“It was one of the most courageous performances I have ever seen from a Canadian team from whom very little was expected, but they nearly pulled off one of the greatest upsets in the history of Olympic soccer through sheer determination,” recalls Arlo White, the NBC soccer commentator. “The Canadian players came away from that situation as heroines. They gained a lot of respect among soccer fans and larger sporting fans that they’ll take forward into future tournaments, especially the 2015 World Cup. Canada arrived that night as a force in women’s soccer. Even if they’re not quite as technically proficient as the world’s leading sides, they showed there is no lack of heart there.”
As Moscato and McLeod leave the pitch after their game in Rochester that night, they admit it evoked some sensitive memories to see Wambach again. When asked if they hate Wambach, they both shake their heads, insisting there’s a healthy respect for the American star.
“For me, definitely it was emotional to see her again,” said McLeod, who once played alongside Wambach on the Washington Freedom in the defunct Women’s Professional Soccer league. “But there are certain people who make you want to win more, and she is definitely one of those people.”
Of the 52 games against Canada, the U.S. team has won 44, and 23 of the past 27. Canada hasn’t beaten the Americans since 2001.
“We just genuinely want to win for once because we haven’t beaten the U.S. in 12 years,” Moscato said. “There is a real fuel there, there is a lot to play for, and she is one of the big reasons for their success, so we have to nullify her. It’s part of the game plan.”
CLOSING THE GAP
The ultra-confident Wambach is thrilled that the Olympics pumped up Sinclair’s status and their rivalry so significantly.
“Christine Sinclair had an incredible game, and Canada played like an inspired team, and I can honestly say that was so cool to see,” Wambach said. “It wasn’t so long ago that the U.S. was beating Canada 6-0, but now look at the strides Canada has made; look at how much better their players are and how much impact their coach has had. Sinc has become a legend in Canada, hasn’t she? I think that’s amazing.”
Sinclair likes where her team is ahead of this friendly, but says with a deep breath “Oh, there’s a lot more work to be done.” The 12-year veteran recalls her early years on the national team when the gap between Canada and the United States was frustratingly huge.
“I remember thinking, ‘if we don’t play the best game we’ve ever played right now, we’ll lose 8-0. And we would lose like that, they would embarrass us right off the field,’” Sinclair said. “Yet we all had this crazy dream that Canada could win a medal at a World Cup or Olympic Games. It took 10 years of hard work but it happened.”
What the Canadian captain from Burnaby, B.C., wants most now is consistency. A strong effort in one game is not enough. She believes the team has potential to beat top nations but wonders if it can win repeatedly in a tournament setting. The 2015 World Cup, held in Canada, will be the test. And it appears this team knows how to grab a nation’s attention.
“For so long, I’ve been on this national team, and played soccer professionally, and pretty much nobody noticed,” Sinclair said. “To finally have the spotlight, to finally have people caring about what we do, we have waited for this a long time.”
U.S. vs. CANADA
Rankings: U.S., No. 1; Canada, No. 7 (tied with England)
Record (2013): U.S., 6-0-2; Canada, 4-3-2
Key Olympians not in the lineup: U.S., Megan Rapinoe, Hope Solo, Shannon Boxx; Canada, Marie-Eve Nault