Canadian women look to improve finishing against Costa Rica
National team continues to struggle scoring despite creating plenty of chances
John Herdman is looking for some more clinical finishing in front of goal. But off the field, his Canadian women's soccer team is as sharp as ever.
Herdman lost track of his soccer boots after Canada's 3-1 victory Thursday over Costa Rica in Winnipeg. When his boot bag was returned to him, his beloved black Copa Mundial boots had been spray-painted pink.
"It could be any one of this group," Herdman said with resignation when asked who the culprit might be.
"It's sacrilege to touch a man's Copas," he said with mock indignation.
On the plus side, the as-yet unidentified prankster(s) left the Canadian coach a brand new pair of Copa Mundials — a classic Adidas shoe first released in 1979 — to ease his pain.
Too smart to contemplate payback — any retaliatory move would only be returned three-fold, he said — Herdman just put on his new shoes Saturday and led practice.
Finishing 'needs work'
Joking aside, Herdman hopes his players have their scoring boots on for Sunday's rematch with the Costa Ricans after failing to put the Central Americans away early in Winnipeg.
Canada got goals from Jessie Fleming (third minute), captain Christine Sinclair (52nd, penalty) and Adriana Leon (92nd). Sinclair's goal was her 168th in 258 national team appearances.
The Canadians could have had a lot more. They fired 48 crosses and shots against Costa Rica.
"Needs work," Herdman said of the finishing.
It's been an issue this year. The Canadian women created plenty of scoring chances at the Algarve Cup but produced just three goals in four games and finished runner-up.
"That ruthlessness in front of goal" has been missing. But Herdman likes the number of scoring chances his team is creating.
Against Costa Rica, Canada also dropped off for about 15 minutes while leading 2-0. That allowed the Costa Ricans to get back into the game.
Fullback Allysha Chapman will sit out Sunday's game after tweaking a hamstring in Winnipeg. Goalkeeper Sabrina D'Angelo remains sidelined with a twisted ankle after a freak training accident that saw her collide with one of the inflatables used to simulate players in free kick situations.
Team on the rise
Thursday's win improved Canada's all-time record against Costa Rica to 11-0-0 with a 36-5 edge in goals. But the Central Americans, who at No. 30 stand fourth in the CONCACAF rankings, are seen as a team on the rise in the region.
The second-ranked Americans top the CONCACAF followed by Canada at No. 5 and Mexico at No. 26.
The Winnipeg game, which drew an announced crowd of 14,434 to Investors Group Field, was Canada's eighth since winning bronze in Rio last summer. The Canadian women are 5-2-1 over that stretch with the lone losses to 13th-ranked Spain in the Algarve Cup final in March and top-ranked Germany in an April friendly.
Sunday marks Canada's first game in Toronto since a pre-Olympic friendly loss to Brazil in June 2016. Organizers expect a crowd in excess of 20,000.
It sounds like Herdman will leave his lineup largely untouched. He said he plans to "keep playing my best team."