Three’s Company: Canada’s front 3 racks up goals in big win over Jamaica at Olympic qualifiers

After a dominant 11-0 performance in their tournament opener against St.Kitts and Nevis, Canada wasted no time in racking up goals against Jamaica in the 2nd match, scoring early and often en route to a 9-0 victory over the Caribbean nation. With their qualification to the semi-finals now assured, they face Mexico in the last game of the group stages next week, with seeding for that crucial ‘win and you’re in’ semis on the line.

In the first game, it was about history, in the 2nd game, it was about youth. 

After Christine Sinclair became the all-time leading international goal scorer this week, scoring her 184th and 185th goals in a win over St.Kitts and Nevis, this time it was the younger players who had all the fun in the 2nd game against Jamaica. 

After a balanced spread of goalscoring in the opener, the front three took charge in this one, with 18-year-old Jordyn Huitema scoring 5 goals and adding 1 assist, 25-year-old Janine Beckie putting up 3 goals and 2 assists and 20-year-old Deanne Rose chipping in with 1 goal and 3 assist to round out the offensive contributions.

“Yeah, I think we’ve got a fire lighted up after the World Cup,” Beckie said after the game to OneSoccer. “We didn’t score enough goals at the World Cup, and that’s what we’ve been focused on.”

It now leaves Canada to play 1 more game in the group stage portion of this tournament, against co-group B leaders Mexico, with both teams already through to the semi-finals. Given the all-important seeding for those ‘win and you’re in’ semis will be on the line, it should be a good game, with both teams looking to avoid the current World Champions, the US, with an Olympic berth up for grabs in that potential semi.

Much like in their opening game, Canada got off to a quick start, kicking off the scoring inside 10 minutes. It started out with a nice bit of play, as Shelina Zadorsky played an incisive high through ball to Janine Beckie on the left side, but the Manchester City product was unable to find the back of the net once through on goal, as she was denied on her multiple attempts to shoot. Luckily for Canada, the ball then fell to Jordyn Huitema, who calmly slotted home to put her team up 1. 

Less than 5 minutes later, Canada would double the score, as another nice bit of interplay starting with their defenders opened up space. Jayde Riviere, Sophie Schmidt and Beckie played a couple of quick passes at the back, before Beckie was played into space on the right side, where she had enough time to curl a peach of a low curled ball towards the back post. Deanne Rose, sensing the incoming ball, made a great run to meet the pass, nodding the ball in with an unconventional thigh-thrust to put Canada up 2. 

The game would then slow right down for both teams, as Canada would be unable to breakthrough for much in terms of quality chances, while Jamaica was unable to test Stephanie Labbe in her goal. Ashley Lawrence and Janine Beckie had a pair of chances around the 30th minute, but Jamaica’s Sydney Schneider stood strong in her goal, keeping her team in the game. 

Things nearly opened up for both teams in the 41st minute, as midfielder Havana Soloan had a great crack at goal from distance for Jamaica, but she sent her strike just over, while Canada’s Sophie Schmidt was denied at close range by Schneider after a nice Allysha Chapman ball fell to her. 

Canada would keep the pressure up after that chance, and it resulted in a late goal, as they once again found joy in wide areas. Ashley Lawrence found herself in acres of space at the half-line after a gritty sequence of tough Jamaican and Canadian tackles, giving her time to play in her PSG teammate Huitema with a lovely low ball. With Huitema in a 2 on 1 with Beckie, she smartly curled the ball low around the back of the Jamaican defender, putting Beckie alone with Schneider, as she had time to chip the ball over the goalkeeper to extend Canada’s lead heading into the half.

Overall, it was a strong half from Canada, who weren’t as creative as in their first game, but did enough to be up comfortably. While they might not have been generating as much through the midfield as they would have liked, defensively they were stout, which is going to be important against strong opponents. 

“Yeah I think it’s similar to our goalscoring, we had a good defensive World Cup, but we gave away too many goals,” Beckie said. “At the end of the day if you don’t score, and you give up goals, you lose games. Our defence took that hit during the World Cup, but collectively as a team, we’ve always prided ourselves in our defensive performances.”

With their best moments coming from the wide areas in attack, it was curious to see if they were going to adjust that game plan heading into the 2nd stanza, as they looked to rack up that all-important goal difference total. 

And despite their lead, Canada wasted no time padding their total in the 2nd half, as they came out strong once again. Janine Beckie would add her second in the 51st minute as a result, as a Desiree Scott through ball squeezed its way into space for Beckie to run into, as she had plenty of time to look up and slot the ball into the low corner with a calm left-footed finish to make it 4-0.

That 4 would soon become 5, as mere minutes later, Huitema would add her 2nd, as well. Rose had a lovely bit of play on the right side, sending her defender the wrong way with a feint, before clipping in a nice ball into the near post, which Huitema nodded home with ease to pad Canada’s big lead.

