Been there, done that. Canada’s veteran core can get another upset vs. USWNT

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MONTERREY, Mexico — Canada‘s women’s national team defeated Jamaica 3-0 in the second CONCACAF W Championship semifinal of the evening Thursday, setting up the defending Olympic gold medalists in a much-anticipated final battle against the United States on Monday at Estadio BBVA.

It will be a daunting challenge against the U.S., as both teams have gone undefeated at this tourney without conceding a goal. But then again, when was the last time the USWNT lost a match? It was to this Canadian squad at the semifinal round at the delayed Tokyo 2020 games.

Despite unideal humid conditions and light dust currents forcing their way into Estadio Universitario, Canada had few issues with a Jamaican side that were without star striker Khadija “Bunny” Shaw. According to manager Lorne Donaldson, Shaw was dealing with “maybe a little sickness” and the coach opted to rest his team’s leading tournament goal scorer before a third-place showdown against Costa Rica.

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Canada hit the ground running on Thursday in the 18th minute from Jessie Fleming. Following a slightly deflected cross from left-back Ashley Lawrence, Fleming did well to pounce on the cross and head the ball into the back of the net in the first half. Canada continued to have an immense amount of possession, but as manager Bev Priestman put it in the postgame news conference: “We didn’t take care of direct play and transition.”

“We fixed that at halftime — I think it made a big difference,” she later added.

The quick incorporation of four substitutes (Adriana Leon, Jordyn Huitema, Allysha Chapman and Julia Grosso) in the 53rd minute gave Priestman’s squad a more dynamic edge. By the 64th minute, Leon would go on to send a perfectly timed cross from distance that landed perfectly toward Chapman, who would head in the ball to make it 2-0. In the 76th, Huitema redirected a cross to Leon, providing an opportunity for Leon to sprint toward the lobbed ball and tap it into the net.

Possibly through rejuvenated options off the bench, or maybe thanks to the temperatures finally dropping down to the 80s, Canada were enthusiastic in the second half — later accumulating a total of 33 shots over the entirety of the 90-plus minutes. Jamaica, on the other end of the pitch, would finish with just two.

Still, even after securing a 3-0 victory, a previous place in the 2023 Women’s World Cup through the group stage, a fourth victory in a row and a fourth consecutive match in the tournament without a goal allowed, Priestman believes that her squad is capable of more.

“I think there’s another level and I do think that playing a team like the U.S. will bring out some of our strengths that maybe teams haven’t allowed us to do,” the Canadian coach said.

“There’s a lot on the line, it’s the Olympic Games that we want and we want to make sure that we win that final.”

“I think we’ve had all different types of wins, whether it’s from the bench or from the starting lineup,” Huitema said. “I think all around our team is ready to come in and hurt them. I think we’re very deep and our squad has a lot of depth to it.”

Off-the-field, the players haven’t appeared to be impacted by a looming internal issue with their federation that has yet to be resolved. Amid tensions over negotiations, a report by Canadian outlet TSN on Tuesday highlighted an alleged lack of transparency on governance and finances by those running Canada Soccer.

The players responded with a lengthy statement, which included that they were “deeply troubled by the content” of the article and that they have also called for an “investigation” into the matter.

Canada midfielder Quinn said after the win that players are “still sifting through the article” and that it was a “tough week” due to what is happening behind the scenes, but let out a smile in the mixed zone when discussing what lies ahead on the pitch.

“We have an important match,” the midfielder said optimistically. “That’s going to be the focus for us moving forward.”

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