Late Leroux goal keeps USWNT streak against Canada alive

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A first half goal from center back Kadeisha Buchanan put Canada on the verge of a breakthrough, but after its former resident turned nemesis equalized late in the second half, the team’s long winless run against the United States continues. With Sydney Leroux beating Erin McLeod in the 78th minute, the United States came back for a 1-1 draw in Winnipeg, Manitoba, running the team’s unbeaten streak against its northern rivals to 30 games.

Canada took the lead after 35 minutes when Buchanan, an 18-year-old defender from the University of West Virginia, headed Diana Matheson’s corner into the left of Hope Solo’s goal, providing the home side a lead it’d hold for over 40 minutes. Part of a defense that included two other teenagers (Surra Yekka, 17; Rebecca Quinn, 18), Buchanan spend most of the night giving a player of the match-caliber performance while keeping the U.S. off the scoresheet.

Twelve minutes from time, however, Canada’s hopes of claiming a fourth win in 56 games against the U.S. evaporated. On a cross from the right from substitute fullback Crystal Dunn, Leroux saw the ball dropto her at the far post, with her quick finish beating McLeod for another dramatic goal on Canadian soul.

Last June, the British Columbia-born Leroux scored the winning goal at Toronto’s BMO Field, giving the U.S. a 3-0 win in the teams’ first meeting since Canada’s controversial semifinal loss in the 2012 Summer Olympics.  Following her goal, Leroux responded to a crowd that had booed her introduction with a shushing finger against her lips, eventually lifting the U.S. crest toward the audience to reiterate her allegiance.

If there was one person Canadian fans wouldn’t have wanted to stand between them and a long-sought victory, it would have been Leroux. The players, however, probably won’t take things as personally. Instead, John Herdman’s team can take heart in a performance that looks like progress. The winless streak goes on, but so does the host team’s development ahead of the 2015 World Cup.

For the U.S., questions remain, but without a permanent head coach, it’s unclear who should answer them. The team again set out in a 4-3-3, starting veteran Abby Wambach at its tip, but failed to summon the intensity needed to pull off the setup. University of Virginia star Morgan Brian continues to be a willing subject in a defensive midfield experiment but at times appeared unaccustomed to playing at that level of the field.  The U.S. didn’t play badly, but for a team that just fired its coach while it sat No. 1 in the world, it didn’t play up its standards, either.

As hinted on ESPN3’s broadcast, Tyreso head coach Tony Gustavsson — a former assistant of Pia Sundhage — is now the favorite for the permanent job. Beyond current interim head coach Jill Ellis, it’s unclear what other candidates are being considered, with U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati having all but ruled out a NWSL candidate during an interview at halftime of this weekend’s Sky Blue-Boston match.  If his Gustavsson’s team’s participation in this month’s UEFA Champions League final is the only thing preventing the 40-year-old’s immediate appointment, the U.S. will surely have a new boss  by the time it faces France on June 14.

At that time, the U.S. can start moving forward. For now, the team’s treading water.