Tough decisions as Bev Priestman unveils 18-player soccer roster for Paris Olympics - Soccer (2024)

Tough decisions as Bev Priestman unveils 18-player soccer roster for Paris Olympics - Soccer (1)

Photo: The Canadian Press

Having wrangled the Rubik's Cube of an 18-player Olympic roster, coach Bev Priestman and her staff leave Tuesday for a pre-tournament camp in Spain.

The eighth-ranked Canada women will play two final warm-ups in Europe against yet-to-be announced opponents during the July 8-16 FIFA international window that precedes the Olympic tournament.

"I'm super-, super-excited," Priestman said Monday after naming her roster. "I think I couldn't get excited until I'd had some really difficult (roster) conversations and this was done. And then you start to work with the team you have got."

Sydney Collins, Nichelle Prince and Quinn won their injury battles in making a roster that features 13 players who won gold in Tokyo including six — captain Jessie Fleming, Janine Beckie, Kadeisha Buchanan, Ashley Lawrence, Prince and Quinn — who also earned bronze in 2016 in Rio.

The six veterans have a combined 717 caps, ranging from 149 for Buchanan to 97 for Prince.

Fifteen members of the Olympic roster were on last summer's 23-player World Cup squad. Former captain Christine Sinclair and veteran midfielder Sophie Schmidt have since retired from international football.

Beckie and Jade Rose missed the World Cup through injury. Collins was not picked.

Canada opens defence of its Olympic title on July 25 against No. 28 New Zealand before facing No. 2 France on July 28 and No. 22 Colombia on July 31. The first two Group A games are at the Geoffroy-Guichard Stadium in Saint-Etienne with the third at the Nice Stadium.

The top two teams from each of the three groups, along with the two best third-placed sides, advance to the knockout rounds.

The 24-year-old Collins, a defender/wingback whose Canada debut was in March 2023, makes the Olympic squad after fracturing her ankle in February in the Canadian camp ahead of the CONCACAF W Gold Cup while the 29-year-old Prince suffered a calf injury at the tournament, exiting in the 44th minute of a 4-0 win over El Salvador.

The 28-year-old Quinn is back from a knee injury. Their last appearance for Canada — which marked a century of Canada caps for the veteran midfielder — was in the penalty shootout loss to the United States at the W Gold Cup on March 6.

Teams have until Wednesday to name their Olympic roster.

"It did come right to the wire and it was a really really difficult decision," said Priestman.

"When I was making these (roster decision) calls, every player answered the call and was nervous at the end of the phone," she added.

In part because the Olympic roster is just 18 players, plus four alternates, compared to 23 for the FIFA World Cup.

The four alternates who will train and travel with the Olympic team — in case of injury — are goalkeeper Lysianne Proulx, defenders Gabby Carle and Shelina Zadorsky, and forward Deanne Rose. It's a fourth straight Olympic selection as an alternate for the 25-year-old Carle.

The three outfield alternates are veterans with 100 caps for Zadorsky, 84 for Rose and 46 for Carle. Proulx is uncapped but has been a regular at recent camps. All four were on the World Cup roster.

Missing are midfielder/forward Olivia Smith, midfielder Emma Regan and forward Clarissa Larisey, who were involved in June friendlies.

The 19-year-old Smith, who can play both midfielder and forward, had been thought a likely candidate because of her versatility and success in her rookie season as a pro in Portugal, where she was named best newcomer after scoring 16 goals for Sporting CP. But she and Larisey appear victims of the numbers game up front.

Priestman opted for forwards Beckie, Jordyn Huitema, Cloe Lacasse, Adriana Leon, Prince and Evelyne Viens.

"It was the forward line where we had the most discussions as a staff group. It was the area that we dug the most into the stats. And it was the most difficult (decision), for sure," said Priestman.

The return of Collins likely decided Carle's place among the alternates. Priestman ultimately opted for Zadorsky as an alternate because Collins, Lawrence and Quinn can cover at centre back if needed,

There is also no place for veterans Desiree Scott and Allysha Chapman. The 36-year-old Scott, a defensive midfielder who has 187 caps, missed the 2023 season with a knee injury while the 35-year-old Chapman (a fullback with 99 caps) had a baby in February.

"Desi was a really difficult conversation and decision," said Priestman. "I felt we didn't need the cover in the midfield position and that's ultimately what it came down to."

Collins, Lacasse, Simi Awujo and Jade Rose are making their Olympic debuts.

The 20-year-old Awujo, a midfielder who plays collegiate soccer at USC, played her way onto the team with strong performances this year. Jade Rose, a 21-year-old from Harvard who was the 2023 Canada Soccer Young Player of the Year, has established herself in Canada's backline alongside Buchanan and Vanessa Gilles.

Canada is the only country to have reached the podium in women’s soccer at each of the last three Olympics.

Canada qualified for the Paris Olympics in September by defeating No. 42 Jamaica 4-1 on aggregate in the two-match CONCACAF W Olympic Play-In.

Canada is 10-1-4 since a disappointing 1-1-1 performance at last summer's World Cup that saw Priestman's team fail to make the knockout round. Two of the ties since turned into shootout losses to the U.S. while one became a shootout win over Brazil, which also accounted for the lone Canadian loss in regulation time since the World Cup.

Canada Roster

Goalkeepers: Sabrina D’Angelo, Welland, Ont., Arsenal (England); Kailen Sheridan, Whitby, Ont., San Diego Wave (NWSL)

Defenders: Kadeisha Buchanan, Brampton, Ont. Chelsea (England); Sydney Collins, Beaverton, Ore., North Carolina Courage (NWSL); Vanessa Gilles, Ottawa, Olympique Lyonnais (France); Ashley Lawrence, Caledon East, Ont., Chelsea (England); Jayde Riviere, Markham, Ont., Manchester United (England); Jade Rose, Markham, Ont., Harvard (NCAA).

Midfielders: Simi Awujo, Atlanta, USC (NCAA); Jessie Fleming (capt.), London, Ont., Portland Thorns (NWSL); Julia Grosso, Vancouver, unattached; Quinn, Toronto, Seattle Reign (NWSL).

Forwards: Janine Beckie, Highlands Ranch, Colo., Portland Thorns (NWSL); Jordyn Huitema, Chilliwack, B.C., Seattle Reign (NWSL); Cloe Lacasse, Sudbury, Ont., Arsenal (England); Adriana Leon, King City, Ont., Aston Villa (England); Nichelle Prince, Ajax, Ont., Houston Dash (NWSL); Evelyne Viens, L’Ancienne-Lorette, Que., AS Roma (Italy).

Alternates

Gabrielle Carle, Levis, Que., Washington Spirit (NWSL); Lysianne Proulx, Boucherville, Que., Bay FC (NWSL); Shelina Zadorsky, London, Ont., West Ham (England); Deanne Rose, Alliston, Ont., Leicester City (England).

Staff

Head Coach: Bev Priestman.

Assistant Coaches: Jasmine Mander, Andy Spence, Neil Wood.

Goalkeepers & Set Plays Coach: Jen Herst.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 1, 2024.

Tough decisions as Bev Priestman unveils 18-player soccer roster for Paris Olympics - Soccer (2024)
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