Monday, March 24, 2014

SEA Vs. MTL : The Maple Leaf Monkey Is Off Our Backs

It took 4666 KM (that's 2919 miles) and an extra day of waiting but The Maple Leaf Monkey is finally off of Seattle's back. 

How long does it take 3 points to clear customs?
It was a match that once again showcased Montréal's defensive woes as Seattle had an early lead in the first 8 minutes of the game when Lamar Neagle was left completely unmarked in the box, heading the ball off the crossbar, hitting Perkins and going into the net. Although originally marked on the score sheet as an Own Goal, Neagle has since been credited with the goal.
"Every game you want to score and get some points, especially for an attacker." said Neagle, "To do it against your old team and your old friends, it's always good for talking up later. It was a nice way to start off, especially when you're away."
Montréal seemed to have the motivation they needed and began to increase the pressure. Trying to stretch the Seattle defense by working the ball wide and pumping several crosses in to the box while relying heavily on their wingers Hernan Bernandello and Patrice Bernier as the game progressed. Montréal received their best opportunity of the match as Eric Miller nodded Bernardello’s 57th minute corner kick into the path of Camara, whose header just went wide of the post. The fire seemed to be in the Impact side, burning brightly as they continued their onslaught. 

A minute later, Obafemi Martins struck.

Who's that man who scored in green? Obafemi Martins!
Photo courtesy of
That would go on to be the difference maker as the Sounders handed Montréal their 3rd straight defeat of the 2014 season, a stark difference from Les Bleus 4-0-0 start last year.
"We got 33 open crosses in the box, so we definitely got in the right spots," Impact Coach Frank Klopas said, "but we pushed the game and created chances and got into the right places, we just couldn't finish."
For the Sounders it marks the first road opener win since 2009, as well as the first time Seattle has beaten Montréal in both sides' MLS eras.
"I thought it was good. We wanted to sit back a little bit, so I knew we were going to absorb some pressure." Sounders Coach Sigi Schmid stated post match, "We were trying to get forward on the counter and I figured we could create some chances like that. I thought Oba played really well holding the ball up for us and allowing the team to connect in. Kenny and Lamar did a good job at that also. They play a really high line at the back, so that was something we wanted to exploit."
 So, what can we take from this? In a match that could have gone the other way in the absences of Clint Dempsey (suspension) and Brad Evans (injury), the team rallied under a youthful squad captained by Djimi Traore (who would have one of his most memorable matches in the Rave Green). A very defensive midfield seemed to have holes at points as the Impact found it easy to get through, however, as they would sneak through there was always another Sounder there to greet them. While Montréal held the edge in possession (55%), this is largely due to defensive substitutions in the second half as Azira, Gonzalez and Weaver were all brought in to the match. Seattle used an effective counter-attack through out and used set pieces to confound the Impact at times.

Sounders' Yedlin takes a challenge from Impact's Bernandello
Photo courtesy
Scoring his second clean sheet in 2014, Stefen Frei was on his head in this one. Making 5 saves in the match and facing down 25 shots from a determined Impact offense have effectively shaken off whatever rust may have remained on the 'keeper. Djimi Traore also shone brightly in what may become his most memorable moments since the 40-yard bomb last season as he unleashed a beautiful bicycle-kick (that was unfortunately stopped by Perkins) as well as a late goal line stop when Frei found himself under pressure in the box.

Leo Gonzalez made his return to the pitch after undergoing off season surgery. He looked strong in reduced minutes as Sigi is looking to bring him back up to starting form for future matches.Question is... Where does he now fit in? In spite of how well he has started the season, will Dylan Remick now take a backseat to Gonzalez or will he slot in as an interchangeable piece with Chad Marshall or Djimi Traore? Time will tell where this one goes.

After needing to wait until May 4th (seven games in to the season) to get to six points in 2013, this year's offering has been made the mark in half the time. With a 2-1-0 record to kickoff the 2014 campaign, the Sounders are now sitting in second place in the West. Not a bad start at all.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Sounders Vs Impact : Another Page In History

Believe it or not, Saturday's Sunday's match between the Seattle Sounders & L'Impact de Montréal is one that is steeped in history. While the two sides have faced each other only twice in MLS play, they have actually met many times before. 26 times in the 14 years they played together in the A-League/USL, in fact.

