Jessie Fleming (left) and Emily Borgmann celebrate a Canadian goal during their team's win over Trinidad & Tobago in the CONCACAF Women's Under-17 Championship on November 2, 2013, in Montego Bay, Jamaica. (Photo: Mexsport)
MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica – Canada and the United States are not strangers when it comes to the CONCACAF Women’s Under-17 Championship. In fact, the two powers have met twice in the previous three editions of the competition.
On Monday, though, the past champions will face-off at Catherine Hall Stadium for a first-ever time in group play after tangling in the 2010 semifinals and the 2012 final.
Despite the encounter’s unique placement on the fixture list, its meaning is just as significant as the Group B title will be at stake. The sides earned maximum points from the first two matchdays to clinch semifinal places, but the Canadians currently sit in first place on goal difference (+19 to +15).
After both registered 8-0 victories in their group openers, Canada followed that result with an 11-0 win over Trinidad & Tobago, while the U.S. topped Guatemala, 7-0.
Canada head coach Bev Priestman was very pleased that her team lifted its level of play against the Soca Princesses, but realizes the U.S. poses a different challenge altogether.
“For us, it’s a massive opportunity for these girls to play against Team One opposition,” said the former head of women’s football development for New Zealand Football. “From that, they will learn a lot. But at the same time, we have to get a result.”
Team captain Jessie Fleming has been one of the Canada’s outstanding performers in Jamaica -- winning possession, making goal-creating passes and netting goals. The 15-year-old is looking forward to playing her country’s southern neighbor.
“We’re happy with the way we’re playing, but we’re definitely going to have to be aware of our turns,” noted the midfielder, when asked what the Canadians will need to work on in preparation for the encounter. “The U.S. is harder competition, but we’re excited to play such a good team.”
In the triumph over Guatemala, the U.S. made eight changes to its line-up from the previous game against Trinidad. Zoe Redei made her debut at forward and promptly scored four goals, demonstrating the Americans’ astonishing depth.
“I thought we played really well tonight,” she said following the game. “The first half we were a little bit nervous, but in the second half we came out and got the result we needed. We were really good combining to goal and getting rebounds off of shots, so I thought overall we did really well.”
U.S. head coach B.J. Snow agreed with Redei’s assessment.
“I think all things considered, we grew up as a team tonight,” commented Snow, who was appointed to the position in January. “We got the result that we wanted, we got the chance to play in the semifinal, which was ultimately our goal, and we still have the opportunity to win our group in the next game.”
If the past is a predictor, the next chapter in the Canada-U.S. rivalry will be tightly contested.
In 2010, Canada advanced to final 5-3 on penalty kicks following a scoreless draw. The result staggeringly eliminated the Americans from World Cup contention, even though it completed the tournament undefeated (4-1-0) and unscored upon (32-0).
Two years later, the U.S. came up a 1-0 winner in the championship match thanks to a 21st minute goal by Amber Munerly.
The group winner will face Mexico, while the runner-up takes on the well-supported host, Jamaica, in the semifinals on Thursday.
CONCACAF WOMEN’S UNDER-17 CHAMPIONSHIP
All-Time Meetings: United States v Canada
March 18, 2010 (Semifinals)
at Alajuela, Costa Rica
United States 0
Canada advances to the final 5-3 on penalty kicks
May 12, 2012 (Final)
at Guatemala City, Guatemala
United States 1 (Amber Munerly 21’)