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'Good problem to have': CanWNT Olympic roster decisions loom

SheBelieves Cup 18 February 2021 - Orlando, FL, USA Canada Soccer by Jeremy Reper

CALGARY (660 NEWS) — Eighteen. That’s the number Canadian women’s soccer team head coach Bev Priestman needs to shave her roster to ahead of this summer’s Olympics in Japan.

It’s a decision not to be envied, with 28 players at the team’s current camp in Spain.

“That 18 player roster is definitely keeping me awake at night, you know, not making it easy for me, which is a good problem to have,” Priestman admitted on a recent call with the media.

I claim no coaching certification but have covered this team for over a decade, and this is how my Olympic squad would look:

GOALKEEPERS: Stephanie Labbé, Kailen Sheridan

Reliability is what this team needs between the posts. Both goalkeepers have proven they’re up to the task, especially Labbé, who backstopped the squad to bronze in Rio 2016.

DEFENDERS: Kadeisha Buchanan, Vanessa Gilles, Shelina Zadorsky, Gabrielle Carle, Allysha Chapman, Ashley Lawrence

Gilles has forced her way onto the team thanks to her strength in the air and tenacity as a centre-back on the ground. She also gives the backline a dynamic look, giving it three starting CBs, which means Lawrence could move into the middle, where she’s excelled before.

MIDFIELDERS: Jessie Fleming, Quinn, Sophie Schmidt, Desiree Scott

The experience Scott and Schmidt bring cannot be understated. The duo, along with Sinclair, has been with the program for over two decades, has navigated through highs and lows, and they know what it takes to make a podium run at the Games (combined, they’ve got six Olympic medals).

You might be asking, why just four players in the middle? Lawrence, and even Carle, can easily be moved to the midfield. Quinn has proved time and again they are versatile, so if *knock on wood*, there’s an injury to a defender, they can step in seamlessly.

FORWARDS: Christine Sinclair, Janine Beckie, Adriana Leon, Nichelle Prince, Deanne Rose, Evelyne Viens

This journalist had clamoured to see Viens called up to the national team for years after her outstanding ‘nose for the net’ years in the NCAA at the University of South Florida. She’s been able to translate her scoring prowess to a professional level, and for that reason, she’s a lock, in my eyes, for the Olympic roster. She helps take some of the pressure off of Sinclair, who is eyeing a third Olympic medal.

Canada opens its Olympic campaign July 21 in Sapporo versus host Japan, as the Canadians hope to get on the podium for a third consecutive Games.

All images via Canada Soccer