One could say that it had even became a rivalry back in 2004, one that would continue until both teams made the jump to the top tier. Fielding one of the strongest teams in recent memory, 2004 was the year of the Rave Green, soundly beating our Cascadia compatriots, the Portland Timbers & the Vancouver Whitecaps. Confidence was high coming off an 8-1-1 streak as the Sounders went east to face L'Impact, going through the motions as it all seemed to be going Seattle's way.

And then it happened...

Montréal had been having a strong year as well, making quick and decisive work of the East. Entering the final against the Sounders, they gave no ground and took a very hard fought 2-0 win.

“That first trip to the final in ’04 made it a rivalry. We didn’t like losing to them in ’04. We didn’t like that one bit,” said Sounders present day Assistant Coach Brian Schmetzer, who was head coach of the Club at the time. “We had a pretty good team, but they were at home and had the momentum and on that day they were better than us. That provided some motivation for me as a coach.”

The Clubs would then meet again in the 2005 semifinals (Seattle would go on to the final to win it's first championship since 1996) & 2008 quarterfinals (Montreal would top the Sounders, closing out the Club's USL era as they entered MLS in 2009).

IMFC win 4-1 over Sounders in first MLS era match
Photo Courtesy of

Fast forward to this Sunday & the next generation of this rivalry unfolds.While the two sides only face each other once per season due to the East/West conference, it's still a very spirited affair with the Impact having won both of the MLS era matches between the Clubs ( 4-1 in 2012 at Montréal's Stade Saputo and 1-0 in 2013 at CenturyLink Field).

USMNT superstar Clint Dempsey did not make the trek north with the Sounders he will be serving a two match ban due to a "South Of The Border" blow during last week's loss to Toronto FC. With Dempsey out of action Seattle will need Kenny Cooper's commanding presence in front to create room for Obafemi Martins to put the ball home. After being an early first half substitute for Brad Evans in Week 2, Gonzalo Pineda could feature in his first pro-start in a full calendar year. He has shown only very slight rust after such a long layoff but still has the skill & poise that makes him a threat. “He’s a very good possession player,” Coach Schmid said of Pineda. “That’s the reason I came with him. We had possession of the ball against [TFC] and had space to play so I wanted him in there." While the weather threw a wrench into everyone's plans this weekend, that's not necessarily a bad thing considering the knock Brad Evans took. An extra day's rest and he could feature in Sunday's match. Also note worthy is that this will mark Lamar Neagle's return to Montréal for the first time since the trade that sent him back home to Seattle in 2013.

Rave Green is a much better colour for Lamar
Photo Courtesy of
This will be a very hard fought match as Montréal is looking to shake off some early season woes and record their first win of the season, going 0-2-0 on the road to start 2014. The legendary Alessandro Nesta has since retired from professional play, leaving a large whole that has still not been entirely addressed with off season acquisitions. Last season's Golden Boot contender and MLS "Offside" Champion Marco di Vaio will be absent from "Les Bleus et Noir" as he serves the final game of a three match suspension handed out at the end of the 2013 campaign, along with Andres Romero. In his di Vaio's place will be former No. 1 overall draft pick Andrew Wenger, who scored in the season opener against Dallas. Possessing one of the best set-up men in MLS, Patrice Bernier can cause fits with his the ability to control the midfield, an area Seattle struggled with in last week's loss to Toronto FC.

The biggest battle on Sunday will be held on the wings. Impact's Justin Mapp continues to gain form every season and is slowly becoming the star many pundits thought he could be. He'll face off against another emerging star in DeAndre Yedlin. Both posses speed and can handle the ball well with excellent vision across the pitch. Where the Sounders hold the edge is on the opposing wing where Montréal's rookie Eric Miller will face the Sounders Dylan Remick. In their opening two matches, Miller has looked outclassed at times and outplayed in intense situations. Pair that against Remick's aggressive play, high speed runs, ability to pinpoint crosses and his aerial prowess... It's one-sided.

