ORLANDO, Fla. — Substitute Rose Lavelle scored in the 79th minute to help the U.S. defeat Canada 1-0 Thursday on the opening day of the SheBelieves Cup.
It was a gritty performance by a Canadian side missing captain Christine Sinclair and other top players.
While the top-ranked Americans dominated play at Exploria Stadium, they failed to convert until late when Canada didn't clear a ball in the box and Lavelle hammered a shot through traffic. The Canadians thought there had been an infraction on the play but to no avail.
The Canadian women, tied for eighth with Brazil in the FIFA world rankings, had their hands full with the Americans who spent much of the game in Canada's end.
The Americans kept coming but could not finish. And Canada had a few chances of its own with a Shelina Zadorsky header going just wide in the dying seconds
The game marked the debut of 34-year-old Bev Priestman as Canada coach. The English native, who worked for Canada Soccer from 2013 to 2018, took over last November when Kenneth Heiner-Moller took a coach job in his native Denmark.
It was the first outing for Canada since March 10, 2020, when it tied Brazil 2-2 at a tournament in France. The Americans were coming off a pair of lopsided victories over No. 26 Colombia in January.
Canada's record against the U.S. dropped to 3-51-7, with the Canadian women winless in the last 37 meetings (0-31-6). Their last victory over the Americans was almost 20 years ago, a 3-0 decision at the Algarve Cup on March 11, 2001, in Lagos, Portugal.
The U.S., meanwhile, extended its unbeaten streak against all opposition to 35 game and is unbeaten in its last 51 home matches (46-0-5). Head coach Vlatko Andonovski has won all 14 of his games at the U.S. helm.
The Americans pressed from the get-go, hemming the under-strength Canadian side in its own end and forcing giveaways. Still Canada managed to hold off the Americans, showed flashes of its attack as the first half wore on and went into the break tied at 0-0.
The Americans had Canada on the ropes as the half ended, coming close as goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe failed to corral a deflected shot near the goal-line in injury time. But Labbe, who had replaced the injured Kailen Sheridan in the 11th minute, was saved by fullback Allysha Chapman's desperate clearance.
Brazil downed No. 31 Argentina 4-1 in the tournament opener. Prior to the game four Argentine players were ruled out due to COVID-19 protocols.
Priestman was without Sinclair, Diana Matheson, Erin McLeod, Kadeisha Buchanan, Ashley Lawrence and Jordyn Huitema, who are either injured or back in Europe with their clubs.
The six have 845 caps and 229 international goals between them (uncapped defender Bianca St-Georges also had to leave camp with an injury). The 37-year-old Sinclair leads the soccer world with 186 international goals.
The strength of the American roster was shown by a triple substitution in the 63rd minute with Christen Press, Alex Morgan and Lavelle coming in.
Priestman fielded a starting 11 that went into the game with a combined 636 caps, led by midfielder Desiree Scott's 156. The hard-nosed defensive midfielder served as skipper in Scott's absence.
With games Sunday against Argentina and next Wednesday against Brazil, Priestman looked to dig into her roster. Midfielder Sophie Schmidt, on 199 caps, started on the bench and Sheridan started ahead of Labbe.
Schmidt came on in the 55th minute for her milestone cap, joining Sinclair (296) and Matheson (206) in the Canadian double-century club.
Forward Evelyne Viens, a prolific scorer at the University of South Florida currently on loan to Paris FC from Sky Blue FC, also came on early in the second half, earning her first cap.
The U.S. lineup included Megan Rapinoe and Carli Lloyd, who came into the game with 466 caps between them.
Canada has a rocky start with a Sheridan clearance bouncing off a U.S. player in the penalty box before Scott took down Lloyd on the edge of the box in the third minute. Rapinoe's ensuring free kick hit Janine Beckie in the Canadian wall.
Sheridan, earning her 10th cap, was helped off the pitch in the 10th minute, favouring her leg. The Sky Blue FC 'keeper went down in pain after a seemingly innocuous pass to a teammate.
The Canadians absorbed the early pressure and defender Vanessa Gills forced a save, albeit a comfortable one, from Alyssa Naeher with a header off a Beckie corner in the 17th minute.
The U.S. threatened in the 21st minute but Catarina Macario's shot was off target. U.S. cries for a Shelina Zadorsky handball in the Canadian box went unanswered soon after.
Canada's Quinn, who goes by one name, came forward in the 30th minute but the midfielder's shot hit a teammate. Labbe was called into action in the 35th, palming a Lloyd header over the crossbar.
Beckie had a gilt-edged chance in the 38th minute after a Deanne Rose shot deflected her way off a defender. But the Manchester City striker stubbed the shot and Naeher turned the ball away.
A minute later, Labbe had to make a diving save off a Lynn Williams shot.
The U.S. outshot Canada 14-5 (6-2 in shots on target) in the first half, held an 8-3 edge in corners and had 59 percent of possession.
The Americans continued their attack in the second half with Labbe saving a Lloyd shot from distance. Rapinoe forced another save from Labbe in the 62nd minute from a curling free kick.
A Morgan header flashed just wide in the 69th minute. Five minutes later, Priestman looked on in dismay when a clear handball in the U.S penalty box went unnoticed.
The Americans have won the SheBelieves Cup three of the five previous editions, including 2020. It's a first trip to the competition for the Canadian women.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 18, 2021
The Canadian Press