The U.S. & Canada - laden with Thorns FC players - renew a rivalry this Sunday
“The Rematch” is here. Nine months after the U.S. Women’s National Team defeated Canada in the London 2012 Olympics semifinals, the two sides will meet once again for the first international friendly to take place during the inaugural season of the National Women’s Soccer League.
Yes, this match is technically billed as an international friendly. Players from both sides are now teammates on their respective NWSL teams, but Canada wants to avenge their emotional loss to the United States at Old Trafford last August and head coach John Herdman has said as much, telling Canadian media that Sunday’s match is the “biggest game since the Olympics.”
Arguably the most exciting, back-and-forth match either federation has played in, last summer’s semifinal literally came down to the final seconds. It was an unimaginable series of events that began in the 22nd minute when now-Portland Thorns FC and University of Portland alum forward Christine Sinclair opened the scoring for Canada, putting the Americans on their heels. In the second half, fellow UP alum Megan Rapinoe (Seattle Reign FC) matched Sinclair’s goal for the U.S. The two former college teammates traded blows as Sinclair scored again, with Rapinoe equalizing for a second time.
In the 73rd minute, Sinclair earned a hat trick and what Canada surely thought was the deciding goal. Then, if all those watching thought it was even possible, the intensity level stepped up a notch. A controversial sequence of events that included a six-second call on Canadian goalkeeper Erin McLeod (Chicago Red Stars) and an ensuing handball on Eve-Marie Nault resulted in Abby Wambach (Western New York Flash) converting a penalty kick in the 80th minute to the draw the sides level once again. The teams fought it out in two grueling overtime periods. In the third minute of second overtime half stoppage time (122:23 on the clock, to be exact), Portland Thorns FC forward Alex Morgan connected on a cross from Heather O’Reilly (Boston Breakers), sending a looping header into the back of the net and advancing the United States to the final. Morgan’s goal was the latest game-winning goal on record in an official FIFA competition.
A crushing defeat for Canada, a glorious victory for the United States. The U.S. went on to defeat Japan 2-1 to win the gold medal--avenging their 2011 World Cup loss in the final to Japan--while Canada beat France 1-0 to win the bronze.
Now Thorns FC teammates, Morgan and Rachel Buehler will join Tobin Heath to square off at BMO Field in Toronto on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. (Pacific) against fellow Portland teammates Christine Sinclair and Karina LeBlanc. Fans can catch the broadcast on ESPNews.
History is on the side of the United States. Since the first match between the United States and Canada in 1986, the U.S. Women’s National Team is 44-3-5 against Canada, including a 3-0 win on Sept. 22, 2011 at JELD-WEN Field in an international friendly. However, if recent memory is a sign of things to come, it is going to take every last minute to decide a winner on Sunday.