This week we look at Canada's final team for the Rio Olympics as well as the U.S. roster for their upcoming international friendly versus South Africa and report that an international star is returning to NWSL.
Canadian National Team head coach John Herdman named 18 players and 4 alternates for Canada's third Olympic Games in women's soccer, the Rio de Janeiro Olympiad from August 5 to 21. Canada is the reigning bronze medalists from the London Olympics—the first medal in a summer team sport for the country since 1936--and will open against the Matildas of Australia, then face debutants Zimbabwe and finally Germany in their first round group. Canada has played Australia 15 times with a 5-3-7 record. Canada has faced Germany 12 times with a 0-0-12 record and has never played Zimbabwe.
The twelve finalists are divided into three first round groups. Herdman explained that: “We will have to be at our best in every match to progress through this Olympic tournament. It will be about producing personal bests, and I believe that the combination of the young players that we've brought into the team and the culture that's been created by the veterans, will give us a chance to really have a push in Rio."
If Canada should play Brazil at any point in the tournament, they should feel confident as Canada won the 2016 Algarve Cup in Portugal (grant it without England, France, Germany and the Americans, who played in friendly tournament in the southeastern U.S.) as they defeated Brazil 2-1 in the Final and split two recent matches in Toronto and Ottawa. Canada will have two more practice matches, against France away on July 23 and a closed door match against China.
CANADA OLYPIC GAMES ROSTER
*(Caps/Goals in brackets)
GK – Stephanie Labbé, age 29, from Edmonton, AB/ Washington Spirit (NWSL)—(30/0)
GK – Sabrina D'Angelo, age 23, from Welland, ON/ Western New York Flash (NWSL)—(2/0)
D – Kadeisha Buchanan, age 20, from Brampton, ON /West Virginia University (NCAA)—(56/3)
D – Rebecca Quinn, age 20, from Toronto, ON / Duke University (NCAA)—(20/3)
D – Shelina Zadorsky, age 23, from London, ON/ Washington Spirit (NWSL)—(15/11)
D – Josée Bélanger, age 30, from Coaticook, QC./ Orlando Pride (NWSL)—(50/7)
D – Allysha Chapman, age 27, from Courtice, ON/ Houston Dash (NWSL)—(32/1)
D – Rhian Wilkinson, age 34, from Baie-d'Urfé, QC/Unattached –(175/7)
M – Jessie Fleming, age 18, from London, ON/ London NorWest Optimist SC—(28/2)
M – Ashley Lawrence, age 20, from Caledon, ON/ West Virginia University (NCAA)—(38/4)
M – Diana Matheson, age 32, from Oakville, ON/ Washington Spirit (NWSL)—(183/17)
M – Deanne Rose, age 17, from Alliston, ON/ Scarborough GS United—(12/3)
M – Sophie Schmidt, age 27, from Abbotsford, BC/ FFC Frankfurt (Frauen-Bundesliga)—(149/16)
M – Desiree Scott, age 28, from Winnipeg, MB/ FC Kansas City (NWSL)—(110/0)
F – Janine Beckie, age 21, from Highlands Ranch, CO./Houston Dash (NWSL)—(18/9)
F – Nichelle Prince, age 21, from Ajax, ON/ The Ohio State University (NCAA)—(16/6)
F – Christine Sinclair, age 32, from Burnaby, BC/ Portland Thorns FC (NWSL)—(243/162)
F – Melissa Tancredi, age 34, from Ancaster, ON/ KIF Örebro (Damallsvenskan)—(118/25)
F – Gabrielle Carle, age 17, from Lévis, QC/ Dynamo Québec—(7/1)
GK – Kailen Sheridan age 20, from Whitby, ON/ Clemson University (NCAA)—(1/0)
D - Eve-Marie Nault age 34, KIF Orebro—(70/0)
M - Kaylyn Kyle—age 27, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Orlando Pride—(101/6)
Nault was an alternate to the 2012 games and ended up playing a big role in her side's success, so there is hope for those four alternates to still be called to Brazil.
Coach Herdman, a native of Newcastle England who coached for many years in New Zealand before taking the Canada job in the fall of 2011, discussed with this reporter the morning the roster was announced his thoughts on the role that the NWSL has played in preparing his team for the Olympics. Half of the roster (9) currently are with NWSL teams. Coach Herdman said that in 2015, his federation “had concerns that the clubs hadn't established sports science or medical procedures to help the players' peak at the WWC." The Canadians held a residency camp to prepare for the World Cup and some players joined NWSL teams after the tournament. “This year, they improved and some teams even have GPS connections [to track players training vitals]. We put the fear aside and they've gotten a solid experience of competing in a competitive environment against world class players like Alex Morgan. It's been really important and coaches were clear that they [the Canadians] would compete for starting spots. It's gone well….They should come in flying at game pace, with energy and speed to the training environment."
