Canada kicked off its 2020 CONCACAF Olympic qualifiers on Wednesday, as they scored early and often en route to an 11-0 victory. It’s a game that will be remembered for other reasons, however, as Canada’s captain, Christine Sinclair, forever etched her name in the history books with her record-setting 185th international goal, putting her alone atop the all-time goalscorer list.
A moment of magic, a calm finish, and a nationwide celebration jumpstarted.
In a historic Canadian soccer moment, Christine Sinclair made history on Wednesday, scoring her 185th international goal, putting her alone at the top of the all-time international goal scorer list.
“Just unbelievable,” Sinclair said of how she felt to onesoccer shortly after the game. “When I first started with the National Team, I could have never imagined standing here, with the number of goals I’ve scored. Just wouldn’t have been possible without my teammates, they’ve been beside me the entire way, all the coaches I’ve had, all the people back home that have supported me, just a massive thank you.”
After tying the record earlier on in the match, as she was cool from the spot to notch goal #184, she then made no mistake with the chance to put her name forever in the history books, taking her time before slotting the ball home after a lovely squared ball from striker Adriana Leon.
Otherwise, it was a relatively normal Wednesday night game down in Texas, as Canada poured the goals in early and often en route to an 11-0 victory. Leon bagged 4 goals and 2 assists, Ashley Lawrence added a brace, Jayde Riviere scored a wonder goal from distance, while Jessie Fleming and Jordyn Huitema rounded out the scoring for Canada.
“Something to be said about qualification tournaments,” Sinclair said. “It sometimes brings out the best in teams, and we didn’t like the way the fall ended for us, and we wanted to put things right, and we’ve been working very hard. I think tonight, it showed the work we’ve put in, but I think to St. Kitts, they never gave up, they should hold their heads up, and I wish them the best of luck the rest of the tournament.”
Sinclair got the party started early, as she won a penalty by trying to go up for a header, with a St.Kitts player denying her a free opportunity at goal via a push in the back. She stepped up, with history in her sights, and was clinical with her finish, slotting her penalty cooly into the lower-left corner to tie the record.
Leon would join the party soon after in the 13th minute, as she tapped in a lovely squared cross from full back Jayde Riviere, who was played through thanks to the lively Jessie Fleming. Less than 5 minutes later, Canada would then make it 3, as Ashley Lawrence stepped up from 30 yards out, and decided to go for it with her left, sending a sizzling low missile into the bottom corner to add another goal to Canada’s tally.
It was after that strike when history would be made. Fleming, who was all over the park from Canada, pressed high up the pitch, forcing an error from the St.Kitts defender. She ran a few yards, before playing in Leon, who used the threat of her two-footed striking ability to suck in a defender on the 2 on 1.
With Sinclair all alone, as a result, it was only fitting to see Leon square it to the Canadian skipper, who took 2 touches, before slotting home calmly, sending her teammates and a nation into a rapturous roar. After hearing talk of the record for months after months, she broke the record with a classic Sinclair finish, forever etching her name into the global footballing record books.
While the celebrations were underway in homes across Canada, the party had to continue on the pitch, unluckily for St.Kitts and Nevis. Adriana Leon definitely got that memo, as she added her 2nd tally a mere 3 minutes after the record-breaking strike, as she snuck behind the defenders to latch onto a Shelina Zadorsky pass, before slotting home into the far post with her left foot from a tough angle.
The goals stopped after that, at least for a 15 minute period, until Canada finished the 2nd half with a pair of lethal finishes to get the total up to 7. First, it was Riviere, who scored an absolute right-footed belter from 30 yards for her first-ever Canada goal, before Leon completed her hat trick soon after, thanks to a left-footed finish not too dissimilar to the one she scored 20 minutes earlier, capping an impressive first half of action for the West Ham forward.
Heading into the half, it was ultimately a positive 45 minutes of play, even with the expected result. Everyone played well, with some names standing out, as one would expect in a 7-0 match. After many had questioned their lack of goalscoring touch heading into this tournament, this was a good way for them to build up some confidence, squad competition and tactical cohesion heading into the bigger games that await them.
Canada, despite subbing off Sinclair to rest for the later matches, kept the foot on the gas pedal to start the 2nd half, as they looked to inflate their goal difference in case of any later ties in group play. That meant goal number 8 would soon be put on the board, as Zadorsky once again played a lovely ball through, with first-half standout Fleming latching onto the end of it, slotting home a cool right-footed finish to get in on the offensive action.
