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The youthful Canadian cast push US stars at the SheBelieves Cup

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Derek Van Diest

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February 19, 2021 • • February 19, 2021 • • Read for 4 minutes • • Join the conversation Gabrielle Carle (No. 14) of Canada controls the ball against Christen Press (No. 23) of the USA during the SheBelieves Cup at Exploria Stadium on February 18, 2021 in Orlando, Florida. Photo by Alex Menendez /.Getty Images

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The future of the Canadian women’s national soccer team is bright.

After nearly a year between games, Canada showed the program is in good hands on Thursday as the remaining members of the Golden Generation, led by Christine Sinclair, step down.

Bev Priestman had to set up a young lineup against the US on her debut as head coach for Canada in the opening game of the SheBelieves Cup in Orlando, Florida, and the kids responded with a 1-0 loss to the defending FIFA Women’s World Champion.

Rose Lavelle scored the winning goal for the USA in the 79th minute, made it in the Canadian penalty area and shot past goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe through a sea of ​​defenders. Canada will play Argentina in their second game of the three-game tournament on Sunday (6pm ET).

“I think for an opening game for a new coach you want the players to show everything on the field and I’m really proud, I thought they did,” Priestman said. “The mindset was right first and foremost, they were brave, they worked really hard and I think they made it to the US in just a few moments in this game.”

Nichelle Prince (# 15) of Canada tries to steal the ball against Margaret Purce (# 20) of the USA during the SheBelieves Cup at Exploria Stadium on February 18, 2021 in Orlando, Florida. Nichelle Prince (# 15) of Canada tries to steal the ball against Margaret Purce (# 20) of the USA during the SheBelieves Cup at Exploria Stadium on February 18, 2021 in Orlando, Florida. Photo by Alex Menendez /.Getty Images

Canada had a few chances and should have received a penalty a few minutes before they conceded when Allysha Chapman’s cross hit the outstretched arm of US defender Margaret Purce. The referee decided to ignore the obvious handball that would have given Canada the opportunity to take the lead. If an assistant referee had been used in the game, Canada would undoubtedly have received the 73rd-minute penalty.

“For me it was handball, but we will never make every (referee) decision,” said Priestman. “We can’t count on winning games from decisions, but in my opinion it was a penalty.”

Although Canada didn’t get the call, it was able to generate other quality opportunities, especially the counterattack where strikers Nichelle Prince and Janine Beckie terrified the US defense with their speed.

Prince had two golden chances to put Canada ahead in the second half but chose to pass the ball instead of taking a shot himself. Beckie should have scored twice in the meantime, but couldn’t take a golden chance in the first half and couldn’t take a corner in the second half at the missed opportunity that Prince missed.

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“Overall, I think our front players were dangerous,” said Desiree Scott, who wore the armband instead of the injured Sinclair. “They saw their pace and passion for taking opportunities and creating those opportunities, and they did. They’ll be a little bit upset that they couldn’t put some of them down, but we get those chances and it’s that hunger in this box to get things done. “

While the defeat hurt, Canada’s biggest disappointment of the night was the loss of goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan, who was out of the game eight minutes after an injury.

Sheridan is trying to drop Labbe for first place and a strong game against the United States would have added their stocks. But Sheridan was injured in an innocent looking game, returned the ball to one of their defenders and couldn’t continue, forcing Priestman to make a move and sign Labbe.

“I don’t have an update on Kailen,” said Priestman. “Kailen will be judged and see where she is tonight. Cross your fingers, she’s fine. “

Labbe had a strong game and likely cemented her place as the best goalkeeper in the country. She was easy to get into, especially since she hadn’t expected to play. Labbe made a handful of excellent saves to keep the United States off the board until Lavelle finally broke through.

Labbe finished the game with nine saves. Her best result came in the first half with a Carli Lloyd header that was tipped over the crossbar.

Crystal Dunn (# 19) of the USA is fouled by Sophie Schmidt (# 13) of Canada during the SheBelieves Cup at Exploria Stadium on February 18, 2021 in Orlando, Florida. Crystal Dunn (# 19) of the USA is fouled by Sophie Schmidt (# 13) of Canada during the SheBelieves Cup at Exploria Stadium on February 18, 2021 in Orlando, Florida. Photo by Alex Menendez /.Getty Images

“I thought her performance was excellent. She showed her experience and leadership in a moment for a goalkeeper who is difficult to get into a game against the US,” said Priestman. “She ran well and made some great saves, so it was a really positive achievement.”

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Canada entered the game without injured veterans Sinclair, Diana Matheson and Erin McLeod, while Kadeisha Buchanan, Jordyn Huitema and Ashley Lawrence were not cleared for the SheBelieves Cup by their European clubs.

Their absence opened the door for players to show what they can do against world class opponents and they impressed to the point where Priestman may have to make some tough decisions for their 18-player Olympic squad .

“What you want is a hungry, competitive squad,” said Priestman. “When young players and older players perform, this is a recipe for success because everyone will push each other. We have some young talent, bright future, absolutely knocking on the door. “

Email: dvandiest@postmedia.com

On Twitter: @DerekVanDiest

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