Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By CAITLIN MURRAY
It looks like Jill Ellis’ odds of becoming the U.S. Women’s National Team coach might’ve just gotten a bit worse.
In what was likely her last match as interim coach of the USWNT before U.S. Soccer decides on a permanent replacement, the USWNT settled for a 1-1 draw Thursday against a Canadian side that outplayed the Americans for most of the match.
As the rivalry since the dramatic 2012 Olympics showdown between these two sides seems to dictate, it was Canadian-born Sydney Leroux who silenced the rowdy Canadian crowd of 28,255 in Manitoba and scored the late equalizer for the Americans.
In a rare poor clearance by a Canadian defense that had been quickly quelling the American’s best efforts in the final third all game, a loose ball in the box bounced to Leroux’s feet for a deft far post finish in the 78th minute.
The Canadians looked to be the better team Thursday, connecting well up the field on the attack and forcing frequent turnovers on defense. It was their finishing that betrayed them as they forced few saves out of Hope Solo and were well out-shot, 14-4.
Canada opened scoring from 18-year-old defender Kadeisha Buchanan, who headed a Diana Matheson cross to an undefended far post and past Solo. The 35th-minute goal robbed Solo of tying Briana Scurry’s all-time USWNT clean sheet record of 71 games.
Christine Sinclair nearly brought Canada ahead again a minute after Leroux’s equalizer, sliding onto a loose ball that skipped just inches wide of goal.
The result will likely be a confidence-builder for the Canadians as they prepare to host the women’s World Cup next year, with some matches played at the same venue for Thursday’s friendly, Investors Group Field in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
But for an American squad in transition, the performance may raise even more questions as they look for a new leader and ahead to next year’s tournament.
U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati had said he planned to name a new USWNT coach in mid-May after the Canada-USA friendly and Ellis has said she wants the job. But former assistant USWNT coach Tony Gustavsson is also in the running and ESPN analyst Julie Foudy reported Thursday that former USWNT coach Tony DiCicco, another suspected short list candidate, had been interviewed by U.S. Soccer for the job.
Coach Tom Sermanni was fired a month ago after the USWNT ended a 43-game unbeaten streak and suffered their worst loss in team history. Gulati and players had said Sermanni was not a right “cultural fit.”
Ellis again fielded the USWNT in a 4-3-3 – which could become the squad’s formation of choice as they look to get more of its forwards in front of goal – with Abby Wambach playing target forward and Leroux and Heather O’Reilly on the wings. But the Americans struggled to find a rhythm and couldn’t capitalize on their chances as Canadian goalkeeper Erin McLeod came up with a few massive saves.
Watch highlights of the match below: