OPINION | Post-Sinclair era begins in earnest as Canada's women's soccer team prepares for Gold Cup | CBC Sports (2024)

Sports·Opinion

With the formal retirement of program stalwart and legend Christine Sinclair, and the extension of head coach Bev Priestman's contract with Canada Soccer, the women's team seems to have turned a page as it heads into the CONCACAF W Gold Cup.

Tournament kicks off Canadian women's journey toward defending Olympic gold

OPINION | Post-Sinclair era begins in earnest as Canada's women's soccer team prepares for Gold Cup | CBC Sports (1)

Shireen Ahmed · for CBC Sports

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OPINION | Post-Sinclair era begins in earnest as Canada's women's soccer team prepares for Gold Cup | CBC Sports (2)

As Canada prepares to defend its Olympic gold medal at this summer's Olympics in Paris, there will be a few tests and preparatory matches along the way.

Key is the CONCACAF Women's Gold Cup that began last Saturday with preliminary matches and runs to March 10. Canada plays its first game Thursday against El Salvador. This women's tournament is in its inaugural year and will comprise eight nations from the confederation, plus four teams from the South American confederation (CONMEBOL).

Who will come out of Group C?<br><br>Book your stay with @‌Hilton <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/HiltonForTheStay?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#HiltonForTheStay</a> <a href="https://t.co/TbKgLOtXyt">pic.twitter.com/TbKgLOtXyt</a>

&mdash;@GoldCup

We have seen stars rise and fall in the last few years in women's soccer. Less storied nations are emerging with dynamic teams and powerful players. The W Gold Cup (available to watch in Canada on OneSoccer) is an important tournament for the national team. As Canada develops and grows within the global soccerecosystem, it should experience as much international competition as possible.

“They are the reigning Gold medalists for the Olympics. They absolutely need to utilize this as an opportunity to tinker.”<a href="https://twitter.com/Sandherrera_?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Sandherrera_</a> needs to see more from Bev Priestman’s Canada side 🇨🇦 <a href="https://t.co/UjSUuhbPTX">pic.twitter.com/UjSUuhbPTX</a>

&mdash;@AttackingThird

With the formal retirement of program stalwart and legend Christine Sinclair, and the extension of head coach Bev Priestman's contract with Canada Soccer, the women's team seems to have turned a page.

Sandra Herrera is a CBS Sports soccer writer and co-host of theAttacking Thirdpodcast.I asked her why this tournament is important for Canada and for women's soccer.

  • Members of Canada Soccer's 2018 board of directors hit with player lawsuit

"Many countries in the region have been afterthoughts outside of mainstream coverage," she told me over text. "The last decade of tournaments were dominated by the machine that is the [U.S. women's team]and the recent Olympic success of Canada. Six historic CONCACAF nations were represented at the 2023 FIFAWomen's World Cup and captured the attention of global fans. A marquee tournament for the region, with invited guests from CONMEBOL, will ensure growth of our footballing continents as the game continues to evolve."

The next steps for Canada are to face national teams from CONCACAF and CONMEBOL with different types of strategies, strengths and stars. Canada is No. 10 in the world according to FIFA rankings and is in Group C alongside El Salvador (104), Costa Rica (43) and Paraguay (50). Canada should exit the group stages fairly easily and move on to face tougher competitors but as we know, nothing is what it seems at international tournaments.

WATCH: Jessie Fleming carving her own path in NWSL:

OPINION | Post-Sinclair era begins in earnest as Canada's women's soccer team prepares for Gold Cup | CBC Sports (3)

Jessie Fleming is carving her own path in the NWSL | Player's Own Voice

7 days ago

Duration 24:40

Canadian midfielder Jessie Fleming has left Chelsea for a league topping contract with the Portland Thorns. She's hoping her leading roles in Club play and on the National team can reinforce one another.

Canada's first match against El Salvador is in Houston at Shell Energy Stadium — all of Canada'sgroup stage matches will be there. Other groups will will play out of Los Angeles, San Diego and Carson, Calif. In these types of tournaments, the U.S.either dominates or wins. But their performance at last year'sWomen's World Cupwas lacklustre (losing to Sweden in the round of 16)and they are looking to win again. But with star striker Mia Fishel out with anACL injury, it will not be easy.

Canada also had to restructure its roster, adding Marie-Yasmine (Mimi) Alidou and Bianca St-Georges after Jayde Riviere and Sydney Collins suffered injuries. Collins fractured her ankle this week, which is unfortunate because her previous performances have beenimpactful.

