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CONCACAF women’s soccer Olympic qualifying Day 3: Canada and Costa Rica clinch

Just as expected, Canada and Costa Rica are through to the semifinal round of CONCACAF women’s soccer Olympic qualifying with ease. Both were victorious by 2-0 score lines on Saturday. Host Canada topped Cuba and Costa Rica dealt with an inspired Haiti team in an overly physical match.

Canada coach John Herdman made eight changes to his line-up from the team that defeated Cuba 6-0 on Thursday, resting several players, including center back regular Candace Chapman. Captain Christine Sinclair – who scored her 125th international goal in the 17th minute – was replaced by midfielder Sophie Schmidt at halftime. Erin McLeod played in goal, giving Karina LeBlanc the night off.

Canada dominated the match but failed to finish with the exception of Sinclair’s 17th minute penalty and a lovely finish from Melissa Tancredi seven minutes later. Tancredi was active all game and looks to be in good form as Sinclair’s strike partner up top. The lack of finishing otherwise for a Canadian team with a host of chances is slightly concerning, but Herdman will likely field a full strength squad on Monday against Costa Rica.

That game will determine who advances in first place out of Group A. Canada needs only a draw out of the game to do so thanks to a superior goal differential.

Costa Rica failed to score more than twice in a gritty, physical match against Haiti. Wendy Acosta scored twice to lift Costa Rica to victory, but Haiti put up a valiant effort.

Haiti had its chances, including Samantha Brand’s shot from 15 yards out in the 54th minute that forced a big save from Costa Rica goalkeeper Julieth Arias. Sophia Batard was a bright spot for Haiti. The 22-year-old forward has pace and energy that makes opposing defenses uncomfortable. Those traits proved particularly favorable against a pretty poor Costa Rican defense, which could be Las Ticas downfall against Canada on Monday and in the semifinals on Friday.

Haiti and Cuba will face off on Monday in what was always going to be a battle for third place consolation in Group A, but both seem happy with their efforts thus far. At the very least, individual bright spots like Batard and Cuba’s Rachel Pelaez and Yesenia Gallardo had the chance to be appreciated on a larger stage.

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