Sin­clair leads team with seven teens to the Al­garve

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - NEIL DAVIDSON

Cap­tain Chris­tine Sin­clair leads a young ros­ter fea­tur­ing seven teenagers as Canada looks to de­fend its ti­tle at the Al­garve Cup.

John Herd­man’s fourth-ranked team leaves Thurs­day for Por­tu­gal and the 12-na­tion tour­na­ment that runs March 1-8. Canada de­feated Brazil 2-1 in last year’s fi­nal.

With the tour­na­ment fall­ing on a FIFA in­ter­na­tional win­dow, Herd­man has been able to sum­mon Euro­pean-based pros Kadeisha Buchanan (Olympique Ly­on­nais) and Ash­ley Lawrence (Paris Saint-Ger­main) for the first time since Canada won bronze at last sum­mer’s Rio Olympics.

The Cana­dian women have had one camp and played just one game — a 3-2 win over Mex­ico on Feb. 4 in Van­cou­ver that was more about the past than the fu­ture in fet­ing three re­tir­ing play­ers.

The sto­ry­line for this 22-woman squad is youth as Herd­man kicks off the post-Rio qua­dren­nial for real.

Jor­dyn Huitema, a 15-year-old for­ward from Chilli­wack, B.C., seen as a fu­ture star, is joined on the squad by fel­low teenagers Deanne Rose, Sarah Strati­gakis, Han­nah Tay­lor (all 17), Gabrielle Carle and Jessie Flem­ing (both 18) and Marie Levasseur (19).

Flem­ing and Rose were on the Rio Olympic team. Carle was an al­ter­nate.

Ten other mem­bers of the Al­garve squad are 23 or younger.

The veter­ans are Sin­clair (33), Stephanie Labbe (30), De­siree Scott (29), Allysha Chap­man and So­phie Sch­midt (both 28). The quin­tet has a com­bined 604 caps.

The Al­garve ros­ter fea­tures 14 of Herd­man’s 18 Olympians. Melissa Tan­credi and Rhian Wilkin­son have re­tired, Diana Mathe­son is in­jured and Josee Belanger, who is no longer in the NWSL, was not picked.

Play­ing in a rel­a­tively be­nign Group 1, Canada opens against No. 15 Den­mark on March 1 be­fore fac­ing No. 23 Rus­sia on March 3 and No. 38 Por­tu­gal on March 6.

Group 2 is made of No. 7 Ja­pan, No. 11 Nor­way, No. 14 Spain and No. 20 Ice­land and Group 3 is com­prised of No. 6 Aus­tralia, No. 8 Swe­den, No. 12 the Nether­lands and No. 13 China.

“This tour­na­ment will be our first op­por­tu­nity to play con­sec­u­tive com­pet­i­tive fix­tures since the 2016 Rio Olympics and a chance to get our whole squad back to­gether,” Herd­man said in a state­ment.

“The fo­cus will be on win­ning the tour­na­ment, by firstly shak­ing off some rust and then push­ing to recre­ate the tac­ti­cal co­he­sion and offfield chem­istry we saw in Rio.

“We have six new ad­di­tions to our squad, play­ers who showed well on our (Jan­uary) as­sess­ment camp and who will add depth to key po­si­tions and challenge the Olympic core play­ers for places. This is a fast-paced tour­na­ment where we will face one day-turn­arounds be­tween games, so we will need to hit the ground run­ning and main­tain a high pace if we want to win back-to­back Al­garve ti­tles.”

Huitema, Tay­lor, 20-year-old Alex Lamon­tagne, and 21-year-old Lind­say Agnew are un­capped. Levasseur has two caps and Strati­gakis one.

EUGENIO SAVIO, THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Ash­ley Lawrence, above, and cap­tain Chris­tine Sin­clair will lead a young ros­ter fea­tur­ing seven teenagers as Canada looks to de­fend its ti­tle at the Al­garve Cup.

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