On a chilly afternoon in Edmonton, the Canadian Women's National Team dropped a 3-0 decision to the reigning Women's World Cup Champions Japan in the first of two matches between the sides that concludes on October 28 at BC Place in Vancouver.
It was a game dominated by the Japanese in both possession and score line, and was yet another example of the power that the Japanese hold in women's soccer that they'll be keen to carry into next year's Women's World Cup 2015 in Canada that kicks off next June.
The Houston Dash's own Kaylyn Kyle and Erin McLeod started the match in front of 9,654 fans at Commonwealth, which holds a capacity close to 56,000 and will host Canada's first two matches to begin next year's tournament. Kyle settled into a more defensive role, sitting just above the back line in a center defensive midfielder role while McLeod assumed her regular CanWNT position between the pipes.
The match started quickly for the Japanese after taking advantage of a defensive mishap on the Canadian backline that came from a goal kick. The ball was turned over and found the foot of Yuki Ogimi, who was wide open to put it past McLeod into the left corner of the net.
Canada's Melissa Tancredi, who scored four goals at the 2012 London Olympics, had a glorious chance to equalize for the red and white when she put an open header in close off an in-swinging cross just wide of the net. Fans thought the ball found the bottom corner, but it remained 1-0 for Japan all the way to half time.
A miscommunication on a free kick resulted in McLeod delivering a stiff fist to the face of defender Carmelina Moscato in the 48th minute in what was kind of synonymous of the CanWNT's performance as a whole.
McLeod would come up big for the Canadians twice, most notably in the 66th minute when she parried away a clear-cut chance for the Japanese after the defensive line was caught ball-watching, leaving the forward wide open.
The game opened up in the 70th minute when Japan's Yuri Kawamura put a header past McLeod to make it 2-0. Canada was caught napping after making a substitution on the corner, leaving Japan the opportunity to capitalize on the open player. A short corner was taken and the header was easily converted.
An easy tap-in for Nahomi Kawasumi in the 80th minute put the game truly out of reach after a low cross found it's way through the entire Canadian backline and onto the foot of Kawasumi. The match would end disappointingly for the Canadians at 3-0.
Dash veteran Kaylyn Kyle would play 85 minutes in a defensive role, eventually switching to a back triangle with the two Canadian fullbacks. A couple crucial mistakes were made, but Kyle is happy they're afforded the opportunity to learn from these mistakes before the big tournament next year.
"We're learning, so just a couple mistakes from our team defensively and not keeping the ball," said Kyle. "We still have seven and a half months to prep for this World Cup against tough teams. Going into this match in Vancouver in two days, we want a result, especially leading into a World Cup in front of our home fans."
"I'm fine being in the midfield whether supporting our midfield or the centerbacks," said Kyle. "It just allowed our two outside backs to get forward, get crosses in, and create scoring opportunities."
Head coach John Herdman says despite the 3-0 scoreline, there are a lot of positives to take into October 28's rematch in Vancouver. Playing a team like Japan, the Women's World Cup Champions in 2011, can go a long way for the program, especially when you're preparing to host it.
"The players get to see the quality that you're going to have to deal with," said Herdman. "After looking at the little details, there's some tactical things that we need to tidy and work on."
Repetition can be the key to Canada's growth as they quickly jump back into a rematch with Japan on October 28 in Vancouver. However, turning a result will be on the minds of the CanWNT.