The first trick is to raise your performance level. The second, well, that is to sustain it.
Canada played their heart out on Thursday evening in a tightly contested 1-0 defeat to the USA. The toll of that match was clearly felt as the Canadians embarked on their second bout of the She Believes Cup, against 31st ranked Argentina.
Both mentally and physically, Canada looked fatigued. They were unable to capture the same vigor and verve from their match against their North American neighbors.
However, head coach Bev Priestman will be delighted that, despite the drop off in intensity on the pitch, Canada were still able to come away with a 1-0 win, thanks to a 90th minute goal by second half substitute Sarah Stratigakis. The University of Michigan forward’s first for her country.
In the other game of the day, the USA continued their perfect start to the 2021 She Believes Cup by beating Brazil 2-0. The win makes it 36 consecutive matches without defeat for the USA. As well as a perfect 15 wins from 15, since Vlatko Andonovski took over as head coach in the Fall of 2019.
A sensational first half goal from Christen Press, cutting in from the left wing and then curling the ball into the bottom right hand corner, settled any nerves there might have been against impressive opposition. Then late on in the second half, substitute Megan Rapinoe volleyed home from 10 yards out to punctuate the triumph.
Brazil’s frontline of Debinha, Marta and Ludmila is about as esteemed as any national side in the world. The Seleção’s best chance of the day fell to Debinha in the second half. Silky build up play from Marta, opened up space for Debinha in the middle of the USA box. Marta spotted the run of Debinha and obliged, slotting the ball perfectly to her wide open teammate. Debinha let her nerves get the better of her technique and uncharacteristically bent the ball beyond the far post and out for a goal kick.
The Dash players’ perspective:
The veteran led her team out as captain for her 201st appearance for the Canadian national team. After starting on the bench for Canada’s opening match, Schmidt played the full 90 minutes on Sunday evening.
Schmidt anchored the Canadian midfield with aplomb and kept the Argentine central creators, Lorena Benitiz (until her heartbreaking injury) and Vanesa Santana, quiet throughout.
Philosophically Canada had to adapt from dropping deep and having very little possession (43%) against the USA, to having the lion’s share of possession (63%) against Argentina. This tactical flip did not necessarily help Schmidt shine.
Schmidt has always excelled more as a defensive block, martially the edge her own area. Whilst the midfielder’s 2020 season for the Dash proved to be her most offensive yet, Schmidt was unable to help generate much passing rhythm against a very focused Argentina side, although her physical presence caused problems in the opposition’s box.
Schmidt did - just about - have a hand in the game winning goal. Only a telescopic lens could tell us if the faintest of touches helped propel the ball into the path of Stratigakis for the winner.
Much like many of her teammates, Prince was unable to recapture the same brilliance seen on Thursday night. This is partly because of how Argentina set up. They dropped very deep, unlike the USA, and were cautious to allow any space for Prince to capitalize on behind the back line.
Despite starting as the central forward against the USA, Prince was still able to do a lot of her best work in the channels. Driving into space and buying time to make plays for her teammates. Against Argentina, Prince had to occupy the crowded central attacking areas more regularly.
Prince didn’t force any big saves or sync up with any crosses from her teammates. However, playing 56 minutes as a lone center forward, against a defensive set up, will be huge for her development.
The player of the match against the USA, Chapman was still her same tenacious self against Argentina. Starting at left back, Chapman shut down Mariana Larroquette - who scored Argentina’s only goal against Brazil in the first round - on the right hand side of La Albiceleste’s midfield.
Priestman opted to remove Chapman at half time. It is unclear if this was because of fitness levels, attacking tactical options or in order to give younger players some much needed experience.
Another brief cameo for Mewis, who entered the fray in the 83rd minute with the game already at 2-0 to the USA. Mewis has now tallied just 17 minutes across the two USA wins at the She Believes Cup. A paltry opportunity to shine.
The Dash’s 2020 MVP has an extremely tall order to make the final 18 player roster for the Olympics in August. Andonovski is clearly a fan of Mewis. This is the third camp in a row that he has called Mewis up to be in the USA squad. The attacking midfielder has featured in every game, albeit she is yet to feature in the starting XI.
Off the bench Mewis can be electric and decisive for the USA. Her two goals, late on in the matches against the Netherlands and Colombia, are exquisite examples of that. The USA’s final match, against Argentina on Wednesday night, will hopefully offer Mewis a larger platform to perform on.