Canada thrashes El Salvador in Concacaf Gold Cup opener

The Olympic champions were on cruise control in earning an emphatic win on Thursday night in Houston.

Canada thrashes El Salvador in Concacaf Gold Cup opener
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  • Canada 6 (Lacasse 3’; Huitema 24’; Leon 28’, 59’; Buchanan 62’, Smith 86'), El Salvador 0
  • Lacasse led the way for Canadians with a goal and 3 assists 
  • Thursday was Canada’s 1st game since Sinclair’s retirement

The Canadian women’s team is off to a flying start at the inaugural Concacaf W Gold Cup. 

Canada put the hammer down with a 6-0 victory over El Salvador on Thursday at Houston’s Shell Energy Stadium as it began life without Christine Sinclair.

Arsenal forward Cloé Lacasse scored and tallied a trio of assists and Adriana Leon bagged a brace to lead the way for Canada in its Group C opener. Olivia Smith, Jordyn Huitema and Kadeisha Buchanan also found the back of the net for Canada.

This was the Canadian team's first game since Sinclair’s international retirement at the end of last year and the Reds didn’t miss a step without their former captain. Thursday’s game between Canada (ranked No. 10 in the world) and El Salvador (No. 104) also marked the first ever meeting between the two teams at senior level.

The difference in quality between the Olympic champions and La Selecta was evident on the night. Playing in its first major Concacaf tournament, El Salvador was completely outclassed by Canada who showed their Concacaf opponents no mercy in registering its biggest win since a 5-0 decision over Australia in December.  

"For me, you walk off frustrated and you actually need to enjoy winning more," Canada coach Bev Priestman told reporters after the game. "Because I think we have another level in us and I need to be patient with that in terms of growing though the tournament — late arrivals and just getting some rhythm and things.

"But to get a clean sheet and have goals come across five players, we've got to be happy."

Priestman fielded a somewhat experimental starting 11 in a 3-4-3 formation, drafting in backup goalkeeper Sabrina D’Angelo and fullback Gabrielle Carle, while having key starters Ashley Lawrence, Vanessa Gilles and Kailen Sheridan on the bench.

Buchanan anchored the backline while playing next to fellow centre backs Shelina Zadorsky and Jade Rose. Newly minted captain Jessie Fleming featured in a midfield group that included Quinn, Carle and Lacasse. The front three consisted of Adriana Leon, Huitema and Nichelle Prince.  

Canada set the tone in the first half by dominating possession (78 per cent) and constant ball movement with the team’s best attracting moments happening down the right side through Lacasse.  

It took the Canadian only three minutes to open the scoring. Lacasse took a lovely feed from Leon and she cut inside off the right flank and into the box before unleashing a shot that deflected off a Salvadorian defender and went by goalkeeper Idalia Serrano. 

Lacasse turned playmaker later in the half when she collected a pass from Huitema down the right and then delivered a cross with two defenders on her to the edge of the six-yard box for Huitema to knock in past Serrano.  

Canada added a third goal when Huitema’s through ball ripped open El Salvador’s back line. Lacasse let the ball run before playing a one-touch pass into the box for Leon to score into an empty net.  

“I thought Cloé and Adriana Leon on that right hand side in the early part of the game, it really came to life. You have two maverick-type players, dribblers who like to come off the page and that made it very difficult for [El Salvador] to deal with,” Priestman explained. 

The lone blemish on Canada’s opening 45 minutes saw Prince pull up with a calf injury just before halftime. She had to be subbed out and was replaced by Deanne Rose. Priestman made two more swaps at the start of the second half by bringing on Smith and Julia Grosso for Fleming and Carle.  

The changes didn’t slow down the Canadians as they poured on the pressure after the restart by attacking in waves and pinning the Salvadorians deep inside their half. El Salvador wilted under the pressure as defender Elaily Hernández was called for a handball and Leon blasted the home the ensuing penalty kick.  

Smith’s corner kick was guided inside the far post via Buchanan’s powerful header to further pad Canada’s lead.

Smith's brilliant performance off the bench, highlighted by her dangerous movement off the ball, was capped off with her first goal for Canada, firing past Serrano from just inside the 18-yard box late in regulation time. Lacasse earned her third assist of the night on the play.

“The moments that I found the most exciting was when people brought their personality,” Priestman said. “You think of Cloé travelling with the ball, Olivia Smith rolling inside the pitch and playing little slip balls. When we can really do that, I think we unlock a lot of things.

“I always love seeing kids come in and doing well, and Olivia deserved that through some club performances, but also what we’ve seen in training. Her set piece delivery, you could argue, was unstoppable.”

NOTES: Canada faces Paraguay on Feb. 25 in its next group stage contest… Paraguay defeated Costa Rica 1-0 in Houston in Thursday’s other Group C game… The top two nations in each of the three round robin groups - as well as the two-best third place teams overall - advance to the knockout round... The quarter-finals run from March 2-3 in Los Angeles. San Diego will host the semifinals and final from March 6-10.

(Top photo courtesy of Canada Soccer)

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