VANCOUVER, BC – Nearly a year ago, Canada won the gold medal in women’s soccer at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, yet the search for another Olympic gold and a World Cup is already on.
The Concacaf W Championship in July serves as the qualifying path for the 2023 World Cup and the 2024 Olympic Games. Less than a year after standing atop the podium in Tokyo, the journey starts again.
Canada faces South Korea on June 26 at BMO Field in their lone prep match ahead of the W Championship, and head coach Bev Priestman is expected to go with a full-strength squad for the tune-up camp.
I’m no Bev Priestman, but here’s my best shot at predicting the CanWXNT squad for later this month. First off, I don’t expect many experiments, unless there are injuries.
Kailen Sheridan, Sabrina D’Angelo, Erin McLeod
Since Stephanie Labbe retired from national team duty, the net has been Sheridan’s to lose, and she’s done nothing to do that. Strong against Nigeria in April and performing well with the NWSL’s San Diego Wave, there is little doubt that Sheridan is the starter.
The three goalkeepers have been pretty solid in net for Canada, with McLeod offering a veteran perspective as the third keeper. While Washington Spirit backup Devon Kerr could push down the line, this position is pretty well the first decided on the callup sheet.
Ashley Lawrence, Jayde Riviere, Kadeisha Buchanan, Vanessa Gilles, Shelina Zadorsky, Alysha Chapman, Gabby Carle
This is where it gets a bit more fun and where Canada has some of the world’s finest talents. Locked-in starters include Ashley Larence and Kadeisha Buchanan, while the others are certain to get minutes in a tournament.
While this group would only offer three centrebacks, it would likely be fine for the one-match friendly. Jade Rose is the odd one out of the centreback crunch, but is on the cusp of the national team each camp.
A back four of Champan, Buchanan, Zadorsky and Lawrence seems the most likely. Zoning in on Buchanan, she’ll certainly be looking to further develop her attacking transition with Jessie Fleming on the pitch following the defender’s move to Chelsea FC. However, given Gabby Carle’s recent form and chemistry with potential forward start Evelyn Viens, there could be a case for the Kristianstads duo to both be in the lineup.
Quinn, Jessie Fleming, Desiree Scott, Julia Grosso, Victoria Pickett
It’s not a big midfield group, but it’s a pretty darn good one. Victoria Picket earns her way into the team amidst a stellar campaign with the NWSL’s KC Current; meanwhile, Jessie Flemming and Julia Grosso return to a competitive match after their European seasons ended.
This group is left-heavy but features Canada’s best options and versatile playing styles, like Scott, who can contribute centrally or on the wing. If Canada plays a 4-3-3, the midfield would likely feature Quinn, Fleming and Grosso, but playing Scott or Pickett on their weaker side could be an option.
While Grosso has had a bright start to her pro career at Juventus, she hasn’t established herself as a main go-to player in the Canadian eleven yet. Still, this summer is her chance to show that she has matured and can offer Canada another fact that they desperately need in attack.
Christine Sinclair, Janine Beckie, Nichele Prince, Deanne Rose, Adriana Leon, Evelyne Viens, Cloe Lacasse, Jordyn Huitema
If Christine Sinclair is healthy, she will be there — however, a warmup injury forced her to leave the Portland Thorns match on Saturday. Still, there is a likelihood she will be included in the roster.
Without Sinclair, don’t be surprised to see Evelyne Viens take on a more significant than usual role with her stellar play with Kristianstads, topped off with two goals last weekend.
Nichelle Prince is another question after missing the Houston Dash’s match this weekend. If she is omitted, it could open a spot for Jenna Hellstrom if Priestman goes with another attacker or fullback Bianca St Georges, who has impressed with the Chicago Red Stars.
The intriguing player to watch will be Janine Beckie and how she fares in her first Canada caps since returning to the NWSL with the maple-heavy Portland Thorns. Additionally, Jordyn Huitema will look to establish herself as a full-time goalscorer, having yet to earn a consistent starting spot in the Canadian XI.