Number 9 would follow not long after, with Canada swarming bodies forward every time they’d win the ball, unfortunately for their Caribbean foes. Lawrence would be the beneficiary of that in the 56th minute, as Riviere continued her strong game down the right-hand side, playing a lovely squared ball for Canada’s #10 to slot home with a cool left-footed finish.
As expected, the game hit a bit of a lull, but that did not mean Canada would be done there. Second-half substitute, Jordyn Huitema, threw her name into the goalscoring hat in the 73rd minute, as Leon continued her strong performance, whipping in a perfect corner to meet the head of the leaping Huitema to push Canada into the double digits of goals.
That lead would soon get to 11, as in the 80th minute, Canada bagged another. Leon, who was arguably Canada’s player of the game throughout the 90, latched onto a ball and had a moment of magic, weaving through a couple of defenders to open up some space. With a smidge of daylight in her windshield, she reached back and struck the ball well with her right foot, adding her 4th of the game with an inspired finish.
That would be all she wrote for Canada, who would then cruise to the finish line, with the clean sheet firmly intact. It was an inspired performance, led by the record-breaking tally, and they continued to push right to the finish line.
Now, they’ll just want to keep the foot on the gas pedal heading into the stiffer tests that await them, starting with Jamaica on Saturday. They found a good first gear today, and now they’ll want to hit those 2nd and 3rd ones in the next games, before pushing up towards their optimal level of performance for the ‘win and your in’ semi-final.
In the Mixer:
- Canada came out with a 3-5-2, which was probably the right formation considering the opponent. They did not get much of a chance to test out their defensive posture, however, which makes things interesting heading into the next games. Does Heiner-Moller stick with the 3 at the back, or go to the more conventional 4 at the back? Against teams like Jamaica and Mexico, who will have more tooth in attack, Canada will need to be as solid defensively as they can possibly be.
- Jessie Fleming stepped up massively in this one. She’s going to be huge for Canada in these coming years, as Canada’s midfield isn’t quite at the level they’d hope to be at when compared to other positions, but there are some names who can step up to remedy that. Fleming is one of those, as she’s dynamic in attack, as evidenced by her goals and assists, but is also relentless defensively, allowing her to press from the front, much like she did on Sinclair’s record-breaking tally. If she can keep a strong level throughout this tournament, expect Canada to reap rewards, in the form of goals and an improved defensive mentality from the front-to-back.
- The Ashley Lawrence in the midfield experiment also proved to be successful, and it’ll be interesting to see if they continue implementing it in other games. She’s a stellar two-way full back, but with Canada’s midfield being a little threadbare, her playing in the heart of the pitch could be a good way to get more out of this team. Tactically, it allows Heiner-Moller to be more flexible, and gives Canada another quality option further up the pitch, both for attacking and defensive situations.
- Elsewhere, Adriana Leon, Jayde Riviere and the passing of Shelina Zadorsky stood out. Leon was ruthless, scoring 4 goals and adding 2 assists, while Riviere had an energetic performance down the right hand side, working hard to help generate a pair of assists along with her well-taken goal. Zadorsky’s passing was equally as impressive from the back, as she played lovely balls forward all afternoon, none better than the pair of assists she helped deliver via long through balls. Overall, no one on Canada played badly, which considering the calibre of opponent, will be good for Heiner-Moller, who has no shortage of lineup questions to answer heading into the next couple of games.
- While it would have been ideal to have Sinclair break the record at home, this is probably the next best outcome, even despite the half-empty stadium and the opponent. Canada has some big games coming up, so the last thing they need is any additional distractions brought about by something like this, so the sooner it was done the better. Sinclair can continue to lead the line now, without worry, allowing Canada’s quest to win their first-ever major international trophy to continue without too much other fanfare.
Canada now has 2 days to rest before jumping right back into action, when they take on Jamaica Saturday in what will likely be their stiffest test of the group stages. They’ve prepared for it already, as evidenced by their rotated squad for this one, so expect an inspired performance from Les Rouges in the second game of this tournament.
All in all, it was a good start for them down in Texas, as they set a good tone heading into the bigger and more important games. The last thing you need in an opening game is to lose confidence, which Canada was far from doing in this one, with their 11 goals suggesting they look every bit the part of a team that was feeling good about itself.
So now, the biggest thing will be to see how this result translates into these next couple of matches. After last year, Canada needed a boost, and they definitely got one here, so even despite the calibre of opponent, this may have just been what the doctor ordered for them.
And starting with Saturday, we’ll see how it translates into what’s hoped to be a big rest of the tournament for them.
Up Next: Canada vs Jamaica, Saturday, February 1st, 2020, 14H30 PST, 17H30 EST
Cover Photo provided by: MexSPORT/Canada Soccer