Canada coach accuses U.S. women’s soccer team of ‘highly illegal’ tactics

Canada coach John Herdman has accused the U.S. women's soccer team of using "highly illegal" tactics ahead of Monday's Olympic semifinal between the neighboring countries. According to Herdman, an Englishman who took over the Canadian team after a disappointing showing at the 2011 Women's World Cup and led the team to a gold medal at the 2011 Pan American games, the U.S. engages in "illegal marking" on set pieces that he believes is both overlooked by officials and poses an injury threat to opposing players.

From the AP:

"One of the big threats we've got to take care of, and what we've paid attention to, is the illegal marking in the box on their corners and free kicks," Herdman said. "Some of the blocking tactics, which are highly illegal, we'll keep an eye on them in the game. We've starting working on that in training without trying to injure our players."

Herdman said he also hopes to "raise awareness" of the issue with game officials when Canada plays the U.S. in the semifinals on Monday at Old Trafford.

"Obviously they're trying to free up a key player, but in a very illegal way. ... The U.S., it's what they do well," he said.

The bitterness of that last line sounds quite similar to New Zealand coach Tony Readings' complaint about the U.S.'s choreographed goal celebrations. "I wouldn't like it if our team did that. When teams concede [goals] they're disappointed and they want to get on with the game. But it's obviously something the Americans do," said Readings.

[ Related: American women criticized for celebrations ]

This isn't the first time the U.S. has been accused of overly physical play, but to imply that officials have been systematically unaware of "very illegal" tactics seems like Herdman is either trying to play mind games ahead of an important match or he might be laying the groundwork for potential excuses should things not go Canada's way.

The U.S. currently has a 26-match unbeaten streak going against Canada that dates back to 2001. After an unconvincing Olympic group-stage performance in which they finished third behind Japan and Sweden, respectively, Canada played its best match of the tournament in a 2-0 quarterfinal win over hosts Great Britain.

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