Soccer

Minus veteran stars, Canada sends young roster into SheBelieves Cup tournament

Canada's women's soccer coach Bev Priestman has announced the final 23-player roster for the SheBelieves Cup that will begin Feb.18. The roster includes five uncapped players with seven others that were unable to take part in the tournament.

Will play world champion U.S. team in 1st game in nearly a year

Evelyne Viens is one of five players who will be making their debut on Canada's women's soccer team at the SheBelieves Cup. (Getty Images)

It's been nearly a year since the Canadian women's soccer team has seen game action and despite missing several key players, including captain Christine Sinclair and stalwart defender Kadeisha Buchanan, the squad is ready to go for the upcoming SheBelieves Cup. 

Coach Bev Priestman unveiled the 23-player roster Tuesday ahead of Canada's opening match against the world champions, the United States Thursday at Exploria Stadium in Orlando, Florida. It will be Priestman's first tournament since being hired as head coach in October.

After the Americans, the eighth-ranked Canadians play Brazil (tied for No. 8) on Feb. 21 and conclude against Argentina (No. 31) on Feb. 24.

There are five uncapped players among the group, including goalkeeper Rylee Foster, defender Jade Rose, midfielders Jordyn Listro and Samantha Chang and forward Evelyne Viens.

Canada Soccer announced Saturday that Sinclair and midfielder Diana Matheson, who have over 500 caps between them, didn't make the camp in Orlando due to injury. Veteran goalkeeper Erin McLeod and promising uncapped defender Bianca St-Georges both picked up injuries at camp and went back to their clubs.  

There was more bad news after centre back Buchanan (Lyon), fullback Ashley Lawrence and forward Jordyn Huitema (both Paris Saint-Germain) were denied release by their French clubs. France recently mandated a seven-day quarantine for travellers due to COVID-19, which impacted the Canadians' travel plans.  

"Obviously coming into this tournament it is not how I had originally imagined my first tournament would be particularly playing the No. 1 [team] in the world," said Priestman, who spent two years as England Women's assistant coach. "But it is a great opportunity for anybody to step up and try and get their name on that Olympic roster. It gives me a great chance to assess any new players, the current crop of players that maybe wouldn't see as much game time.

"Not having Sinc (Sinclair), not having Kadeisha it is big shoes to fill but there is a group that has been on the cusp." 

In the absence of Sinclair, two-time Olympic bronze medallists, Sophie Schmidt, who is one game away from playing her 200th game for Canada, and Desiree Scott will carry the leadership reins.  

The SheBelieves Cup is a four-team invitational tournament in its sixth season and features some of the best nations in women's football. 

Canada's roster:

Goalkeepers: Rylee Foster (Liverpool FC), Stephanie Labbé (Rosengård), Kailen Sheridan (Sky Blue FC).

Defenders: Lindsay Agnew (North Carolina Courage), Allysha Chapman (Houston Dash), Gabrielle Carle (Florida State University), Vanessa Gilles (FC Girondins de Bordeaux), Quinn (OL Reign FC), Jayde Riviere (University of Michigan), Jade Rose (Super REX Ontario), Shelina Zadorsky (Tottenham Hotspur)

Midfielders: Samantha Chang (University of South Carolina), Jessie Fleming (Chelsea FC), Julia Grosso (University of Texas at Austin), Jordyn Listro (Orlando Pride), Sarah Stratigakis (University of Michigan), Sophie Schmidt (Houston Dash), Desiree Scott (Kansas City NWSL) 

Forwards: Janine Beckie (Manchester City FC), Adriana Leon (West Ham United FC), Nichelle Prince (Houston Dash), Deanne Rose (University of Florida), Evelyne Viens (Sky Blue FC)

Unavailable due to injury: Christine Sinclair (Portland Thorns), Diana Matheson (Kansas City NWSL), Erin McLeod (Orlando Pride), Bianca St-Georges (Chicago Red Stars)

Unavailable due to club commitments: Kadeisha Buchanan (FCF Olympique Lyonnais), Ashley Lawrence (Paris Saint-Germain), Jordyn Huitema (Paris Saint-Germain)  

with files from Reuters

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