The match is really Seattle's to lose. If they can come out on to the pitch with the fervor and determination that they had in the second half of last week's match they can decide this one early. This page in the old rivalry will have a Rave Green ending.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The People's Democratic Republic Of Seattle Sounders

 In an interesting turn of events, the Seattle Sounders organization has announced that they will be splitting their business operations from that of the NFL's Seattle Seahawks. The full departure will take place on April 30th, 2014. 
“This is a sensible business decision for our franchise,” said Sounders FC Majority Owner Joe Roth. “Our vision is to grow our business to unprecedented levels both domestically and abroad. This move will position us to achieve that goal. The Seahawks have been vital to our early success and we thank Paul Allen and his organization for their support.” 
The Sounders began play in North America's top tier league in March 2009 and have led Major League Soccer in average attendance in each season of play. The Club (as of the 2014 campaign) has a whopping 34,500 full (and equivalent) season-ticket memberships. At the end of the 2013 season, Seattle ranked 22nd in the world in attendance average at 44,038 per match. This all occurring while the League average dropped slightly on the whole.

While the business side of the house has split, the two teams will continue to have a working partnership as they still co-habit CenturyLink Field.
“This is a fantastic opportunity for Joe, Adrian and Drew,” said Seahawks President Peter McLoughlin. “The Sounders will continue to be part of our family as we share CenturyLink Field and will work together on mutually beneficial projects.”
The Sounders will move all of their business operations as well as their full-time business staff to Pioneer Square in downtown Seattle. The team operations & practice facilities will continue to operate out of Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila.
“This move further demonstrates our commitment to our passionate fan base and our staff,” said Sounders FC Owner and General Manager Adrian Hanauer. “We’re excited to plant our flag in Pioneer Square and continue to grow our brand under the banner of Sounders 2.0.”
A new era is dawning for the Sounders with the move. Something that only makes sense considering the growth of the team from it's initial awarding of an MLS franchise in 2007 to where we are now. Some supporters are taking this time to dream big for the Club, thinking of a future where the Sounders play in their own Soccer Specific Stadium. While this is an extremely happy thought it won't be happening any time soon. The location of "The CLink", as well as the Seattle Mariners' SafeCo Field, is simply too perfect in the heart of Downtown Seattle. With the desire to build an NBA/NHL size arena in the area, it doesn't leave much space left to construct a stadium. That being said... We can hope.

For now though, we can look ahead to a mostly independent Sounders organization. William Wallace would be proud. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

After Thoughts : Maple Leaf Red In The Emerald City

About 50 of Toronto's "Red Patch Boys" made the trek West
 In what was easily the most anticipated match of the early part of the 2014 campaign, our beloved Sounders faced off against the 100 Million Dollar Duo in front of 39,000+ at CenturyLink Field with both sides eager to prove whose superstars were the real deal. Playing off the last minute heroics of Week 1 it had seemed that Seattle would have the edge on the field.

Someone forgot to inform Seattle.

3 touches resulted in 2 goals. That's the kind of debut outing one doesn't normally expect to have entering Major League Soccer but that was the case on Saturday for England's Jermaine Defoe. Defoe instantly put the rest of the League on notice as he notched he opened the scoring in the 17th minute exploiting a Jonathan Osorio through ball. The second goal would come in the 24th minute when Michael Bradley applied pressure in the midfield (of which would be the case all day) to force an erratic back pass from Seattle’s Marco Pappa that Defoe pounced on to beat the Seattle back line who were comically out of position. It was proving more of a task to coral the Brit than originally had been considered.

Toronto FC celebrate after their first goal
Even worse, Sounders captain and fan favourite Brad Evans went off early after attempting a sliding tackle before the quarter hour and collided with Toronto's Mark Bloom. He returned to the match briefly but with a visible limp. He would depart the match at the 28th minute, replaced by Gonzalo Pineda (his first appearance as a Sounder). As the team walked to the dressing room at the half it was evident that Evans was still in quite a bit of discomfort. A deflated Seattle side would head to the dressing room wondering how they would stop the Men of The North.

As the whistle blew to sound the start of the second half the Sounders came alive. Though they were lambs in the first 45, they became Lions in the second. With 22min left in the match, USMNT cornerstone Clint Dempsey nabbed his first of the 2014 campaign, receiving a beautiful pass from a streaking Obafemi Martins up the right flank. The match was within one & the Sounders could smell the blood in the water. With Remick & Yedlin running up the wings like mad men to contain the Toronto offence, and a cheeky ball placement by Cooper that all but caused a Yellow Card of Toronto GK Cesar, it seemed another week of last minute heroics was on the menu. #PoutineTears would be true after all!  

