The USA and Canadian Women will face off against each other in a 2 game series this Sunday in Auburn, AL and Wednesday in Montreal to determine the North American qualifier for the PANAM Games next summer in Lima, Peru.
Based on recent friendly competition results the USA Women would seem to be solid favorites to come out on top. This is not so much because they have had better results than their Canadian rivals (although, they have), but because they’ve been able to play dozens of games together as a team in the past year. Really, you would be hard pressed to find any team in the world that’s travelled more than the U.S. Women in the past year or so. They’ve been to South Korea (August 2017), France (Dec 2017), Italy (March 2018), South Korea again (June 2018), and one last whirlwind European tour in July with stops in Germany, Hungary and France. Incredibly, the USA Women have probably played more games together as a unit than any other national team in the world. And, all done with a non-existent travel budget. Of course, all those games are friendlies. Rosters have changed from trip to trip. But, still… This is a team that’s played together… a lot.
Meanwhile, the Canadian team is a bit of a mystery. While the U.S. Women played in the North American & Caribbean Championships and the Pan American Championships in both 2015 and 2017, the Canadian Women stayed home. In fact, their only official competition of recent note is their 7th place (out of 8) finish at the 2015 PANAM Games which they automatically qualified for as hosts. And, only 6 athletes who played in that tournament are on the latest roster. Further, half the team (8 of 16 players) will be making their international debut on Sunday. The roster in total has played 83 International Games while the U.S. Women have a few players that may have well played more international matches on an individual level.
The Canadian women have had teams travel to Europe for competition and recently they played 4 matches against club teams in France, winning 3 and losing 1. But, the three wins were against lower level amateur sides and the 34-22 loss was to a club team still playing at a lower level than the sides that the U.S. faced in France just a week earlier. And, while the U.S. struggled at times against the higher French level teams they were competitive even picking up a few wins. Again, with friendly matches, roster experimentation, team fatigue, etc, it’s difficult to draw too many conclusions, especially when you haven’t even seen one of the teams (Canada) play. Still, one can infer that the U.S. is on paper a better, more experienced team.
But, the actual games will be played on the court. And, the Canadians as a mystery team may be able to surprise. Key to the match could be defense. The U.S. has had solid goal tending and have at times in the past year shut down opposing teams for large blocks of time. If the U.S can do that, they could build a sizable lead that they can take with them to Canada on the return leg.
Sight unseen, I suspect the Canadians will not want to get into a half court battle. They may well try to up the tempo of the game with the hope of scoring on fast breaks. And, with a faster paced game they might also force the U.S. to play some of their less experience reserves more than they would like to.
Historical Note: Best that I can tell this will be the first non-friendly matches between the U.S and Canadian Women since the 2010 PANAM Qualification matches played in 2010. Those matches had a bit of a twist to them with the U.S. losing the first leg in Lake Placid 23-18, but then winning the second leg in Canada 26-21. This resulted in a 44-44 tie on aggregate, but the U.S. won the 2 game series since they scored more goals in their away match.
2010 Match write up: Link
So buckle up and throw out the analysis. When the U.S. plays Canada you never really know what’s going to happen
USA – Canada PANAM Games Qualification Schedule
Sunday, 2 September at Auburn
USA – Canada (Women) 3:00 PM (Central Time)
USA – Canada (Men) 5:00 PM (Central Time)
Wednesday, 5 September at Montreal
USA – Canada (Women) 7:00 PM (Eastern Time)
USA – Canada (Men) 9:00 PM (Eastern Time)
I will be on the ground, both in Auburn and Montreal, with interviews and stories. All 4 matches reportedly will be live streamed.