Pan Am soccer offers glimpse of Canada’s future

When the Canadian women’s team takes to the pitch at the Pan American Games for the first time this weekend, you’ll see a much different roster than from the recent FIFA Women’s World Cup.

Just four players who were part of the World Cup squad will compete at the Pan Ams: defender Kadeisha Buchanan, midfielders Jessie Fleming and Ashley Lawrence, and goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe.

Buchanan is likely to dominate the Pan Ams, coming off a very impressive performance at the World Cup, capturing the tournament’s Young Player Award and establishing herself as one of the game’s best centre-backs. At 19, she already has 40 senior caps and will take on an important leadership role over the next few weeks.

Lawrence, too, had a memorable World Cup showing, and will be adding to her growing resume of international competitions, which already includes appearances at the 2014 U-20 Women’s World Cup and 2012 U-17 Women’s World Cup.

Fleming is continuing her strong work rate. In the last year and a half, the 17-year-old has captained the U-17s, played in the U-20 Women’s World Cup and saw minutes in the Women’s World Cup.

At 28, Labbe is the veteran of the group and will take on the role of leader, as well as starting ‘keeper. While she’s spent time in the shadow of Erin McLeod for a number of years, Labbe is more than capable of dealing with the pressure of being the number one given she’s played professionally for many seasons in Sweden.

Labbe will be backed up by Kailen Sheridan, who handled Canada’s goalkeeping duties at last year’s U-20 Women’s World Cup.

The most experienced player of the Pan Am bunch is defender Chelsea Stewart with 44 caps. She won bronze with Canada at the 2012 Olympics, the only player on this roster to do so. She’s one of two currently suiting up professionally in the NWSL south of the border, along with forward Nkem Ezurike. Another duo—Shelina Zadorsky and Danica Wu—play pro in Europe.

A casual sports fan may ask why they should watch this team, given the absence of notable names such as Christine Sinclair and Sophie Schmidt. The answer is simple: this roster will give them a glimpse of what the senior squad will look like not too far down the road.

“We are approaching this event with an Olympic depth focus and with ‘the future’ in mind of increasing the current and future positional threshold of Canada’s women’s national team,” coach Daniel Worthington explained.

“It is a great opportunity for these girls to gain tournament expertise against five international teams that will pose different challenges.”

Canada is the defending Pan American champion, claiming gold four years ago in Guadalajara, Mexico when they defeated Brazil on penalty kicks in the final.

Competition for the Reds opens July 11 versus Ecuador, then Costa Rica on July 15. Group stage play wraps up July 19 against Brazil. All of the matches take place at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton, Ont.


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