Three players to watch as CanWNT looking to use April camp to finalize 2023 World Cup roster

The upcoming April international window is the final time for Canada head coach Bev Priestman and her staff to evaluate players up close before they have to pick the final 23-player roster for this summer’s Women’s World Cup. Priestman called the camp “pivotal” in a press release from Canada Soccer announcing the roster, adding that she’s looking forward to working with the 25 players called in ahead of their April 11 friendly against France, and to get a closer look at many of them in the extended training sessions they’ll get without a second match.

Some players from this squad won’t make the final 23, especially considering that national team regulars Deanne Rose, Nichelle Prince, Desiree Scott, and Shelina Zadorsky are all missing from this camp, and will likely go to the World Cup if they’re healthy and able to — with a particular emphasis on the latter two.

Otherwise, however, this camp will be used to help trim the roster a bit, down from 25 to 20 or 21, factoring in the missing players that could make up those final few spots.

With all of that in mind, here are three players in particular that need to have a big April window in order to improve their chances of making the World Cup roster, or improve their position within that 23-player squad.

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Bianca St-Georges

This camp might be the deciding factor in which of Canada’s fullbacks makes the World Cup roster, with Bianca St-Georges and Gabrielle Carle expected to be battling it out for one spot.

With Jayde Riviere back in the fold a few months still until the tournament kicks off, she is the expected starter at right back for Canada, as she usually has been the last couple of years when healthy. She is yet to play for Manchester United since joining the club earlier this year, just now coming off an injury suffered last year, but Canada will bring cover for her as well.

With Ashley Lawrence capable of starting on either side of the backline, or higher up the pitch, that opens up a spot for another full-back to make the team as depth behind Riviere and Lawrence. Allysha Chapman is expected to be part of the World Cup squad as well at left back, and would be the starter on that side if Lawrence is asked to play on the right.

St-Georges is one of the players looking to win a final spot on the roster, and will need to make a strong impression in training — or on the pitch if she gets into the France game — if she’s going to do so. The Chicago Red Stars right-back missed the club’s opening game of the NWSL season this past weekend as she was in concussion protocol after a head injury, so how involved she can be will be determined by doctors between now and the start of the camp.

She is more of an attack-minded fullback, who can also play on the right side of the midfield, so a similar profile to Riviere in that sense. Gabrielle Carle — who can play on either flank, and has played in midfield and attack before — is a more versatile option, important for an environment with such a limited squad, but St-Georges absolutely has the quality to make things happen down that right side on her day, and would be a tough omission for Priestman if it comes to that.

Bianca St-Georges in action during a friendly match in 2021 (Photo: Canada Soccer)

Jade Rose

Jade Rose’s spot on the World Cup roster isn’t as solidified as other pieces of the Canadian squad, but her versatility and athleticism are assets that should see her make Bev Priestman’s final 23. Still, a strong April camp and a match against a top opponent is a test that could really push the young defender and continue her development into a key figure in the national team.

Rose, who made her senior national team debut in 2021, has been a part of several Canada camps of late, including the SheBelieves Cup in February and a pair of friendlies in Australia in September — one of Canada’s opponents in the World Cup group stage this summer. In the second of those two matches, Rose was tasked with defending the great Sam Kerr, and did so admirably, not fazed at all by the occasion.

The 20-year-old has been a standout in her first two NCAA seasons at Harvard University, winning the Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year this past fall and being named an Ivy League First Team All-Star. She is also a two-time Canadian Young Player of the Year award winner, in 2020 and 2021.

Rose could be a key part of the Canadian women’s national team for many years to come. She’s a shutdown defender, but also has the ability to play as a defensive midfielder or as a right back — showing an impressive ability to get down the line and create strong partnerships with the wingers in front of her. She also has an eye for a pass, and if she can once again show what she can do in this April camp, Rose should start packing her bags for the World Cup.

Jade Rose during a friendly in Australia in 2022 (Canada Soccer by Daniela Porcelli)

Jordyn Huitema

Throughout the SheBelieves Cup in February, three of Canada’s key strikers — Jordyn Huitema, Adriana Leon and Evelyne Viens — were given opportunities to start one of the matches up top, and all three of them failed to make a big enough impact in the tournament to really lock themself in as a starter.

The attention now turns to this camp. All three of them are almost locks to be on the plane to Australia and New Zealand, but the competition for who gets the starting job will need to be decided — if Priestman doesn’t just opt to rotate them again.

Huitema, who has already scored 15 goals for Canada in 63 appearances by the age of 21, is the player with the highest potential of those three, but hasn’t consistently shown it thus far in her career. Of those goals, none of them have come against teams considered “tier one” opponents — the best teams in the world — and nine of them came in just two matches, four in a 2018 CONCACAF Women’s Championship match against Cuba, and five in a 2020 Women’s Olympic Qualifier against Jamaica.

The friendly against France is as good an opportunity as any to show that she can win that spot up top and make it her own. Not selecting her for the original 18-player roster at the Olympics in 2021 was a bit of a challenge and a wake-up call from Priestman, and while Huitema did up being a part of that team as the rosters got expanded to 22 players, she will be keen to impress over the next few weeks and leave no doubt who should be the starting striker.

Jordyn Huitema during a friendly against Brazil in 2021 (Photo: Canada Soccer by Gerard Franco)