CanWNT falls to U.S. in finals of Concacaf Olympic qualifying tournament

  • Canada 0, United States 3 (Williams 60’, Horan 71’, Rapinoe 87’)

  • Canada’s winless run vs. U.S. now stands at 36 consecutive games; last win came on March 11, 2001

  • Canadians have lost to the U.S. in the finals of four consecutive Olympic qualifying tournaments

The Canadian women’s team’s streak of futility against the United States is approaching 19 years, and there doesn’t appear to be any end in sight.

Eighth in the current FIFA world rankings, Canada fell to the reigning World Cup champions and top-ranked Americans on Sunday, dropping a 3-0 decision in the finals of the Concacaf Olympic qualifying tournament in Carson, California.

Canada has lost to the U.S. in the finals of four consecutive Olympic qualifying competitions, and is now winless in 36 consecutive games (with 30 losses) overall against the Americans. Canada’s all-time record against the U.S. is 3-50-7, and it hasn’t beaten its southern neighbour since March 11, 2001.

“We definitely pushed for 60 minutes and we can be proud of that performance, but we will need to take care of those small errors we made,” Canadian coach Kenneth Heiner-Møller offered.

“When we play anyone in the world, we know we have a chance to win because that is how good our team is, but we also know that those small things can have a big impact. We need to be ready to take care of those small things and continue the path we are on towards the Olympic Games.”

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Both teams entered Sunday’s match having already clinched berths for this summer’s Tokyo Olympics – only the finalists of this tournament qualify from the Concacaf region for the 2020 Games – so there was nothing on the line other than pride. But this wasn’t a “nothing” game for Canada – it badly wanted to beat the U.S. and bring an end to its winless run.

Sunday marked Canada’s first loss of this competition after recording four clean sheet victories, while the U.S. went a perfect 5-0-0, winning its games by a combined score of 25-0.

Canada will make its fourth consecutive appearance at the Olympics when it travels to Tokyo, having previously won bronze medals in 2012 in London and 2016 in Rio. The Reds reached the quarter-finals of the 2008 Games in Beijing after failing to qualify of the Athens Olympics in 2004.

Heiner-Møller on Sunday made two lineup changes from his team’s semifinal win over Costa Rica, swapping in Jayde Riviere and Rebecca Quinn (her first start of the tournament) at the expense of fullback Allysha Chapman and forward Jordyn Huitema (who finished as the competition’s top scorer with seven goals). Defender Kadeisha Buchanan earned her 100th cap, becoming the 16th Canadian player and the second-youngest, at 24 years old, to join the “100 club.”

A pretty even first half saw both teams carve out quality scoring chances, with Canadian goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe making a heads-up punching clearance on American forward Lindsey Horan’s header. Horan’s teammate Cristen Press also unleashed a screamer of a shot from 30 yards out that smacked the crossbar.

Canada’s best opportunity came when Christine Sinclair latched onto a killer through ball from Janine Beckie to sneak in behind the American defence, only to see goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher come out to deny the Canadian captain.

The U.S. attack swarmed Canada at the start of the second half. Labbe was called into action when she made a sharp stop on Lynn Williams off a quick American counterattack. Canada’s Sophie Schmidt made an important clearance inside the six-yard box to rob Horan of a sure goal.

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The breakthrough for the U.S. finally came on the hour mark. Riviere gave away the ball far too easily inside her box when she had a chance to clear it, and Williams pounced on the mistake by firing a shot past Labbe and into the far corner.

It was the first goal of the tournament conceded by Canada, who outscored the opposition 23-0 through its first four matches.

The Americans doubled their advantage, as Horan beat Labbe with a left-footed shot from 12 yards out after Canada’s defence couldn’t clear its lines.

Beckie had a chance to draw Canada within a goal after receiving a great pass from Jessie Fleming, but the Canadian forward fired her angled shot just inches wide of the far post.

American substitute Megan Rapinoe put the game away late in regulation time, scoring past Labbe after the U.S. ripped apart the Canadian defence.

“We were happy with our first 60 minutes, but it is now about those last 30 minutes and staying with them until the final whistle,” said Huitema, who entered the game as a second-half substitute.

“We didn’t get to do that in that game, so we are disappointed, but we are ready to come back stronger and if we play them in the Olympic Games get a different result.”

NOTES: Next on the agenda for the Canadian women’s team is the inaugural Tournoi de France, a four-team invitational tournament that will take place from March 4-10 in France. While there, Canada will face the Netherlands (ranked third in the world), France (No. 4) and Brazil (No. 9)… Canada’s first home game of 2020 is scheduled for April 14 when it hosts Australia (No. 7) at Vancouver’s BC Place Stadium.