Call it the last chance to impress. Call it crunch time. For members of the Canadian women’s national soccer team, there are few opportunities left to crack the 18-player roster for this summer’s Tokyo Olympics and a big one will come next month.
With less than two months before the Games, coach Bev Priestman revealed her pool of players for the team’s final camp and two exhibition matches in mid-June in Cartagena, Spain.
All the usual suspects will be in attendance, including captain Christine Sinclair, who is off to a great start with club Portland after picking up an injury in a match against Wales in early April.
Reigning Canadian player of the year Kadeisha Buchanan of powerhouse Lyon is back in the fold after missing two previous camps due to travel and medical reasons.
This will be the final camp before selection, though Priestman is hopeful to play two more friendlies ahead of the Olympics. She’s made it clear she wants to wait until the last possible minute to select her roster to give injured players enough time to return to fitness and challenge for a spot.
There are some intriguing battles for positions on Team Canada.
At the last Olympic Games in Rio 2016, then-coach John Herdman, which included Priestman as an assistant, chose two goalkeepers, six fullbacks, five midfielders and five forwards. The ability to play multiple positions and having the fitness to play back-to-back-to-back games and then some will be an asset for any player.
Emerging talent such as Evelyne Viens up front and Vanessa Gilles in the back certainly have made Priestman’s job more difficult. The goalkeeping position is very deep as well, with Stephanie Labbe likely securing the No. 1 spot with three clean sheets in her last four games, while Kailen Sheridan appears fit and ready to challenge for a spot after an unfortunate injury early in the game against the Americans at the SheBelieves Cup.
The Canadians are coming off a successful UK tour in April, which saw them come away with two multi-goal wins against No. 32 Wales (3-0) and No. 6 England (2-0). It was a steady improvement from the SheBelieves where Canada won one game — 1-0 stoppage time win over Argentina — and lost two, a hard-fought 1-0 loss to the No. 1 United States and a 2-0 defeat to Brazil.
The Canadians begin their quest for a third-straight Olympic medal on July 21 against No. 11 hosts Japan at the Sapporo Dome. Canada then plays No. 37 Chile on July 24 at the Sapporo Dome and Great Britain on July 27 at Kashima Stadium.