Almost a year after Canada downed the U.S. in the Tokyo Olympic semifinal, they meet again — this time with Olympic qualification on the line.
The top-ranked U.S. and sixth-ranked Canadian women face off Monday in the final of the CONCACAF W Championship after dispatching No. 37 Costa Rica and No. 51 Jamaica by identical 3-0 scores in semifinal play Thursday at the eight-team tournament.
Canada outshot Jamaica 18-1 (9-0 in shots on target), according to CONCACAF. The U.S. outshot Costa Rica 15-2 (7-0 in shots on target). The two North American rivals have each won four straight while not conceding a goal in reaching the championship game.
After facing lesser opposition that opted to pack their defence, the Canadians will face a far more dangerous and creative foe in the U.S.
“You always want to test yourselves and the U.S. are an incredible team,” said Canada coach Bev Priestman. “I know that they’ll definitely be coming into this game with Tokyo in the back of their mind. They’ll want to put that right ΓÇª There’s a lot on the line.”
While content with her team’s progress at the tournament, Priestman believes it has “another level” to give.
“And I do think playing a team like the U.S. will bring out some of our strengths that maybe teams haven’t allowed us to do.”
Jessie Fleming scored in the first half and substitutes Allysha Chapman and Adriana Leon added second-half goals for the Canadians in a comfortable win over Jamaica. Canada held the upper hand all match and the score could have been more lopsided had it not been for Jamaican goalkeeper Rebecca Spencer, who plays for England’s Tottenham.
Canada gradually turned up the pressure as the first half wore on, coming on in waves. The Reggae Girlz had a few moments in the Canadian end but did not manufacture chances. Priestman went to her bench early in the second half, allowing captain Christine Sinclair to have a short night.
Canada and the U.S. have met in five of the previous 10 CONCACAF women’s finals, with the U.S. winning all five. But the Canadians beat the Americans 1-0 in the Tokyo semifinal — on a Fleming penalty — en route to claiming gold last summer. The U.S. went on to win bronze.
WATCH | Canada shuts out Jamaica:
The Canadian women won the CONCACAF tournament in 1998 and 2010, beating Mexico in the final both times. The Americans have won the other eight editions, including the last two.
All four CONCACAF W semifinalists booked their ticket to the 2023 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand by virtue of making the tournament final four. Haiti and Panama, who placed third in their respective groups, move on to a World Cup intercontinental playoff.
The CONCACAF champion qualifies for both the 2024 Paris Olympics and the inaugural CONCACAF W Gold Cup, also scheduled for 2024. The runner-up and third-place team will meet in a CONCACAF Olympic play-in series, scheduled for September 2023, with the winner booking their ticket to Paris Olympics and Gold Cup.
Canada went ahead in the 18th minute after fullback Ashley Lawrence outpaced a defender down the left flank and sent in a cross that took a slight deflection but still made it in front of goal to Fleming. The Chelsea midfielder beat Spencer to the ball to head it in for her third of the tournament and 18th for Canada.
8 different players have scored for Canada in the tournament
Priestman sent on Jordyn Huitema, Julia Grosso, Leon and Chapman in a quadruple change in the 53rd minute.
Chapman made it 2-0 with a 64th-minute header after a lung-busting run saw her get to a marvellous Leon cross from the right touchline that found the fullback at the far post. It was Chapman’s second goal in 91 Canadian appearances.
“A warrior,” Prestman said admiringly of Chapman, who has taken a backup role with Jayde Riviere joining Lawrence at fullback.
Leon padded the lead in the 76th, poking home a ball headed on by Huitema from a Janine Beckie cross for her 24th goal for Canada.
Eight different players have scored for Canada at the tournament.
Priestman kept with the same starting 11 that beat Costa Rica in Canada’s final group game Monday. The Canadians starters totalled 1,160 caps going into the semifinal, with Sinclair making her 314th appearance.
Jamaica sprang a surprise Thursday by leaving captain Khadija (Bunny) Shaw on the bench. The Manchester City forward, who had 54 goals in 38 senior appearances for Jamaica, came into the semifinals tied for the tournament scoring lead at three goals with Canada’s Grosso.
Jamaica coach Lorne Donaldson said Shaw was dealing with “maybe a little sickness.” It appears the Jamaicans opted not to chance their star, knowing that they still have a shot at an Olympic playoff if they beat Costa Rica in Monday’s third-place match.
“You have to look ahead especially when you have players who are a little bit banged up and sickness and all that stuff,” said Donaldson.
“Give Canada some credit,” he added. “Because they’re still Olympic champion the last time I turned around. They’re a very good team, We’re just a growing team. We’re learning. We’ve been together for three weeks and that’s it. We gave it everything and we got beat.”
Jayda Pelaia of Brampton, Ont., who played collegiate soccer for East Carolina and Arizona State, started at fullback for the Reggae Girlz but had to come off in the 10th minute after her leg appeared to buckle in an early challenge. Goalkeeper Jazmeen Jamieson of Toronto, who plays for the Simcoe County Rovers in League1 Ontario, was on the Jamaican bench.
The Canadians have had their way with the Reggae Girlz, winning all eight previous meetings while outscoring them 57-1. But Jamaica has since recruited several dual nationals and Priestman stressed prior to Thursday’s game that this was a more formidable Jamaican side with players from top club leagues.
Huitema scored five goals and Janine Beckie added three more in a 9-0 Canada romp the last time the two met, at the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Championship in February 2020.
Jamaica finished runner-up to the U.S. in Group A, downing No. 26 Mexico 1-0 and No. 60 Haiti 4-0 while losing 5-0 to the Americans. Canada won Group B, blanking No. 76 Trinidad 6-0, No. 57 Panama 1-0 and Costa Rica 2-0.