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A confident Canada looks to upset the U.S. at the SheBelieves Cup

Canada defender Kadeisha Buchanan (3) battles for the ball against USA forward Sophia Smith (11).
Photo Copyright Jordan Godfree for USA TODAY Sports

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The 2024 SheBelieves Cup final pits two familiar rivals against each other at Field as Canada prepares to face the U.S. women’s national team in what is sure to be a feisty match.

This will be the second meeting between the two squads this season, following a 3-1 U.S. victory on penalties in March’s Concacaf W Gold Cup semifinals. The U.S. holds a commanding 53-4-8 all-time series advantage over Canada. 

“It is going to be a battle,” interim U.S. coach Twila Kilgore told reporters in Columbus on Monday. “Everything we do, we like to make it difficult for teams to play against us. I’m sure they’ll be trying to make it difficult for us. I think it’ll be a bit more physical than this previous match. One of the objectives for us would be to set the tone in all ways but also continue to build off our last month. There’s a challenge in that for sure.” 

Canada coach Bev Priestman has no doubt that her squad will be up for the challenge, treating this match against a tier-one opposition side as a measuring stick ahead of this summer’s Paris Olympics. 

Canada’s opening match at the SheBelieves Cup featured some tinkering in the midfield during the first half before Priestman brought on Simi Awujo to start the second half. The move to add an extra midfielder alongside Jessie Fleming paid off as Canada scored the tying goal in the 77th minute and defeated Brazil on penalties

Will Canada continue to tinker and experiment against the fourth-ranked Americans?

“We’ll have to tinker to what they bring,” Priestman exclusively told The Equalizer following training on Monday. “At the same time, we have to bring our game to them. The best team that wins, will be the team that brings their own identity. In these sorts of games you have to do that. We reviewed what the last game gave us and maybe what it didn’t.”

If Canada is going to pull off an upset, they’re going to need their captain playing at her best. When Fleming is playing with joy and excitement that’s when she is thriving.

Fans saw some of Fleming’s skillset as she nutmegged U.S. captain Lindsey Horan in San Diego. 

The Portland Thorns midfielder wants to see Canada play with the ball more. In previous matches against the U.S. – Canada would sit back, absorb pressure, and wait to attack on the counter.

The ninth-ranked Canadians aren’t going to be content to park the bus.

“They’ve got a lot of speed up front,” Fleming exclusively told The Equalizer following training on Monday. “We’ve also got speed in our backline. It’s about how we get coverage from the midfielders helping out the backline. It’s also about how we keep the ball. That’s the best form of defense. Hopefully, there’ll be a bit more emphasis on that. They’re dangerous up front, but they’re human, they can get stretched just like we can. It’s about taking advantage of the spaces that they leave. You’re going to have to take some risks and you’re going to have to get a little bit lucky anytime you’re playing a top team.”

While both teams want to play physically and gain an advantage by creating turnovers, keeping that physical element in check and not giving away free kicks and picking up cards will dictate who is on the front foot and able to put the opposition under pressure. 

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“Everybody will want to be aggressive to win the ball back,” Priestman said. “Like Jessie said, trying to develop this attacking identity. I think both teams will be dangerous. I don’t think it’s going to be a null-and-void game. I don’t want to be a team that completely sits off and completely lets them dictate their identity on us.”

This is a rivalry match that players and fans on both teams are excited to be a part of. 

As great as it is to win a match four or five nil, taking on your biggest rival in a match that means a lot to supporters on both sides of the border is why players love to play the game. 

“We’re really looking forward to playing top-tier competition,” Kailen Sheridan exclusively told The Equalizer following training on Monday. “They’re a phenomenal team, they have incredible players, but so does every other team in the world. I think ultimately we need to do our best to play our game.”

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