The future is February for seven newcomers trying...
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Jan 27, 2016  |  Vote 0    0

The future is February for seven newcomers trying to take Canada back to Olympics

Canadian women need to finish in top two in Houston to qualify for Olympic soccer tournament


Janine Beckie knows better than most what a difference a year can make.

This time last year the young Canadian striker found herself on the bubble of the national’s team roster as the squad prepared to host the Women’s World Cup.

That bubble eventually burst for Beckie. She ended up an alternate after she was left off the 23-player roster for that tournament.

“That was a tough time for me,” the now 21-year-old admitted. “I kind of had to regroup.”

Beckie instead made her mark at last summer’s Pan Am Games and December’s International Tournament of Natal in Brazil.

She was rewarded Tuesday as one of 20 players named to Canada’s squad for the women’s Olympic qualifying tournament in Houston, Texas, starting Feb. 10. The top two teams will play in Rio in August. Canada is hoping to improve on its bronze-medal performance from London 2012.

“It’s not real yet, you know? I don’t think it will be until the team is actually in Houston and we’re the actual team that’s going to compete,” Beckie said Tuesday afternoon, hours after officially learning her name was listed alongside the likes of Christine Sinclair and Erin McLeod.

Beckie is joined by six other new faces, including fellow World Cup alternate Rebecca Quinn, 16-year-old Deanne Rose and 17-year-old Gabrielle Carle.

Marie-Eve Nault, Jonelle Filigno, Adriana Leon, Emily Zurrer, Carmelina Moscato, Robyn Gayle, Lauren Sesselmann and Selenia Iacchelli were left off the roster.

But their omissions don’t necessarily mean the eight have played their last match in red and white, coach John Herdman said.

“Whether this group of 20 are the ones that go to Rio is another question. There’s a whole new layer of assessment when you consider the demands of an Olympic tournament, when you have five tier-one teams potentially in your way on your way to the podium.”

For now, though, he’s hoping Beckie, Rose, Carle and Nichelle Prince will offer pace and width to Canada’s offence, which is sure to meet defensive-minded squads during its group stage games against 48th-ranked Trinidad and Tobago, Guatemala (No. 76) and Guyana (No. 89).

Quinn and Shelina Zadorsky give Herdman choices on the left side of central defence. Sabrina D’Angelo comes in as a third option in net following Karina LeBlanc’s retirement.

With only 37 caps between the new additions — Beckie brings the most experience with nine appearances — there will be some adjusting to the senior game.

Herdman has made it clear the expectation is to win the group handily, making Canada’s fourth match, the semi-final, its most crucial.

Beckie sees great opportunity for goals in the coming tournament. But more than that, she’s looking forward to using Houston as a platform, not only to secure a Rio berth but to launch the next generation of Canadian soccer with players she considers her best friends.

“I think with the help of the veterans and the older players that are here now, this could be a really special road to the Olympics.”

Toronto Star

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