Soccer Sports

Heartbreak for Canada as Christine Sinclair plays one last time in Montreal

Canada’s women’s soccer team lost 1-0 to Brazil on Oct. 28 at Saputo Stadium in Montreal.

After Canada was eliminated in the group stage during a disappointing World Cup performance this summer, the women’s national soccer team turns to the 2024 Olympic Games. With qualification secured after two convincing wins against Jamaica in September, the road to redemption continued on Oct. 28 at Saputo Stadium in Montreal for the first of two friendly matches in four days against Brazil.

Record-breaking crowd, disappointing performance

A sold-out crowd of 19,619 people gathered at Saputo Stadium for the game. This attendance figure is a national team record for a friendly match in Quebec, men and women combined. It once again proves the enthusiasm for women’s soccer in Canada. Three years ago, 4.4 million people watched the Olympic triumph in Tokyo and women’s national team matches regularly sell out everywhere in the country.

The crowd gives a standing ovation to Christine Sinclair as she comes on in the 68th minute.
Photo: Félix-Antoine Beauchemin.

It was always bound to be a close affair between the two teams, with Canada ranked 10th in the world and Brazil only one place higher. The local favourites came out strong and dominated the initial minutes. However, as the game progressed, Brazil gradually took control of the match and looked to be a far more dominant team. For example, Canada’s first shot of the second half only came in the 92nd minute. 

Despite this, they looked to be able to hold for a 0-0 draw, notably due to multiple great saves from Canadian goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan, who was undoubtedly the team’s best player on Saturday. But Brazil’s domination paid off. In the last minute of the game, Débora ‘Debinha’ Cristiane de Oliveira’s shot ricocheted off two Canadian defenders, giving Sheridan no chance to react in time. The ball bounced over the line, much to the delight of the thousands of Brazil fans also present at the game.

Brazilian legend Marta takes a free-kick.
Photo: Félix-Antoine Beauchemin

Nevertheless, Canada got back on track only three days later, beating Brazil 2-0 in front of another sold-out crowd in Halifax on Halloween night, with goals from Jordyn Huitema and Deanne Rose.

A farewell to the greatest international goalscorer of all time 

On Oct. 20, Christine Sinclair announced that she would retire from the national team at the end of the year. Now aged 40, she played her first game for Canada in 2000. Since then, Sinclair has played 329 games and scored 190 goals, a record for international goals for both men and women. For most of the fans at the game, it was their last chance to see Canada’s legendary number 12 in action. As such, they gave her a standing ovation, lasting over 30 seconds when she entered the game in the 68th minute.

Sinclair’s illustrious career also contains many collective achievements. At the 2012 Olympic Games in London, she scored six goals in six games on her way to the bronze medal. She helped the team repeat the feat in Rio in 2016 with another bronze medal. However, the crowning glory of her career came at the 2020 Games in Tokyo, when she captained team Canada to a gold medal.

Soccer Sports

Two games, the Same Unlucky Result for Concordia’s Soccer Teams Against ULaval

Difficult matchday for the Stingers’ soccer teams against ULaval.

Both the women’s and men’s Stingers soccer teams lost 2-1 against Laval on Sept. 22, as the 1973 Loyola Warriors men’s soccer team was celebrated for their national championship win.

Women’s soccer: Proving they belonged

Going into the game, Laval had won all five of their previous games, outscoring their opponents 14-1. With that in mind, Stingers head coach Greg Sutton’s game plan was to be compact defensively with forward Sara Carrière staying up front and poking away at Laval’s defence on counterattacks.

In the first half, the ULaval Rouge et Or had more possession, but were unable to create multiple dangerous chances to score. When they did, however, goalkeeper Rosalie Girouard made some crucial saves. Sutton said she “did well, she kept us in the game […]. She’s just starting to play for us now, and hasn’t played many games at all for us up to this year.” He added that he was pleased with Girouard’s performance and believes that she will improve going forward. Despite the great defence, Concordia also had their fair share of chances in the first half, just missing the goal on a couple of occasions.

The second half started as the first ended: Laval was unable to create dangerous chances. It was finally at the 57th minute that the Rouge et Or opened the scoring after a good cross coming from the left-hand side found an open player at the second post. 

A couple of seconds later, Sara Carrière scored a beautiful goal, dribbling past two defenders and placing her shot perfectly in the bottom-left corner to equalize. Unfortunately, Laval was able to retake the lead ten minutes later. Their one-goal advantage would last until the end of the game, despite pressure from the Stingers to equalize.

Despite the loss, there are positives to take away from this game for the Stingers and their ability to stand up to the best team in the league. “We were just organized defensively, we made it difficult for them to break us down,” Sutton explained. “[Girouard] made a couple saves, but it wasn’t like they outshot us three or four-fold […] we’re gonna build off of it, learn from it and get ready for Sunday.”

Men’s soccer: A frustrating loss with the playoff race heating up

Midfielder Quentin Bourgeais (maroon) setting up a cross.
Photo: Kyran Thicke / Concordia athletics

Before the match, Concordia was two points behind Laval, who held the last playoff qualifying spot. As of October 1, they are tied on points with the Rouge et Or for the fourth and final playoff spot.

The game started at very high intensity, with both teams trying to send long through balls in behind to earn a one-on-one against the other team’s goalkeeper. This worked for the Stingers in the 27th minute when they won a penalty. Unfortunately, the team’s top goal scorer Jared Leheta missed the penalty wide and to the right. Things would not improve for Leheta, who also missed an almost wide-open net 10 minutes later.

Despite that, Leheta won a penalty after getting pushed in the back in the 18-yard box seven minutes into the second half. The penalty was converted by Razvan Colici. However, the tide started turning in Laval’s favour after the goal. Less than twenty minutes later, the Rouge et Or had scored twice to take the lead.

Five minutes after Laval’s second goal, Concordia was reduced to 10 men, after Zackiel Brault received two yellow cards in quick succession, adding up to a red card. Concordia could not equalize down a man, with the game ending 2-1 for Laval.

After the game, backup goalkeeper Tony Awad said: “We have to stick together as a team and we have to keep our heads up.” About the playoff race, Awad said: “We just have to win, there’s no other way to say it or put it […] this is our goal now.” And they did win in their next game, against McGill, where Awad got the start and made nine saves in a shutout win.

The 1973 Loyola Warriors men’s soccer team honoured

Despite the two losses, there was still something to celebrate on Friday. Several members of the 1973 Loyola Warriors men’s soccer team came to the games and were celebrated at halftime of the men’s game for the 50th anniversary of their national championship win. The team was inducted into the Concordia Sports Hall of Fame in 2000, and is one of only four soccer teams, men or women, to receive this honour.

Gary Harvey is a member of the team who was present at the ceremony. He recalls: “We defeated the team that beat us the year before, so it was like we got revenge.” They beat the University of Alberta Golden Bears. The game was decided on penalties, as the teams were unable to separate themselves after the end of both regulation and overtime, where Loyola won 4-3.

Harvey has been involved with soccer his entire life and coached for 45 years. He has observed “a huge difference” in the evolution of soccer in Canada over the last 50 years. Namely, infrastructures like turf fields and indoor winter soccer have allowed a lot more kids to play soccer, which has raised the level of the Canadian game. 

He also explains how during winter, teams could not train when he played. “When we did train, it was in gymnasiums, and the bounce in the gym floor is not the same as when you get to train indoors and on synthetic turf,” Harvey explains. “The calibre of soccer is much better now, it’s really quick and fast compared to when I played […] and soccer is of higher quality now.”

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