A common truism in sport is that form is temporary and class is permanent.
One of the most famous sayings in the world of soccer came to the forefront on Sunday afternoon as Alex Morgan and the United States Women’s National Soccer Team played their Canadian counterparts at BMO Field in Toronto.
Morgan, herself one of the best players in the world, had surprisingly been held quiet for the better part of an hour, but her class would eventually shine through.
Her second half brace was enough to see her team run out 3-0 winners over Canada in a hotly contested friendly.
There would be no blame directed to the officiating on this occasion, as Morgan’s two goals in as many minutes ended up being the difference in a game that Canada Soccer had dubbed “The Rematch.”
“They made it very difficult for Alex,” sad U.S. head coach Tom Sermanni. “She’s such a good player and such a dynamic player that at some stages in games she always manages to get herself into positions where she can score goals.”
Morgan found the breakthrough in the 70th minute as she latched onto a through ball and coolly slotted the opener past Canadian goalkeeper Erin McLeod.
Her second goal was another one-on-one chance that came on the counter attack. Both were struck in unconventional positions and were aimed at the far post.
“Her two finishes today were first class,” added Sermanni. “I think she made them look simpler than they actually were.”
Canadian-born striker Sydney Leroux would add a third goal in stoppage time for the Americans and her celebration riled up the sell-out crowd of 22, 453. Leroux drew a chorus of boos when she kissed the badge on her jersey and put her finger to her lip, motioning for the crowd to stop jeering her.
“Her response was a reaction to the reaction of the crowd when she came on the field,” said Sermanni. “It was probably quite an emotional goal for her.”
Leroux’s teammate and reigning FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year, Abby Wambach, saw nothing wrong with the celebration.
“If you guys knew what people tweet at her, some of the Canadian fans, I think you could understand the frustration that she’s under with getting booed during the game,” said Wambach.
Canada Soccer had been dubbing this game The Rematch and the week-long hype machine leading up to the game only fueled the hoopla.
Over 22,000 passionate fans packed BMO Field to watch Christine Sinclair and her teammates exact revenge for the controversial events of the now infamous Olympic semi-final.
“It was our first time playing in front of a crowd like that not for an Olympic qualifying competition or a Youth World Cup,” said Sinclair. “I think as a team we’re proud of our performance but at the same time disappointed for our fans who came out.”
Canadian defender Kadeisha Buchanan made a pair of important interventions at the beginning of the second half. The 17-year-old followed up a block on a Morgan shot by making a goal-line clearance during a sequence in which the Americans were in the ascendency.
“She’s unbelievable … she owned Abby Wambach today,” said Canadian head coach John Herdman. “She’s shined a light today for any kid in this country to say, no matter what background you’re from, you can play in front of 23, 000 and play like that”
Herdman had no qualms about whether the teenager was ready to feature in such an important game and his decision was vindicated by Buchanan’s display.
Buchanan was voted as the player of the match by her teammates and coach.
“That’s available to any kid who wants to work and go through the things she’s gone through to get there,” added Herdman.
The Canadian fans showed that they hadn’t forgotten what happened last summer. Whenever American goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart received the ball, the crowd would begin to count the seconds in which she maintained possession.
They were referring to the refereeing decision that Christiana Pedersen made the last time these two teams played one another.
“We had heard that they were going to do that,” said a smiling Sinclair.
There will be no blaming the referee after this loss, however, and Herdman is looking forward to the progress that he wants his team to make before the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada.
“Winning the World Cup in Canada is going to be one hell of a job,” said Herdman. “Getting that bronze medal was like catching lightning in a bottle, but we did it.”
The task would appear to be even more formidable when looking at a game in which the Americans outshot their Canadian counterparts 13 to 3, won 9 corners to 3 and dominated possession.
“There is a gap, but that can be addressed,” said Herdman excitedly. “Don’t write us off, we’ll be back.”
The Canadian Women’s National Team are back in action on June 19 when they play a friendly against Germany.