More of the same is what Canada’s women’s soccer team is going for as they head into their second group stage match of the Pan Am Games against Costa Rica on Wednesday in Hamilton.
The squad was dominant in their opener against Ecuador on the weekend, scoring early and often on their way to a 5-2 victory.
But the comfortable victory against a squad full of World Cup veterans doesn’t mean there aren’t improvements that can be made.
“As a defender, I definitely feel like those goals need to go down because we want a shut out,” said centre-back Kadeisha Buchanan after the team’s first match.
Things could be made more difficult for Canada by the loss of starting goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé, who is serving a one-game suspension after seeing red late in the game on Saturday.
Replacing her is Whitby, Ont.-native Kailen Sheridan, 19, who backed Canada at last summer’s under 20 Women’s World Cup, but has never played at the senior level.
That’s the point of these Pan Am Games for Canada, to develop their younger players ahead of next summer’s Olympics, giving them the opportunity to break into the 18-player senior roster that will travel to Rio should they qualify.
Costa Rica will be a similar team to Ecuador, having also brought a contingent of players just coming off the World Cup, but should prove a tougher opponent after tying two higher-ranked teams in last month’s tournament and only losing 1–0 to Pan Am rivals Brazil.
But, last weekend in Hamilton, with Brazil back at full strength after sitting some of their stars in the World Cup having already clinched the group, the Costa Ricans looked second-rate in a 3-0 defeat.
Wednesday is a must-win game for the Canadians if they want to secure a place in the semifinals; a top two finish would get them into the next round, and a win against Brazil in their last group stage game Sunday is no guarantee.
Buchanan will be on the lookout for classic South American flair, but she’s confident her teammates have enough finesse of their own to control possession, keep their feet moving on defence and get the win.
“This is the part of the future. We definitely have a lot of flair, too, and like to keep the ball a lot, get a lot of touching on the ball. You’ll see that more from this young generation.”