Christine Sinclair scored in injury time Tuesday as Canada's women's soccer team capped its Arizona training camp with a 2-1 victory over Sweden.
The 12-day camp, culminating with the closed-door friendly against the No. 5 Swedes, was part of Canada's preparations for January's CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament in Vancouver.
“It was a really strong performance from Canada, and that's not being overly biased,” said Canadian coach John Herdman, whose team is ranked ninth in the world. “I think Canada pretty much controlled the game, the tempo, the flow, and imposed themselves well physically.”
Jessica Landstrom scored the lone goal for Sweden in the 44th minute. The Canadians replied in the 75th when Chelsea Buckland scored her first goal for the senior side, firing in a rebound off a driving shot off the post from Kaylyn Kyle.
“I think to go in 1-0 at halftime, the corner kick from Sweden just before the halftime whistle didn't really reflect the game, and I think that got the girls even more angry coming out into the second half when they really put their foot down,” Herdman said.
Sinclair's goal came in the 91st minute, lifting Canada to a record of 14 wins, four draws and six losses this season. Emily Zurrer got her head on a corner kick from Kyle, sending the ball back across the goal, before it bounced off Sinclair's stomach and in.
“It's not the prettiest goal you'll ever see, but we'll take it,” Sinclair said.
The Canadians were coming off a gold-medal performance at the Pan American Games last month in Guadalajara, Mexico, and Herdman said the team's confidence and optimism continues to rise. Herdman was hired in September to replace Carolina Morace, who resigned after Canada's disastrous first-round exit at this summer's women's World Cup.
“I think it's just a growing approach with the team. I think what they've sort of established (is) a greater clarity in what they're asked to do on the pitch and I think some players have shed an old skin,” Herdman said.
“When we look at the stats backwards we can say, yeah, there is progression and the confidence is building. But there's still a hell of a lot of work to do. And I think the players are committed to improving to a level where we're not just comfortable winning these games, we're comfortable consistently winning these games.”
Herdman will gather his team together next month for one final fitness camp, and perhaps another friendly, before the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament, Jan. 19-29. He's confident that's enough time to have his team ready to book a berth in the 2012 London Games.
“I think to get through the qualifying campaign you can spend every day of the week and become obsessive about the time,” Herdman said. “We've got more than enough time and having time away is important as well, they've had a couple of weeks off (since Mexico), they've been able to be able to come back nice and fresh and refocused and all we do is a quick recap and then we look forward for our new goals for this tour.
“It's been very rewarding this period, and the game has just topped it off.”