The kinda-ry that exploded in London 2012’s semifinals will be rekindled Jan. 31 in Frisco, Texas when upcoming World Cup hosts Canada visit Toyota Park to open 2014 against the United States Women’s National Team.
Coming off a 10-0-2 year that included a 3-0 win in Toronto over the Canadians (June 2), the U.S. will look to increase their unbeaten run to 36 games – a 20-month run that began March 5, 2012 with a loss to Japan.
Since, the U.S. has won a gold medal, claimed an Algarve Cup, and have defeated Canada three times, including a 4-3, extra time win at Old Trafford in the 2012 Summer Olympics. The controversial semifinal, which featured a hat trick from Christine Sinclair and a 123rd minute winner from Alex Morgan, marks the high point of a regional rivalry that has been decidedly one-sided. Where the U.S. has historically had competitive tensions with China, Norway, Brazil, and Germany, Canada’s all-time record against the U.S. is 3-46-5.
“It’s great to start the year with a game that is going to be a real test for us and a game that is always highly competitive,” said head coach Tom Sermanni said via a U.S. Soccer release announcing the game. “It’s a friendly game, but one that’s meaningful for both teams, and it’s an excellent first match in a year that will end with World Cup qualifying. In 2014, it will be important to play as many quality opponents as possible.”
Despite their historical record with the U.S., Canada really should provide the quality for which Sermanni hopes. Sinclair, captain for both club and country, is coming off a title-winning season with the NWSL’s Portland Thorns. Attacker Diana Matheson, midfielder Sophie Schmidt, destroyer Desiree Scott, and defender Lauren Sesselman also had standout NWSL seasons. Each player has a key role in a national team that’s ranked seventh in the world.
Making their third appearance at Toyota Park, the U.S. will be expected to extend their dominance over Canada, but if the U.S. replicates last winter’s form, Canada stands a good shot at collecting their fourth-ever victory over their nemeses. Though they defeated Scotland 4-1 and 3-1 in two pre-Algarve Cup friendlies this February, the team was noticeably rusty after a nine-week layoff. Superior to the 20th ranked Scots, Canada should be less forgiving of any U.S. rust
With the States having a two-and-a-half month layoff before kickoff in Frisco, Canada may be able to spring a surprise, provided they can overcome their own hibernation sickness.