 4:18 pm

Olivia Smith
Olivia Smith

Whatever seeds of doubts that may have existed with Canada’s national women’s soccer team were dispelled quickly during the CONCACAF W Gold Cup, now underway in San Diego.

Canada has been perfect so far heading into Wednesday’s semi-final match against arch-rival U.S.A., with a tournament leading 14 goals scored for and is the only nation yet to concede a goal in the tournament.

The performance is due in large part to newcomers like Olivia Smith of Whitby, who has two goals and two assists and has provided head coach Bev Priestman with a new weapon in sublime set piece deliveries; and veterans determined to put a less than stellar World Cup last year – soccer legend Christine Sinclair’s final international appearance – behind them.

Leading the charge is Mississauga’s Adriana Leon, who leads all scorers with five goals, including a hattrick against Paraguay and a pair vs El Salvador, newly anointed captain Jessie  Fleming (London), who has two assists on perfectly placed chips; Sudbury’s Chloe Lacasse, with two goals and three assists; and goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan of Whitby, whose incredible point blank, extra time toe save on Costa Rica’s Melissa Herrera saved Canada from certain defeat in the quarter-final against Costa Rica.

Canada would win the match in the 104th minute on glancing header by Evelyn Viens from a Fleming chip.

Sheridan’s save was the stuff of legend, with the video posted and reposted numerous times, and one incredulous fan declaring that the San Diego Wave ‘keeper’s right boot “needs to be enshrined in the Canada Soccer Hall of Fame!”

For Smith, the tournament is a bit of a coming out party for the 19-year-old, who has been on fire in her first year playing pro in Portugal, scoring in her debut and now with six goals in 12 games for Sporting CP.

Her goal in the tournament opener against El Salvador (a 6-0 win) was the first of her senior international career.

Sheridan has 46 caps for Canada. She appeared in one game in relief of starter Stephanie Labbe in Canada’s gold medal performance at the Tokyo Olympics and has been Canada’s starter ever since.

Leon, Fleming and defender Kadeisha Buchanan (Brampton) were named to the Group Stage Best XI at the tournament, with Leon earning ‘Game Changer’ honours as well.

Adriana Leon

Adriana Leon, Canada – Leon finished the group stage as the leading scorer in the tournament with five goals. She bagged a brace in the opener against El Salvador and then notched a hat-trick against Paraguay. She also had two assists and was a clear choice for the Group Stage Game-Changer.

Jessie Fleming, Canada – Fleming always shines bright in big Concacaf matches and the group stage was no different. In three games and 194 minutes, she made six steals, took three shots, contributed an assist and completed over 87 percent of her passes.

Kadeisha Buchanan, Canada – Canada finished the group stage with a perfect record thanks in large part to Buchanan, who was an anchor on a back line that allowed no goals in the three games. Buchanan had two steals, three clearances and a goal.

Game time Wednesday against the Americans is 10:15 ET. The gold medal game will be played Sunday, with the Canada-USA winner taking on either Brazil or Mexico.

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