Captain Christine Sinclair is Canada's most capped international player (243), Canada's all-time leading goal scorer and second in the world for career international goals after recently surpassing American Mia Hamm while at the CONCACAF Women's Olympic Qualification Championship in Texas. With 162 international goals, she is only 22 goals behind all-time leader Abby Wambach (USA/retired) with 184.
The average age of the team is 25.4, with Deanne Rose the youngest at 17.
Twenty four Americans selected for national team friendly with South Africa
U.S. National Team head coach Jill Ellis is bringing 24 players to a national team camp in preparation for an international friendly against South Africa at historic Soldier Field in Chicago on July 9th. This is the first ever match between the two nations and the second-to-last for the U.S. before they head to Brazil for the Olympics. The Americans will play Costa Rica on July 22 at Children's Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas for their final send off. Ellis explained: “We're looking forward to finalizing our Olympic roster. We have been evaluating players since our Victory Tour last year, so we are anticipating a great camp and finishing that process. It's exciting to play a new opponent and South Africa instantly has our respect for earning an Olympic berth from Africa."
South Africa has qualified for their second consecutive Olympics and is led by experienced Dutch coach Vera Pauw, who has coached the national teams of Scotland, her home country—who she guided to third place in the European championship in their first finals in 2009 after nine previous failures to advance--and Russia before taking charge of Banyana Banyana in 2014
U.S. Women's National Team Roster by Position:
GOALKEEPERS (3): Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars), Hope Solo (Seattle Reign FC)
DEFENDERS (9): Whitney Engen (Boston Breakers), Jaelene Hinkle (Western New York Flash), Julie Johnston (Chicago Red Stars), Meghan Klingenberg (Portland Thorns FC), Ali Krieger (Washington Spirit), Gina Lewandowski (FC Bayern Munich), Kelley O'Hara (Sky Blue FC), Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City), Emily Sonnett (Portland Thorns FC)
MIDFIELDERS (8): Morgan Brian (Houston Dash), Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns FC), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC), Carli Lloyd (Houston Dash), Allie Long (Portland Thorns FC), Megan Rapinoe (Seattle Reign FC), Samantha Mewis (Western New York Flash), Heather O'Reilly (FC Kansas City)
FORWARDS (4): Crystal Dunn (Washington Spirit), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride), Christen Press (Chicago Red Stars), Mallory Pugh (Real Colorado)
Japanese international Nahomi Kawasumi returns to Seattle Reign
Nahomi Kawasumi, who made such an impact on the Reign in her one season on loan in 2014, will return to Seattle for the rest of the 2016 season on loan from her Japanese side INAC Kobe Leonessa. In 2014, she helped the Reign finish first in the regular season and advanced to the league final, after the Reign finished second from bottom in their inaugural season in 2013, along with Scottish international Kim Little who also arrived in 2014. “Naho" as she is known, scored nine goals in 2014, the fifth highest total in NWSL and was a league Best XI selection. Seattle Reign head coach and former Arsenal Ladies manager Laura Harvey said: “We are extremely happy to bring Naho back to Seattle. She was a huge influence on our group when she was a Reign player before and having someone of her quality and experience back with this team is really exciting."
With the exception of her loan to Reign FC, Naho has played professionally for INAC Kobe Leonessa of the Nadeshiko League in Japan since 2008. In 2013, she was named the Nadeshiko League MVP, was the league's second-leading scorer behind Reign FC's Beverly Yanez--who was also with INAC at the time--and was on the league's Best XI roster from 2010 to 2013. She scored a combined 46 goals for INAC from 2009-2012, tying for the league-lead in scoring with 12 goals in 2011. Naho helped lead INAC to three consecutive Nadeshiko league titles from 2011-2013. At the international level, she won a FIFA World Cup title with Japan in 2011 and an Olympic Silver Medal in 2012.
Seattle is loaded with top quality internationals, having signed Naho's national teammate Rumi Utsugi earlier this month. Along with Jess Fishlock from Wales, Little, Scottish international fullback Rachel Corsie and 2016 addition Manon Melis from the Netherlands, none of these top players will be gone for the Olympics, unlike U.S. internationals like Hope Solo and possibly Megan Rapinoe.
Tim Grainey is a contributor to Tribalfootball. His latest book is Beyond Bend it Like Beckham on the global game of women's football. Get your copy today.
Follow Tim on Twitter: @TimGrainey