So that feeling I had about Canada winning against England turned out to be optimism. Some crucial mistakes early in the game led to back-to-back goals by England, and at that point Canada was catching up. As the second half wore on, Canada couldn’t net an equalizer and then the game was over. The group I was watching with was crushed, as I’m sure everyone else watching in-person and throughout the country was. And yet there’s so much to be excited about … “Canadian pair and childhood friends feeling ‘surreal’ about FIFA World Cup”
Look at the joy in this picture!!! That’s Ashley Lawrence on the left and Kadeisha Buchanan on the right. They have been standouts for Canada throughout the WWC and they will redefine the senior women’s program moving forward. Which leads me to a little bit of analysis, bear with me.
When you play competitive, elite level soccer, there will always be social-politics, preferences and money that influence decision-making. Sometimes those in power make the right decisions, and sometimes not. Every program has its conflict (I just read about some in the US WNT following some questionable coaching decisions about starting line-ups) and Canada’s WNT is no exception. Here are some key highlights from the last two decades, which only skims the surface:
October 2006: Senior Players Cut from Canada WNT
October 2006: Canadian WNT in Turmoil
April 2007: Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada (SDRCC) Court Decision
July 2011: Carolina Morace Quits as Coach
November 2011: Change on the Horizon for CSA
July 2014: Time is Now for Canada to Shift from Participation to Performance in Soccer
November 2014: CSA Rejects Mediation offer on WWC Turf Issue
June 2015: Coach Herdman Denies Rift in Team
Many of the current veteran players on the Canadian WNT have been through these scandals, the turmoil, the politics and the exclusivity that comes along with playing at this level. There are also so many who have never debuted for Canada in a major tournament even though they have the quality and depth to play at that level. With better leadership at the top comes better decision-making and opportunities for players. The Canadian program has had a “players second” mentality for many decades and the need for that to change is urgent.
Last year at the U20 WWC, I watched a cohesive, skilled Canadian U20 WNT play in the group stage at BMO field. I was pleasantly surprised at these younger players and am hoping to see many of them at the 2019 WWC in France. If there’s anything to be learned from the 2015 WWC it’s that heartfelt optimism will only get you so far. It’s substance and clear direction that wins games. It’s time Canada adopted a more balanced approach to the game, one that is strategically objective and integrates the personal/athletic chemistry that makes teams champions. I see this in the friendship of Lawrence/Buchanan and am excited about their transcendence into the face of Canadian soccer.
Pictures*** from the Ottawa match played on June 26th are below.
[Quarter-Final Match 45: USA vs China PR]
***All pictures © Cristina Murano