The USA Women’s National Team waited impatiently for four years to take a shot at their Canadian cousins for the right to participate in the upcoming Pan Am Games. The teams opened their home and home series at Auburn University, Sunday, with the prize being a trip to Lima, Peru, in July 2019.
The Canadians and the Americans have an intense rivalry. Regardless the sport, neither side ever backs down. The Canadian women didn’t disappoint as they definitely brought their “A” Game. In a game featuring exceptional defense, the Canadians were tenacious, focused, and swarming. The Americans, of course, excel on defense and were every bit as tough. In fact, it took more than five minutes before the Canadian scored their first goal, and it was nearly another two minutes before Nicole Anderson scored for Team USA.
A Kathy Darling score sent optimistic hopes through the overwhelming American cheering crowd at Auburn University’s historic Beard-Eaves-Memorial Coliseum, thinking the Americans had found their rhythm and would start demonstrating some of their high-powered offense. Instead, what followed was a defensive battle. Back-and-forth the two teams attacked, only to have smothering defenses stop the attack.
Julia Sayer and Jence Rhoads jumped into the scoring column, but the Americans could not open up any significant lead. Freja Dobreff started in goal for the Americans and played well, making several good saves. Yet, the Canadians found a soft spot from the left wing and were abled to score several times to stay with Team USA. At halftime the American held a tenuous 12-11 lead.
As play resumed in the second half, veteran Sophie Fasold took over in goal. She would eventually make a huge difference. With the American offense sputtering, the Canadians were able to score a few hard-earned goals. The Canadians then actually took the lead and stretched it to two and threatened to make a three on a couple of occasions, only to be stopped cold by exceptional goalkeeping by Fasold. Big second-half goals by Darling kept the Americans in the game.
Late in the game, rookie left winger Monáye Merritt came off the bench and scored a stunning goal for the Americans to narrow the gap. When Nicole Anderson scored, the Americans had caught the Canadians and this time they established a lead that would last. The four American backs, Andersen, Darling, Sayer, and Rhoads, scored 21 of the 22 goals, with Andersen scoring eight, including 4 times on 7-meter shots earned by her teammates.
Head Coach Christian Latulippe’s veteran team was at their best when it counted. Latulippe praised his defense for a superior performance. The interior defense of Rhoads and Jennifer Fithian, with Sarah Gascon on one side and Andersen, Sayer, Darling, and Shani Levinkind on the other, made things very difficult even for the exceptionally quick Canadians. Julia Taylor, Zoe Lombard, Liz Hartnett, and Merritt, worked in excellent harmony with the interior defensive group, often flushing wings wide, denying them penetration.
The teams now travel to Montreal, Quebec, Canada, for game two, Wednesday, September 5, 2018, where they will square-off once again. Team USA hopes to avoid any complicated tie-breakers by again beating the Canadian women, thereby qualifying for the Pan Am Games.