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VAN DIEST: Priestman makes Canadian coaching debut and misses key veterans

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Derek Van Diest

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February 17, 2021 • • February 17, 2021 • • Read for 5 minutes • • Join the conversation Bev Priestman will make her debut at the SheBelieves Cup on February 18, 2021 as the Canadian women’s national soccer team against the USA. She can be seen here in June 2019 as England’s assistant coach at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France. Photo by Laurence Griffiths /.Getty Images

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Bev Priestman knew taking over Canada’s women’s national team during a pandemic with a short runway towards the Tokyo Olympics would be challenging.

The new head coach could not have foreseen the initial amount of work, however, as Canada faced the best team in the world without a handful of key veterans and hadn’t played in a year.

This is what Priestman made on her head coaching debut with Canada versus the United States on Thursday (7 p.m. ET, One Soccer) at the SheBelieves Cup in Orlando, Florida, not including regulars Christine Sinclair, Diana Matheson, Erin McLeod and Kadeisha expect has Buchanan, Jordyn Huitema and Ashley Lawrence.

The United States team now has all the stars, has played three times since March, and is unbeaten in its last 34 games spanning two years.

“I think it’s obviously not how I originally imagined my first tournament would be, especially if I play number 1 in the world,” said Priestman on Tuesday. “But I kind of talked to the fact that it’s a great opportunity for anyone to stand up and try to find their name on this Olympic list.

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“It gives me a great chance to evaluate new players, a current number of players who might not see that much game time. But I think it’s the US, that’s the first; I think every Canadian who puts on the jersey when they play against the US doesn’t have to motivate them. “

US striker Megan Rapinoe (15) moves the ball past Canadian defender Ashley Lawrence (10) in the second half of the CONCACAF Women's Olympic Qualifying Tournament at Dignity Health Sports Park. US striker Megan Rapinoe (15) moves the ball past Canadian defender Ashley Lawrence (10) in the second half of the CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament at Dignity Health Sports Park. Photo by Kelvin Kuo / /.USA TODAY Sports

Canada will play three games in the four-team tournament. Canada’s other games are against Argentina on Sunday (6pm ET) and against Brazil on February 24 (4pm ET). Canada have an exhibition match against England scheduled for April and will then compete in the Olympics for the fourth consecutive year to earn a third consecutive medal.

“This first game (Thursday) is going to be a baptism of fire in a good way,” said Priestman. “But I asked the group to be brave and take the opportunity in front of us. I know that every player will get their body on the line. We’re going to be a tough team to beat, that’s what I asked them to do, so I’m really excited to see how the players do in this opening game. “

The 34-year-old Priestman took over the job in October from Kenneth Heiner-Moller, who was stepping down to take up a position with the Football Association in his native Denmark.

Heiner-Möller originally intended to step down after the 2020 Olympics, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced organizers to postpone the Games until the coming summer, which resulted in him stepping down before the tournament and Priestman being named as his successor .

The last time Canada stepped on the field for a competitive match was the 2020 Tournoi de France last March, with a 2-2 draw against Brazil.

“We have to have this hard-to-beat mindset, we can’t lose that,” said Priestman. “The reality of the roster at the moment will be a crucial tooth in the wheel.”

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On the way to the SheBelieves Cup, Priestman has added five national team debutants: striker Evelyne Viens, midfielder Jordyn Listro, Samantha Chang, defender Jade Rose and goalkeeper Rylee Foster.

Priestman will also have a number of regulars available, including goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe, defenders Allysha Chapman, Shelina Zadorsky, Quinn, midfielders Desiree Scott, Jessie Fleming, and forwards Janine Beckie, Adriana Leon and Nichelle Prince.

“There will be absolutely (new) players getting a chance, whether in the US game or in the games that follow,” said Priestman. “In any case, we’re going to create a team to try to win. That’s the first, we have to be smart about it, but in the situation we are in and the realities of the squad, there will inadvertently be opportunities.

“I think that’s when you learn a lot about people. I’ve asked individuals to be brave and the team to be brave and it will take time for us to overcome this hurdle. “

Canadian striker Christine Sinclair celebrates after scoring a goal in the second half of a soccer match at the CONCACAF Women's World Cup qualifying tournament against Panama. Canadian striker Christine Sinclair celebrates after scoring a goal in the second half of a soccer match at the CONCACAF Women’s World Cup qualifying tournament against Panama. Photo by CP

Priestman expects the majority of their missing veterans to be back later this year and be available when the Olympic tournament kicks off.

Sinclair, Matheson and McLeod are currently injured while Buchanan, Huitema and Lawrence have not been cleared for the SheBelieves Cup by their European clubs.

In the meantime, the Priestman tournament is an opportunity to see what the next generation of talent will bring.

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“I think any player who is not capped (no international appearances) and is new to the environment has mingled with a group of players who have been in the environment and knew what it takes to go for Canada to win, “said Priestman. “That is the recipe for success. I don’t know what I’ll get, but I know what I’ll get when I put on the (Canadian) jersey; They will give everything and I actually think that sometimes with adversity you see another level in people that you didn’t know were there. Hopefully I’ll see that on Thursday. “

Email: dvandiest@postmedia.com

On Twitter: @DerekVanDiest

CANADA ROCKS CUP ROSTER

1 – GK- Stephanie Labbé | SWE / FC Rosengård
2 – FB-Allysha Chapman | USA / Houston Dash
3 – CB Jade Rose | CAN / Super REX Ontario
4 – CB- Shelina Zadorsky | ENG / Tottenham Hotspur
5 – CB – Quinn | USA / OL Reign FC
6 – F-Deanne Rose | USA / University of Florida
7 – M- Julia Grosso | USA / University of Texas at Austin
8 – M-Samantha Chang | USA / University of South Carolina
9 – F- Evelyne Viens | USA / Sky Blue FC
10 – M – Sarah Stratigakis | USA / University of Michigan
11 – M-Desiree Scott | USA / Kansas City NWSL
12 – GK-Rylee Foster | ENG / Liverpool FC
13 – M-Sophie Schmidt | USA / Houston Dash
14 – FB-Gabrielle Carle | USA / Florida State University
15 – F-Nichelle Prince | USA / Houston Dash
16 – F- Janine Beckie | ENG / Manchester City FC
17 – M-Jessie Fleming | ENG / Chelsea FC
18 – GK-Kailen Sheridan | USA / Sky Blue FC
19 – F-Adriana Leon | ENG / West Ham United FC
20 – FB-Jayde Riviere | USA / University of Michigan
21 – M – Jordyn Listro | USA / Orlando pride
22 – FB-Lindsay Agnew | USA / NC courage
23 – CB-Vanessa Gilles | FRA / FC Girondins de Bordeaux

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