The young stars that lit up the field over the weekend faded Tuesday as Canada’s women’s national team fell to Costa Rica in their second match of the Pan Am Games.
Midfielder Shirley Cruz and striker Karla Villalobos each put a goal past 19-year-old Kailen Sheridan to sink the Canadians, a loss that will make progressing to the semi-finals difficult for the holders.
Canadian head coach Danny Worthington made six changes to the lineup that beat Ecuador 5-2 over the weekend.
Three of those substitutions were forced changes: goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé was suspended after she was shown a red card on Saturday and midfielder Ashley Lawrence and defender Kadeisha Buchanan returned to their school, West Virginia University.
Those were big losses for Canada, as the three are among the few players on the squad who have experience at the senior level. Midfielder Jessie Fleming, 17, is the only other player who was at the Women’s World Cup last month.
The two teams looked evenly matched through the first 45 minutes, with most of the play in the middle of the field.
Janine Beckie had Canada’s only real chance of the half, connecting with a cross from 16-year-old Sarah Strategakis as she drove toward the front post, but the striker scuffed her chip shot over the bar.
Costa Rica couldn’t manage any attempts of their own but the Central American side showed some typical flair with a couple of incisive passes at the top of the box that showed holes in the Canadian defence. Victoria Pickett and Shelina Zadorksy came up big with last-ditch tackles to clear on the ensuing breakaways.
With Costa Rica coming on stronger to start the second half, it seemed only a matter before they found a breakthrough and, in the 60th minute, Cruz made a driving run from the top off the box to connect with an incoming corner and put the ball over Sheridan’s head.
Canada couldn’t find the offensive spark they needed to create a response. Emma Fletcher, who had a handful of chances on her own when she wasn’t creating them for others, was non-existent in midfield. And with Zadorsky pulled into centre-back to replace Buchanan, the Canadians weren’t delivering any penetrating crosses.
Substitute striker Marie Levasseur created a couple of chances for herself when the Canadians pressed in the final few minutes, hitting a shot off the crossbar, but it was too little too late.
It is the first time the women’s team has dropped points to the Costa Ricans and it makes Canada’s final round-robin match against group leader Brazil crucial if they want to progress to the knockout round.
It will be a tough match for the young Canadians to get three points.
Brazil added another win to their count earlier in the day, thumping Ecuador by a score of 7- 1 without reaching first gear.
Brazilian forward Cristiane, who racked up five of those goals, will be one Canadian centre-backs Buchanan, should she return, Zadorsky and Rebecca Quinn have to look out for when the two teams meet Sunday in Hamilton.