Youth and experience.
Those are the two watchwords surrounding the Canadian women's soccer team as it prepares to compete in the 2010 CONCACAF World Cup qualifier in Mexico.
Team Canada is currently training in Cancun ahead of the eight-team CONCACAF event that serves as the qualifying tournament for next year's FIFA Women's World Cup in Germany.
Canada's opening game is Friday against Trinidad and Tobago (streamed live on CBCSports.ca at 6 p.m. ET), but coach Carolina Morace isn't expected to name her final team until Thursday.
How the tournament works
The CONCACAF World Cup qualifier is an eight-team competition for the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup in Germany.
The tournament, scheduled for Oct. 28 to Nov. 8, will see Canada compete in Group A with hosts Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago, and Guyana. Group B is comprised of the United States, Costa Rica, Haiti and Guatemala.
The tournament finalists will automatically qualify for the World Cup, while the third-place team will meet Italy in a two-game playoff for the right to travel to Germany.
Competition for spots is intense and if recent history is any indication, Morace will select a roster peppered with experience and youth.
In a 3-1 win over China last month in Toronto, Canada's attacking 4-3-3 formation was spearheaded by veterans Christine Sinclair and Melissa Tancredi, and youngster Josee Belanger. The trio wreaked havoc on the Chinese defence, feeding off the sublime service of veteran midfielder Diana Matheson.
While Matheson supplied the skill in midfield, youngster Kaylyn Kyle provided the steel, running herself ragged as she chased down countless balls and winning back possession from the Chinese. In the centre of defence, another youngster, Emily Zurrer, was sure-footed and a figure of strength, forming an effective partnership with veteran Candice Chapman.
That Morace can rely on a strong core of veterans and an exciting crop of young prospects bodes well for Canada — not only for the upcoming CONCACAF tournament, but also for many years to come.
"For the national team, its very promising to bring in a bunch of young players who have the ability to make a difference," Sinclair told CBCSports.ca. "In that China game, we had Kaylyn and Emily start but so many others came on as subs in the second half and made a huge difference.
"Whether young or old, Carolina shows that she trusts you and believes in you, and she will give you that opportunity on the field."
Indeed, Kyle earned a few caps under previous coach Even Pellerud, but the 22-year-old has been given more chances to play under Morace. Kyle and the other relative newcomers to the team are making the most of their opportunities.
"It's great for us because it allows us to get better and maybe some day be a Christine Sinclair or Diana Matheson," said Kyle. "For me, I'm happy to get the chance. … We're trying to push [the veterans] to be better players and they're showing us how to be better."
Kyle turned a lot of heads against China last month, her performance not going unnoticed by Sinclair, who has scored 102 goals in 140 international appearances for Canada.
Soccer fans can watch the Canadian women's national team compete at the 2010 CONCACAF World Cup qualifier on CBC.
All three of Canada's group-stage matches will be streamed live on CBCSports.ca and air on the main CBC network and on Bold, CBC's digital channel.
Fans can also watch live coverage of the semifinals and final on CBCSports.ca
To read about CBC's broadcast coverage of the tournament, CLICK HERE.
"Kaylyn has being doing so well day in and day out. I know she had a few caps under Even but she's flourishing under Carolina," opined Sinclair.
With more playing time comes greater accountability come game time, which is why Kyle tirelessly worked on her own the past few months to improve her endurance.
"It's a huge honour just to be in the team. This summer, I prided myself of getting even more fit so I can play like I did against China and be able to play 90 minutes or come off the bench," explained Kyle.
As one of the best female stars in the world, Sinclair is a player that the team's youngsters aspire to emulate. The 27-year-old acknowledges it's a big responsibility, but she takes a different approach when it comes to mentoring.
"I'm not one to talk too much. For me it's all about performing every day and doing the right things off the field in order to be ready for every practice," Sinclair said.
Sinclair's lead-by-example approach is clearly working.
"You see how Christine and Diana carry themselves — they are always so professional and always so prepared, it's incredible. I've learned how to be better player both on and off the field just by looking at them," Kyle admitted.