MATCH ANALYSIS: CanWNT settle for draw in second match of Summer Send-Off Series against Mexico

Final Score: Canada 1-1 Mexico
Goalscorers: Buchanan 48′; Ovalle 78′
International Friendly — Summer Send-Off Series

Match in a minute or less

The Canadian women’s national team drew 1-1 with Mexico at BMO Field on Tuesday night, in the second and final game of the Summer Send-Off Series.

After a scoreless first half, Kadeisha Buchanan opened the scoring for Canada in the 48th minute, heading home a cross into the box from fellow centre-back Shelina Zadorsky while both were high up the pitch for a set piece. Simi Awujo nearly doubled the lead for Canada 20 minutes later, firing a low show inches wide of the Mexican net, something of a warning shot for the visitors as Canada started to pick up more momentum.

The visitors equalized in the 70th minute, however, on an outstanding finish from Jacqueline Ovalle. After Canada gave the ball away in midfield from a throw in, Mexico counter-attacked quickly. The ball found its way to Ovalle, who took an audacious shot from distance, which sailed over Sabrina D’Angelo to tie things up at 1-1. That’s how the match would end despite a late push from both sides.

Tuesday’s match was the final match on home soil for Canada, who now turn their attention fully to the Olympic Games in Paris, and their first match on July 25.

Three Observations

Clinical finishing in the final third still lacking

Just as was the case in Montreal a few days prior, Canada struggled to take advantage of their chances at BMO Field on Tuesday night, as Bev Priestman’s wish for more consistent clinical finishing wasn’t granted.

Canada had nine shots in the first half, but only managed to get one on target, a near-post redirection from a corner kick that Esthefanny Barreras was able to stop with a reaction save. Their other attempts were either off target, or came from low-percentage areas. Priestman turned to the bench at halftime, replacing Viens with Jordyn Huitema up top and Janine Beckie with Adriana Leon, as they looked for an offensive spark.

The reaction from Canada came nearly instantly, but perhaps from an unlikely source. With both centre-backs high up the pitch for a set-piece, Shelina Zadorsky curled a cross into the box for Kadeisha Buchanan, who headed it toward goal and past Barreras to open the scoring.

Canada had to pick up the intensity after Mexico equalized in the 70th minute, trying to find a second goal to retake the lead — a situation no team wants to be in after failing to twist the knife. A goal would never come, however, and Canada were held to a 1-1 draw.

Scoring more goals is something the team will need to work on in their final pre-Olympic camp next month in Spain, after the final squad is officially chosen, and before their first match at Paris 2024 on July 25.

Mexico provide tough test which will serve Canada well in Olympic preparation

Canada wanted to win both games in this window, of course, but most importantly, this June camp was about testing themselves against a tough opponent, and evaluating potential players for the Olympic team. Bev Priestman’s side were disappointed with not winning in front of over 18,000 fans at BMO Field, but stated after the match that there is a lot they can take from this window.

While it was Canada who had the majority of the shots on Tuesday, Mexico attacked the hosts a lot in this match, pushing the backline on several occasions to make big plays and protect Sabrina D’Angelo’s net.

When Jacqueline Ovalle scored with an impressive shot from distance in the second half to tie the game at 1-1, it forced Canada to readjust and try to push for a second, a bit of adversity that was a result of them not putting the game to bed in the first half and taking advantage of their opportunities.

Mexico also played with a lot of physicality, something that they said was a goal for this match after struggling with Canada’s physicality on Saturday night in Montreal. While that came in the form of tougher tackles and giving more in every duel all over the pitch, they also crossed the line on a couple of occasions. Kadeisha Buchanan and Olivia Smith were both the recipients of hard challenges in the second half, the latter of which Canada thought they deserved a penalty for.

Jordyn Huitema was also unceremoniously dumped onto the sidelines late in the second half by Karen Luna, while Huitema didn’t even have the ball. After spending a few minutes on the ground in pain, Huitema was able to continue and Luna — to the annoyance of the Canadian bench — got away with only a yellow card.

“It just kind of is what it is,” said Simi Awujo of the challenge after the match. “I think that we did a good job of keeping level-headed. Those are the kind of games that we’re gonna face especially when things get tough, when games are really important.”

Canada, for the most part, let cool heads prevail, however — something that will serve them well in the future. Being kicked around is often just one of the side effects of competing in Concacaf, and something they can also expect at the Olympics at times as the stakes are raised with international hardware on the line.

Overall, the test from Mexico was one that will help them on their road to Paris 2024, which is exactly what they needed.

Selection headache looms for Priestman as Olympic roster deadline approaches

The Olympic Games pose a unique problem for national teams and their coaches, as each roster is limited to just 18 players and four alternates that can be brought into the team in case of a tournament-ending injury.

Canada’s depth in a situation like this can be a blessing and a curse. Needing to leave some top quality players at home is always tough for both sporting and team culture reasons, but at the same time it is a great problem to have. One through eighteen Canada will have as deep a squad as anyone in Paris no matter who they bring, and their alternates will be game-changers should they need to be called upon.

Priestman made clear in her media availability before Tuesday’s match that she didn’t want to make any emotional decisions after a match surrounding her Olympic squad, and that she needs to go home and really reflect after this camp about who it is she wants to bring to Paris.

Those decisions haven’t gotten any easier during this window, with a few players really standing out, and others not able to take the field – or join the squad at all – due to injury. Injury concerns are especially of concern, as Quinn, Sydney Collins, Nichelle Prince, and Deanne Rose are among the players who weren’t able to take to the field and stake a claim to one of the roster spots. 

In the first match in Montreal, it was Quebec’s own Evelyne earning the spotlight, providing two assists for her teammates in an impressive second half performance. On Tuesday, Shelina Zadorsky was a standout on her 100th appearance for Canada, while Simi Awujo was excellent alongside Jessie Fleming in midfield.

The deadline for Priestman to submit her squad is rapidly approaching, however, and some final choices need to be made.

“Unfortunately, sometimes, I’ve said this before, it might not be the very best 18 players,” said Priestman of the seemingly impossible task to trim the squad. “It might be the very best squad to get the best out of this team to go and win. Ultimately, that’s the challenge that you have.”

Priestman said after Tuesday’s match that she has set an internal target of June 30 to confirm the 18 players and four alternates she will be bringing to Paris. Player of the Match

Shelina Zadorsky, Canada

In her 100th appearance for Canada, Shelina Zadorsky put in a shift defensively and assisted the opening goal by her centre-back partner Kadeisha Buchanan.