  • Canadian defender Sydney Collins to miss W Gold Cup with broken ankle

Collins is a dual national (she was born in the U.S. and her mother is Canadian) and after playing with the U.S. U17 and U23 teams, played herfirst cap with Canada's senior teamin September. St-Georges will get a chance to prove she can shine. Likewise, Alidou, who has been a prolific scorer at Benfica, her club in Portugal, will have the opportunity to craft her part of this tale.

Marie Yasmine-Alidou, take a bow 🤩<br><br>The <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/CanWNT?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#CanWNT</a>/<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/CanXNT?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#CanXNT</a> star scored twice as Benfica and Barcelona drew 4-4 in an astonishing <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/UWCL?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#UWCL</a> group finale on Wednesday 😲 <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SLBenficaFem?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#SLBenficaFem</a> <br><br>Full story 👇<a href="https://t.co/q1WlNiNYOK">https://t.co/q1WlNiNYOK</a><a href="https://t.co/ERZcIj0uX0">pic.twitter.com/ERZcIj0uX0</a>

&mdash;@CANSoccerDaily

No doubt that last-minute adjustments are a challenge for Priestman, but these and other bumps are part of the job and what she is prepared for.Priestman has said she has "unfinished business" with the team, but feels confident that distractions have been diminished and she has been able to focus on commanding the ship. Thosedistractions includeCanada Soccer havingno general-secretary, no permanent men's head coach and on-goinglabour issues with its players. But Priestman is looking forward to the tournament.

Bev Priestman shares her thoughts ahead of Thursday's W Gold Cup opener.<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/CANWNT?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#CANWNT</a> <a href="https://t.co/PzWZrMsa81">pic.twitter.com/PzWZrMsa81</a>

&mdash;@CANWNT

Like the U.S., Canada has moved past the disastrous result of the Women's World Cup (failing to advance out of the group stage) and we saw a new energy strike through them when they easily beat Jamaica at Olympic qualifiers in September, and then Australia for Sinclair's farewell matches in December.

Granted, those two opponents were a shell of themselves from what I remember from the summer. But it could also mean that the electricity bolting through Canada is a sign of growth and momentum. Canada had three home games in four months and enjoyed the opportunity to see and hear crowds cheer them on. With the growth of soccer at home andplayers signed tothe top clubs in the world,Canadians are making huge strides in almost every competitive women's league.

  • Bev Priestman can finally focus on soccer with off-field distractions diminished
  • Jessie Fleming, Kadeisha Buchanan front Canada roster for CONCACAF women's Gold Cup

Canada should take one match at a time and focus their energy on goal scoring, sharpening attacks and of course, playing with lineups. There is some room for Priestman to experiment in some of the matches against less established squads.

Having a roster that clicks and is in sync is necessary. This is a team that has strong culture and connection, and has stuck together from the top of the podium to the depths of tough losses. The ability to visualize, compartmentalize and strike will be a strength for this team in the mental game. Rolling out the plans while maintaining creativity on the pitch is an asset, while rising to meet the challenges is a necessity.

Right now, the Canadian team has a roster full of players who are capable and qualified. There are some players fighting for a position on the team and a seat on the plane to Paris. Those players will use the Gold Cup and bring out all of their arsenal — yes, that was a Cloé Lacasse pun.

Matches in September and December showed the country that recovery and mental acuity are not only possible but necessary to move forward. In soccer strategy, sometimes the ball goes backwardin order to move it forward in an attack.

Maybe that's part of Canada's story — tasting the sweetness of victory is more profound when one has experienced loss.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

OPINION | Post-Sinclair era begins in earnest as Canada's women's soccer team prepares for Gold Cup | CBC Sports (4)

Shireen Ahmed

Senior Contributor

Shireen Ahmed is a multi-platform sports journalist, a TEDx speaker, mentor, and an award-winning sports activist who focuses on the intersections of racism and misogyny in sports. She is an industry expert on Muslim women in sports, and her academic research and contributions have been widely published. She is co-creator and co-host of the “Burn It All Down” feminist sports podcast team. In addition to being a seasoned investigative reporter, her commentary is featured by media outlets in Canada, the USA, Europe and Australia. She holds an MA in Media Production from Toronto Metropolitan University where she now teaches Sports Journalism and Sports Media. You can find Shireen tweeting or drinking coffee, or tweeting about drinking coffee. She lives with her four children and her cat.

    Corrections and clarifications|

    OPINION | Post-Sinclair era begins in earnest as Canada's women's soccer team prepares for Gold Cup | CBC Sports (5)

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