Buchanan returns, as Canadian women's soccer reveals player pool for final pre-Tokyo camp
Priestman's squad to play 2 exhibition matches in mid-June in Cartagena, Spain
Call it the last chance to impress. Call it crunch time. For members of the Canadian women's national soccer team, there are few opportunities left to crack the 18-player roster for this summer's Tokyo Olympics and a big one will come next month.
With less than two months before the Games, coach Bev Priestman revealed her pool of 28 players for the team's final camp and two exhibition matches in June in Cartagena, Spain. The final roster for Tokyo will be announced 10 days after.
All the usual suspects will be in attendance, with the exception of veteran midfielder Diana Matheson, who has all but been ruled out of the Tokyo Games due to a long-standing foot injury. The 37-year-old two-time Olympic bronze medallist from Oakville, Ont., who scored the iconic winning goal in London 2012 against France, also missed the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup and hasn't played a game for Canada since March 2020.
Given Tokyo is two months away, Priestman said Matheson's injury is not where it needs to be.
"Unfortunately it's going to be very unlikely for Tokyo for Diana, which is a great loss for Canada and for this particular tournament," Priestman said on a media call with reporters Thursday. "Her experience, just what she brings to the group, I don't really need to touch on that, but unfortunately, I don't think she's going to be ready for Tokyo."
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One piece of good news sees reigning Canadian player of the year Kadeisha Buchanan of powerhouse Lyon back in the fold after missing two previous camps due to travel and medical reasons.
Captain Christine Sinclair, who is off to a great start with club Portland with two goals in three games, is back to full strength after picking up an injury in a match against Wales in early April.
As part of the preparations, No. 8 Canada will play two friendlies, against No. 27 Czech Republic on June 11 and No. 7 Brazil on June 14.
"[The Czech Republic] are a good team, not to be underestimated, definitely a different style than the Brazilians," Priestman said, adding they play very direct. "Brazil have done well as of late, so I think that will be a really good test for us … Two different opponents. Turn around very quickly, very similar to what we'll face in the Olympics."
This will be the final camp before selection, though Priestman is hopeful to play two more friendlies ahead of the Olympics. She's made it clear she wants to wait until the last possible minute to select her roster to give injured players enough time to return to fitness and challenge for a spot.
Goalkeepers Kailen Sheridan (quadricep) and Sabrina D'Angelo (knee), forward Adriana Leon (foot) and fullback Bianca St-Georges (knee) are all returning from injury.
St-Georges is one of two players who could make their first senior international appearance for Canada, along with forward Cloé Lacasse of SL Benfica, who participated in Canada's recent April camp in Wales and England.
There are some intriguing battles for positions on Team Canada.
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At the last Olympic Games in Rio 2016, then-coach John Herdman, which included Priestman as an assistant, chose two goalkeepers, six fullbacks, five midfielders and five forwards. The ability to play multiple positions and having the fitness to play back-to-back-to-back games and then some will be an asset for any player.
Emerging talent such as Evelyne Viens up front and Vanessa Gilles in the back certainly have made Priestman's job more difficult. With the likely absence of Matheson, the door could open for an up-and-coming midfielder to step in such as Julia Grosso, Jordyn Listro or Sarah Stratigakis. The goalkeeping position is very deep as well, with Stephanie Labbe likely securing the No. 1 spot with three clean sheets in her last four games, but the No. 2 position is up for grabs.
Priestman said the upcoming friendlies will be a difficult one as a coach because she has to balance getting results and keeping confidence high ahead of the Olympics, but also needs to see players who might be on the bubble.
"I can't overbalance one way or the other," she said. "I think it's about us now zooming in on the Tokyo Olympic Games, but at the same time seeing players that I might need to see to answer some questions. That 18-player roster is definitely keeping me awake at night.
"They've not made it easy for me, which is a good problem to have, I guess."
The Canadians are coming off a successful UK tour in April, which saw them come away with two multi-goal wins against No. 32 Wales (3-0) and No. 6 England (2-0). It was a steady improvement from the SheBelieves where Canada won one game — 1-0 stoppage time win over Argentina — and lost two, a hard-fought 1-0 loss to the No. 1 United States and a 2-0 defeat to Brazil.
Canada begins their quest for a third-straight Olympic medal on July 21 against No. 11 hosts Japan at the Sapporo Dome. Canada then plays No. 37 Chile on July 24 at the Sapporo Dome and Great Britain on July 27 at Kashima Stadium.
Goalkeepers (4): Sabrina D'Angelo (Vittsjö GIK), Stephanie Labbé (Rosengård), Erin McLeod (Orlando Pride), Kailen Sheridan (Gotham FC).
Defenders (9): Kadeisha Buchanan (Olympique Lyonnais), Gabrielle Carle (Florida State University), Allysha Chapman (Houston Dash), Vanessa Gilles (FC Girondins de Bordeaux), Ashley Lawrence (Paris Saint-Germain), Jayde Riviere (University of Michigan), Jade Rose (Super REX Ontario), Bianca St-Georges (Chicago Red Stars), Shelina Zadorsky (Tottenham Hotspur).
Midfielders (7): Jessie Fleming (Chelsea FC), Julia Grosso (University of Texas at Austin), Jordyn Listro (Kansas City NWSL), Quinn (OL Reign FC), Sophie Schmidt (Houston Dash), Desiree Scott (Kansas City NWSL), Sarah Stratigakis (University of Michigan).
Forwards (8): Janine Beckie (Manchester City FC), Jordyn Huitema (Paris Saint-Germain), Cloe Lacasse (Benfica), Adriana Leon (West Ham United), Nichelle Prince (Houston Dash), Deanne Rose (University of Florida/North Carolina Courage), Christine Sinclair (Portland Thorns), Evelyne Viens (Gotham FC).
Unavailable due to medical reasons: Lindsay Agnew (North Carolina Courage), Diana Matheson (Kansas City NWSL)