CanWNT head coach Bev Priestman: “That 18-player roster is definitely keeping me awake at night”

Speaking to the media after Canada Soccer announced the women’s national team roster for their June friendlies, head coach Bev Priestman touched on several topics, including the return of Kadeisha Buchanan to the national team, the status of Diana Matheson’s position in the squad, what the goals for this camp are, and when we might know the final Olympic roster, among other things.

Here are some of the highlights.

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The return of Kadeisha Buchanan

To this point, Bev Priestman has been unable to get a first hand look at Olympique Lyonnais defender Kadeisha Buchanan, usually one of the first names on the team sheet for Canada.

She missed the past two camps under Priestman, for various reasons, but is now returning at a great time as Canada look to tune up ahead of the Olympics. The reigning Canadian Player of the Year, Buchanan will be vital to Canada’s success in Tokyo, and Priestman says she’s glad her defender is back.

“I’m really excited to get Kadeisha in,” Priestman said. “What Kadeisha brings on the pitch speaks for itself, but I also very quickly got to learn what Kadeisha can also bring off the pitch. The group love Kadeisha, and she’s definitely in the leadership group, she brings some leadership qualities for such a young player.

“I think the centre-backs stepped up without Kadeisha and it’s given me a great headache to know what partnerships work in different games but I think Kadeisha’s quality is only going to boost the squad, so I’m excited to get her in.”

Injury status of Diana Matheson

After suffering a foot injury, national team stalwart Diana Matheson isn’t in this camp, and likely won’t be on the plane to Tokyo.

With the Olympics just two months away, her injury recovery is “not where it needs to be.”

“Unfortunately I think it’s gonna be very unlikely for Tokyo for Diana,” Priestman said. “Which is a great loss for Canada, and this particular tournament. Her experience, and you know just what she brings to the group, I don’t really need to touch on that but unfortunately I don’t think she’s going to be ready for Tokyo.”

Matheson has played 206 times for Canada since making her debut in 2003, including scoring the bronze medal-winning goal at the 2012 Olympics.

Canadian national team midfielder Diana Matheson, left. (Photo: Canada Soccer)
Canadian national team midfielder Diana Matheson, left. (Photo: Canada Soccer)

 Such strong competition in goal is “a great problem to have”

Canada have a lot of depth in goal, and this camp will be a chance for two of them to book a spot in the side ahead of the Olympics. Kailen Sheridan and Stephanie Labbé appear to be the frontrunners for the two spots, as they’re the only two to have played under Priestman to this point — Sheridan got 10 minutes in the first game of the Priestman era before she injured her quad, with Labbé playing the remainder of that match, and every minute since.

Also going to Spain for this pre-tournament camp are Sabrina D’Angelo and Erin McLeod. Only two will make it into the final 18-player squad, with one also to be named to a group of alternate players.

“It’s difficult but it’s a great problem to have,” Priestman said. “Kailen, to me, when I watch her now,  you know you wouldn’t know she’d been out in the NWSL. I think that’s great to see.”

“Steph, in the last few games for us, was outstanding. Those two [have] definitely done a great job and then you go watch Erin play last week, and was outstanding, made some great saves too. And Sabrina, [it] will be the first time for me to have some Sabrina here.”

Priestman said that the number one spot is “wide open”, like most positions.

Expectations for these two matches

Priestman says that Canada’s two matches in the upcoming window, against the Czech Republic and Brazil, will be challenging and a good test ahead of this summer’s Olympic tournament.

“First Czech Republic, they’re a good side,” she started. “I had the experience of playing them with England, it was a 3-2 game, an awful game to be quite honest, but they were a good team, and you know not to be underestimated.

“Definitely a different style to the Brazilians, so that’ll give us another problem, and so that so that game we can’t take lightly.”

Canada played Brazil at the SheBelieves Cup in February, falling 2-0, and Priestman is looking forward to getting another crack at them.

“I think that’d be a great test for us,” she added. “Brazil have done well of late and so I think that’d be really good test for us, to turn around the Czech Republic game then into Brazil, two different opponents, turn around very quickly, very similar to what we’ll face in the Olympics.”

While Canada will want to win these matches, Priestman also needs to give certain players a shot, to help her get a better idea of who’s going to Tokyo.

“I think it’s about now zooming in a little bit on the Tokyo Olympic Games, but at the same time, seeing players that I might need to see to answer some questions,” she said.

“That 18-player roster is definitely keeping me awake at night. It’s not making it easy for me, which is a good problem to have, I guess.”

When we can expect the Olympic roster to be announced

Other countries, including Team GB, who Canada will face, have began announcing their rosters for Tokyo 2020, and Canada won’t be far behind them.

This camp will act as a final chance for players to win a spot, and a chance for Priestman to get a look at everyone one last time before the Games. She says that she will finalize the roster within about 10 days of the camp ending.

“It will be after this camp, probably the within 10 days after this camp finishes,” she said. “Definitely before the Olympics I would like to go into preparation camp really clear, allow the players that time to prepare and get their lives in order, and there’s a quick turnaround.