Canada's women take on Mexico on Sunday in Vancouver, but that isn't the big story. Kara Lang and Josée Bélanger are back, and could provide firepower for the 2015 World Cup.The Canadian women's national team takes on Mexico at BC Place on Sunday in an international friendly, but really, who cares?
The big news is that Kara Lang and Josée Bélanger are back in the mix, and could prove key pieces in the side Canada head coach John Herdman is trying to put together for the 2015 World Cup, which will be hosted in this country.
Canada Soccer announced the 23-woman squad for Sunday's match on Wednesday, but understandably, Lang and Bélanger were the headliners and focal point of discussion during a conference call with Herdman on Wednesday, despite the fact neither will play a part.
From that chat with reporters, it emerged that Lang is training with the side but has not progressed yet to the point of participating in scrimmage matches – Herdman says he's targeting a playing return for the former star sometime in the first quarter of next year.
This follows the announcement of a shocking comeback bid this July, three years after Lang retired due to tearing her anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee twice within a five year span.
“The reality is we could put her in,” Herdman said. “You could put her in those games, but the big challenge for Kara is she's been brought back too quickly, too soon in the past, which has led to this consistent breakdown.
“If you think of rebuilding a car, we've literally, with B2ten (an organization which raises funds for Canadian athletes), we've rebuilt certain parts of Kara to help her become more efficient as an athlete, so she doesn't keep breaking down with the same issues...we could throw her into this game and you'll see something from Kara, but at this stage there's just no point.”
Lang would add some attacking depth to a solid side which often lacks offensive bite at the highest level, beyond captain and star Christine Sinclair. Lang was prolific before her retirement at age 24, banging home 35 goals in 92 games.
In a similar vein, the recall of Bélanger, who also missed out in recent times due to injury, would add some incision in the final third. Over two years the striker bagged five goals in 11 matches for the national side, and if she could do that consistently could be another key player for Herdman's team.
“Kara, she's got goals in her,” Herdman said. “We're all well aware, that this team, from a goals perspective, we lack them outside of Christine...she's a goal every three games player, and you need those players in the team.
“Bélanger's record is a goal every second game, and if we can get those players fit, healthy and consistent, we've got a massive opportunity to enhance that attacking area, which certainly, is limited.”
As for the players who will actually play this weekend, 18 of the 21 others were involved in Canada's 3-0 victory over South Korea last month in Edmonton. Of that group, 16-year-old defender Sura Yekka of Mississauga, Ont., will stick out – she received her first national team call up for that match.
As will Kylla Sjoman, a Burnaby, B.C., native who plays for Celtic as a natural left-sided defender – something the current team lacks. Although by the sound of Herdman's comments the player still has to prove her worth in the squad if she hopes to add to her solitary cap.
Oh, and that game taking place? That's probably worth a minor mention as well.
The last time Herdman's team took on the Mexicans or played in Vancouver, his side claimed a 3-1 win in the CONCACAF qualifying tournament for the Olympics, and in so doing, clinched a spot for London 2012, where the women would go on to claim bronze.
"There's a healthy rivalry with Mexico and I know they will be ready for this game," Herdman said. "We'll be diligent with our work as well as keep focused on our goals leading into 2015.”
GK- Stephanie Labbé | SWE / KIF Örebro DFF
GK- Karina LeBlanc | USA / Portland Thorns FC
GK- Erin McLeod | USA / Chicago Red Stars
D- Robyn Gayle | USA / Washington Spirit
D- Rachel Melhado | USA / University of Louisville
D- Carmelina Moscato | USA / Seattle Reign FC
D- Marie-Eve Nault | SWE / KIF Örebro DFF
D- Lauren Sesselmann | USA / FC Kansas City
D- Kylla Sjoman | SCO / Glasgow Celtic FC
D- Rhian Wilkinson | USA / Boston Breakers
D- Sura Yekka | CAN / Brams United
D- Emily Zurrer | USA / Seattle Reign FC
M- Selenia Iacchelli | CAN / Edmonton Victoria SC
M- Kaylyn Kyle | USA / Boston Breakers
M- Diana Matheson | USA / Washington Spirit
M- Sophie Schmidt | USA / Sky Blue FC
M- Desiree Scott | USA / FC Kansas City
M- Brittany Baxter (born Timko) | Unattached/sans club
M/F- Kara Lang | Unattached/sans club
F- Josée Bélanger | CAN / Amiral de Québec
F- Mélissa Busque | USA / Seattle University
F- Adriana Leon | USA / Chicago Red Stars
F- Christine Sinclair | USA / Portland Thorns FC