That would be as far as the Rave Green Lads would get as after 4 minutes of stoppage the ref sounded the end of the match and the Canadians would leave the Emerald City with all 3 points.

38,000+ Rave Green Faithful
While quite a few fans had speculated that Jermain Defoe would need some time to get acclimatized to his new surrounding (myself included), the Englishman came as advertised and immediately provided the type of finishing that TFC has lacked over the years. Michael Bradley dominated the midfield & Jonathan Osario showed flashes of great things to come in possibly his best outing ever for the Reds. 

The second half charge was a welcome sight, and one that's hoped to engulf a full 90min instead of just a half. The youth continue to impress as Remick continues to display his aerial prowess and ability to place crosses in the box from the wing. Yedlin's step-over of the very dramatic Osario collapse was enough to make anyone an instant fan of the young stud & future USMNT star. In a midfield that's still trying to gel, it was hit-or-miss on a few fronts however Alonso worked admirably through out. Coach Schmid had this to say on the second half charge :
"I thought we came out in the second half and carried it to them. I thought we played to win. I thought our attitude was good. I thought some of our guys lifted their game-I thought (Obafemi Martins) lifted his game, I thought (Lamar) Neagle was better in the second half than the first, and Clint (Dempsey) began to see the ball more. From that standpoint I thought it was good. How you deal with adversity is what defines your character. Today was a little bit of adversity and we put ourselves into that situation, and now we have to come back from that."
The Sounders now pack their bags and head to La Belle Province for the 2014 edition of "Toast Wars" against L'Impact de Montreal. Les Bleus are coming off 2 straight losses to start the year & will be without Marco Di Vaio as he continues to serve his suspension.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Preview : Seattle Sounders Vs. Toronto FC

As far as season openers go, it doesn't get much more daunting, or exciting, than Toronto FC's this weekend as they take on the Seattle Sounders. The 100 Million Dollar Duo will be making their debut in one of the most hostile away forums in Major League Soccer and the New Look Sounders will try to work off the momentum built up from last week's last second victory over reigning champions Sporting Kansas City. 

This is going to be good!

When the 2013 season ended and Toronto FC were only marginally better than their previous year, it was evident that SOMETHING had to be done to salvage what fan support they had left. The most telling of the entire situation came when former Toronto Mayor David Miller (who is honestly a die-hard TFC Supporters) publically turned in his season tickets. 
“I am so frustrated with the latest management missteps that I am returning the remainder of my season tickets to you: it is the only way I can emphasize how serious the situation is for those of us who support TFC. Please donate them to an appropriate cause. There once was magic at BMO Field. The latest reshuffle has made the possibility of that magic returning almost certainly disappear.”
When Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment's (MLSE) President & CEO Tim Leiweke made the now famous statement of "Why can't we be great?", it turned out that the organization was not just "blowing smoke" as in years past. After a major overhaul from the top down within the organization and spending record amounts on signings of perhaps the league's second highest profile DP's, this was (as their ad campaigns put it) "A Bloody Big Deal!" At the start of the 2014 season supporters can look across the entire pitch with anticipation and I dare even say hope. From Brazil's Cesar between the posts, to Michael Bradley running the midfield, to Jermain Defoe ready to strike, to the return of Toronto's favoured son Dwayne De Rosario, this is a team not to be underestimated. 

Much like Toronto, the Sounders have made several new key additions to their roster, and could very well be a better side than 2013, which is a scary thought for a team who has never missed the playoffs. New youth & speed in Dylan Remick and Sean Okoli, the size & dominating presence of Kenny Cooper, the accuracy & veteran presence of Marco Pappa, the returning USMNT stars Clint Dempsey & Brad Evans and the loss of a hostile dressing room have rejuvenated this Rave Green Battalion. This is a team that's looking to put last year's disappointing campaign far behind them and return to the marquee soccer that the team used to embody.  

Michael Bradley will anchor Toronto's Midfield
 So, what can we expect out of Toronto FC?

