TORONTO â€” Captain Christine Sinclair will lead a 22-woman Canadian squad that features seven teenagers to Europe in April for a pair of testing matches against Germany and Sweden.
The European trip features a reunion of last summer’s medallists in Rio, where Germany won gold, Sweden silver and Canada bronze.
The fifth-ranked Canadian women play No. 6 Sweden on April 6 in Trelleborg and top-ranked Germany on April 9 in Erfurt.
“Not very often you get a chance to face silver and gold medallists from the Olympics in consecutive matches,” Herdman said. “The two-day turnaround to Germany, it’s going to be tough. But at the end of the day, three years out from our Women’s World Cup, we’ll take these tough games as early as we can to test the depth of that squad and also just keep building that T1 (Tier 1) experience.”
Herdman has picked 14 members of the 18-woman Rio Olympic team as well as two of the four alternates. Diana Matheson is recovering from knee surgery while Melissa Tancredi and Rhian Wilkinson have retired. Josee Belanger is still in the national team picture but is not currently with a pro team.
Marie-Eve Nault has retired while fellow Olympic alternate Kaylyn Kyle was released by her Orlando team in January.
With 255 national appearances to her credit, the 33-year-old Sinclair accounts for more than one-quarter of the 974 caps in Herdman’s squad. The European roster averages 44.23 caps per player compared to 71.2 per player for the Rio squad, whose 18 members had 1,295 combined caps.
Sinclair, Sophie Schmidt (159 caps), Desiree Scott (122), Kadeisha Buchanan (67) and Ashley Lawrence (50) account for 653 of the European roster’s caps (60.3 per cent).
Defender Hannah Taylor, 17, is the lone uncapped player selected. She was part of the recent Algarve Cup squad but did not see game time.
The other teenagers are 15-year-old Jordyn Huitema, 18-year-olds Gabrielle Carle, Sarah Stratigakis and Deanne Rose and 19-year-olds Marie Levasseur and Jessie Fleming.
The average age of the squad is 22.4, compared to 25.4 for the Olympics.
Adriana Leon, whose last game for Canada was at the 2015 World Cup, gets a recall. The 24-year-old Boston Breakers forward was invited to an evaluation camp in January but did not go to the Algarve Cup.
Leon takes the place of 20-year-old Alex Lamontagne, the lone Algarve Cup team member not on the squad.
Lamontagne, who won her first two caps in Portugal, has tremendous raw talent in Herdman’s eyes. But he says there is a limit to how many players he can “throw into the Tier 1 cauldron” at the same time.
Leon, with 38 caps, brings international experience to the table.
Veteran goalkeeper Erin McLeod, who plays her club soccer in Sweden for FC Rosengard, has been invited to train for a few days with the national team in Europe games but is not on the roster. McLeod has not played for Canada since February 2016 due to a knee injury.
Canada is 4-12-3 against Swedes but has gone 1-1-2 in their last four meetings.
Canada is 1-13-0 against the Germans with the lone win coming in group play at the Rio games. Germany had the last laugh, defeating Canada in the semifinals.
With both teams gearing up for the European Championship, Herdman expects Germany and Sweden to be in fine form.
“There’ll be players fighting for spots,” he said. “It’s going to be tough and that’s what we need. We need that at this stage, particularly if we’re going to keep pushing on towards No. 1 (in the rankings).”
The Canadians are 3-1-1 since the Olympics but are winless (0-1-1) in their last two outings including a 1-0 loss to a talented Spain side in the Algarve Cup final in March.
The Canadians leave Friday for Sweden, with their European-based players joining them later.
Goalkeepers: Stephanie Labbe, Edmonton, Washington Spirit (NWSL); Sabrina D’Angelo, Welland, Ont., North Carolina Courage (NWSL); Kailen Sheridan, Whitby, Ont., Sky Blue FC (NWSL).
Defenders: Lindsay Agnew, Kingston, Ont., Washington Spirit (NWSL); Allysha Chapman, Courtice, Ont., Boston Breakers (NWSL); Ashley Lawrence, Caledon, Ont., Paris Saint-Germain (France); Marie Levasseur, Stoneham, Que., University of Memphis; Hannah Taylor, Edmonds, Wash., Eastside FC; Kadeisha Buchanan, Brampton, Ont., Olympique Lyonnais (France); Shelina Zadorsky, London, Ont.; Washington Spirit (NWSL).
Midfielders: Jessie Fleming, London, Ont., UCLA; Rebecca Quinn, Toronto, Duke University; Sophie Schmidt, Abbotsford, B.C., FFC Frankfurt (Germany); Desiree Scott, Winnipeg, FC Kansas City (NWSL); Gabrielle Carle, Levis, Que., CS Levis-Est & Quebec Soccer REX; Sarah Stratigakis, Woodbridge, Ont.; Aurora United FC (League1 Ontario).
Forwards: Jordyn Huitema, Chilliwack, B.C., Vancouver Whitecaps FC Girls Elite BC Soccer REX; Nichelle Prince, Ajax, Ont., Houston Dash (NWSL); Deanne Rose, Alliston, Ont.; Scarborough GS United; Adriana Leon, King City, Ont.; Boston Breakers (NWSL); Janine Beckie, Highlands Ranch, Colo., Houston Dash (NWSL); Christine Sinclair (capt.), Burnaby, B.C., Portland Thorns FC (NWSL).
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press