There would be no sitting back for Canada after that goal, however, as less than 10 minutes later, Huitema would collect her hat trick, dotting her triple in the 62nd minute. Off a lovely bit of play from Beckie, who plucked down a long ball from Allysha Chapman with an exquisite bit of skill, all Huitema had to do was redirect the hard and low ball from her teammate on target, beating Schneider for her 4th of the tournament. 

“I think you look across this front line,” Beckie said. “And you’ve just got goalscorers, and Jordyn Huitema is just a goalscorer. That’s what she grew up doing, that’s what she’s born and bred to do, and when you know you have someone who can finish a ball in the box, you just put it in there.”

Not to be outdone, Beckie would find a way to notch her hat trick less than 5 minutes later, as the goals continued to come fast and furious for Canada. On a lovely bit of end-to-end play for Canada, Riviere hit a hard and low ball to Huitema, who played Rose through in on the wide side. Despite being in a good shooting position, she smartly elected to cut back the ball, with Huitema leaving the cross for Beckie, who slammed the ball low into the corner with a first-time shot to put Canada up 7 with her hat trick. 

Despite a 15 minute lull in the match, as both teams seemed to slow things right down, Canada wouldn’t be quite done scoring yet. Second-half substitute Adriana Leon would curl in a lovely corner from the right-hand side, which Sophie Schmidt flicked on towards Schneider at the near post, with Huitema pouncing on the juicy rebound with an easy header to give her a 4th tally on the evening.

That seemed all the goals this game would call for, but Canada wouldn’t be yet done there, either, as they would find time to make it 9 right at the death. With Rose behind the defenders, she circled around the goalkeeper, but found herself without an angle to shoot. Instead, she smartly waited for Huitema to arrive in the box, cutting it back to the striker, who slotted home easily to give her a 5th goal on the night

All in all, it was a strong attacking performance from Canada, who found a way to adjust their plan of attack in the second half, taking advantage of their wide dominance in the first. They’ll want to find a way to generate more through the middle, no doubt, but they’ve definitely done a lot to build up their attacking confidence, which was a worry heading into this tournament.

“Jamaica’s a good team,” Beckie said. “They had a really good World Cup, and they’re definitely on the up, and they have some very talented players, so we’re really happy with the result, and definitely happy to have multiple goalscorers on the sheet.”

In the Mixer:

  • Canada continues to get strong performances from their attackers, with Beckie, Huitema and Rose putting up an excellent second act to the ‘Leon and Sincy’ show we saw in the first game. It’s crazy to think that they have all of this depth in attack, and that’s without having played 2019 World Cup standout Nichelle Prince, who is yet to feature in this tournament. The midfield remains a question, but there’s no doubt that Canada has the firepower to make some noise when the ball does get to the final third. 
  • The absence of Jessie Fleming was felt in this game, as she was strong in her role as an attacking midfielder on Wednesday. Schmidt, Scott and Lawrence were strong today in the midfield, especially defensively, but Canada didn’t have anyone who could really transition the ball forward, especially with the offensive-minded Lawrence playing a little deeper in the midfield three than she usually would. 
  • Desiree Scott was impressive, winning tackle after tackle in her destroyer role, playing the ball forward when she could, while Sophie Schmidt and Ashley Lawrence did a lot of dirty work ahead of her, getting stuck into several tackles and playing some good wide through balls. It was a worry to see Lawrence limping off late in the second half, as she took some tough knocks throughout the game, but it seemed precautionary for Canada, who will definitely want to continue using her in a midfield role. 
  • Jayde Riviere continues to be a revelation out at right back, freeing up the usual starter Lawrence to push into a midfield role, which has been a strong move for Canada. Riviere bursts forward with intent, but she can also build the play up from the back, while still finding a way to use her speed and defensive awareness to close down space on her opponents. Look for her to keep on growing as this tournament progresses.
  • Tactically, Canada shifted to a back 4, which we should likely see them stick with for the rest of this tournament. Attacking wise, it was beneficial, as shifting to a front 3 worked wonders, while defensively they have yet to really give up much for their goalkeepers to worry about. They’ll need to find a way to get some more offensive punch in the midfield against the bigger teams, but they have the counter-attacking flair to do some damage against higher lines, which does make up for that midfield deficiency for now. 

Looking Forward

Canada now has 2 days to rest up, before jumping right back into game action on Tuesday, where they’ll take on Mexico to wrap up the group stages. With 1st place in Group B on the line, both teams will look to bring their A-games, as they both look to avoid the team no one wants to face, the US, in an elimination game. 

All-in-all, it’s been a positive start to the tournament for Canada, who came into these games with several question marks surrounding their ability to score goals. 20 of them in 2 games so far suggest that the worry can dissipate, at least for now, and while the calibre of opponent will only go up, at the bare minimum they’ve given themselves a big confidence booster. 

Most importantly, they’ve grown from game 1 to game 2, which will go a long way as the tournament progresses. It will be interesting to see how much more growth we see in game 3, because after that, there won’t be much margin for error in the hunt for the Olympics. 

But at least so far, that quest has gone without a hitch for Canada, who are looking to return to this major tournament for the 4th time in a row. 

Cover Photo Provided by: Canada Soccer/MexSport

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