VANCOUVER, B.C. - Canada vs Mexico for the last CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying spot at the London, Olympics this summer. That’s what was at stake last night at BC Place Stadium in Vancouver before a loud, raucous, CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying record crowd of 22,954. In the end Canada came out on top 3-1 to earn a berth at the Olympics after a wonderful played team game against Mexico.
Like Team USA did against Mexico, Canada got off to a quick start against the Mexicans who were sitting back early perhaps in awe of all the red and white Canadian flags. The crowd didn’t have to wait long for the first goal of the game. In the 15th minute Melissa Tancredi crossed the ball to Christine Sinclair who made some quick moves before striking the ball past 17 year-old Mexican goalkeeper Cecilia Santiago. That was Sinclair’s tournament leading 8th goal. Less than 10 minutes later, in the 23rd minute Canada found the back of the net again. Kelly Parker picked up her first assist of the tournament after finishing off a lovely passing display to forward Melissa Tancredi. “Tank” as her teammates call her was left a lone in the slot with the Mexican goalkeeper at her mercy. Tancredi made no mistake and it was 2-0 Canada. On that same play Christine Sinclair took a tough tackle from Mexico’s Marylin Diaz. Sinclair looked to be clutching her left ankle while she cursed in anger on the pitch. Canadian trainers helped Sinclair off the field before she made her return a few minutes later to the delight of the crowd.
Mexico’s Captain and most capped player Maribel Dominguez picked up a yellow card in the 37th minute for her awkward tackle on Sinclair. Mexico’s rough coverage on Team Canada star Christine Sinclair continued on throughout the game but Sinclair toughed it out like the hard-nosed Canadian she is and stayed on for the entire 90 minutes. At the half the score remained Canada 2 and Mexico 0.
Before the start of the second half Mexico made two substitutions bringing on Anisa Guajardo for Teresa Noyola and Monica Alvarado for Marylin Diaz. Canada didn’t use any subs until the 56th minute when midfielder Kaylyn Kyle was brought on for Christina Julien.
Lauren Sesselmann returned to the Canadian lineup after missing the last two tournament games with a left knee injury. Sesselmann was wearing a knee brace and didn’t look a step out-of-place in her return. Sesselmann was subbed off by Coach Herdman in the 63rd minute in favour of left-back Melanie Booth. Booth played exceptionally well in Sesselmann’s absence.
Mexico finally gave their fans something to get excited about in the 67th minute with a goal that culminated thanks to some hard work to after a corner kick. Dinora Garza took the corner and Canadian goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc made a great save and punched the ball well away from danger or so she thought. Veronica Perez came out of nowhere and ripped the ball through a maze of players and past the surprised LeBlanc.
After Mexico scored Coach John Herman used his final sub to try to nurse home an all important victory for Canada. Defender, and Coquitlam, BC, native Brittany Timko came on for midfielder Sophie Schmidt in the 74th minute to try to preserve a victory for Canada.
A one goal edge of your seat nail-biting game for the final fifteen minutes was not to be as Melissa Tancredi sent in Christine Sinclair alone on a breakaway which she scored on in the 76th minute to make it 3-1 Canada. Mexico’s goalkeeper Cecilia Santiago came out to challenge but Sinclair out smarted her and chipped the ball past her. After Sinclair provided that insurance goal you just knew Canada wasn’t going to collapse.
Canada’s Coach John Herdman had a few things to share with the media following the game: “We’re off to London. That’s some great news and thanks for the support but it’s not a job done yet. We want to get out there in the final and do what we can against the States to win this tournament.”
Herdman on Christine Sinclair and her outstanding teammates: “She’s a special player but I think you’ve got to start talking about the players behind her. Desiree Scott, Shannon Woeller, Kelly Parker, Melissa Tancredi there’s more to this team than Christine (Sinclair) and I think tonight you saw that.” Some girls really put themselves on the line tonight to make sure that London dream was completed.”
With her tournament leading 9th goal Christine Sinclair is now tied with Team USA striker Abby Wambach for third all-time in Women’s Soccer International goal-scoring with 129 goals. Canada and the US will play each other on Sunday night so that statistic is sure to change with both players leading the attack for their respective teams.
Notes: Canada will now play Team USA on Sunday night at 5pm at BC Place Stadium in Vancouver. Both teams have secured a trip to London no matter Sunday’s outcome.