With the re-tooled Toronto side it's hard to honestly say what to expect. Will we see a return to the "Final 10min collapse" that the team was known for last season or will they become a scoring machine anchored by the 100 Million Dollar Duo? Toronto didn't "Wow" during the pre-season, although they were without Jermaine Defoe during that time. There were sparks of brilliance at time but was largely unsurprising action throughout. The team also left new Designated Player signing Gilberto back in Toronto as he nurses a hip injury. Luckily for Toronto Michael Bradley & Jermaine Defoe have both apparently returned to full health. Although, in the case of Defoe, the Brit only joined TFC on Sunday and has only a pair of practices with the squad heading into tomorrow's match. The hope is that the 2013 standout Jonathon Osorio will have the opportunity to establish himself with the duo and truly become the superstar that he has the ability to become (and that the Canadian Men's Team hopes he becomes). Throw in the additions of (likely starting left back) Justin Morrow, veteran presences of Steven Caldwell & DeRo, as well as a determination to succeed like the City of Toronto hasn't seen in a long time, this is becoming a team to pay attention to. The scoring issues have apparently been solved but time will tell if the defensive holes have been plugged. If Toronto can form a solid defensive back four that can work & communicate with the Brazilian Julio Cesar watching the sticks... Scary thought.

Clint Dempsey will be facing a very different TFC this time around
 Where does that leave the Sounders? 

Sigi Schmid has indicated that Kenny Cooper could slide out wide right making the formation look more like a 4-2-3-1 than a 4-diamond-2. If this is the case, Cooper’s ability to affect the game will have a sharp impact on not only the match, but will continue to affect the attack throughout the season. With creative and intelligent players like Clint Dempsey, Obafemi Martins and Marco Pappa around him there are no reasons why Cooper cannot find himself in positions to become the threat we've seen in seasons past. Stefen Frei faces down his former team for the first time, which can always be a challenge, however he came out strong and showed only a hint of rust in his Week 1 shutout of Sporting Kansas City. Showing excellent presence in the net & not being afraid to come at the ball aggressively when in the crease, he showed the type of player he never truly had the chance to become in Toronto. At the ripe old age of 27, he could be the 'keeper on guard for years to come in Seattle. "The Last Action Hero" Chad Barrett is in the same boat, taking on the team that he played for from September 2008 - January 2011 and where he did have a modicum of success. For Barrett though, it's almost an entirely different TFC to be facing from when he left.

All in all, this one should favour the Sounders. With a full team having already played one home match together, as well as Clint Dempsey having a bit more time to rest up from travels for the USMNT, the Sounders should prove too much for the still gelling Toronto FC. TFC Coach Nelsen will need to have a solid defensive strategy heading in to this one and they will need to pull it off masterfully to make it out of CenturyLink Field with their pride intact. 

Saturday’s match against Toronto FC will kick off at 1:30 p.m. PT. 
The match was originally scheduled for 7 p.m., and was rescheduled on 
February 10 to accommodate the television broadcasts.

Seattle & Toronto : Sporting Cities

1993. The Toronto Blue Jays win the World Series at home in game 6 over the Philadelphia Phillies. Any Canadian sports fan worth his salt knows exactly where they were the night Joe Carter struck the homerun that brought the trophy North Of The Border for the second straight year. 'Touch'em All Joe!" is still one of the most widely understood statements in Canadian baseball, and dare I say, Canadian sports period.  That was also the last year any major sports team won anything of importance in the city of Toronto.

Touch'em All Joe!
Before the 1992 & 1993 seasons, the previous time a major sports title was won in Toronto was in 1967 when the Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup. That's a 25 year dry-spell between titles of any sort, one that has been felt yet again (21 years now for Jays... But this is our year!) 

Seattle sports fans should understand this narrative all too well. Before the Seahawks (bolstered by the 12th Man) won the Lombardi Trophy, the last major title to be won in the city? From 2009 to 20011 the Sounders were US Open cup Champions (and runner-up in 2012), a streak that is impressive to any sports nut. For the next title we have to look much farther back to he NBA title by the now re-located SuperSonics in 1979. Before that? 1917 when the Seattle Metropolitans won the Stanley Cup, becoming the 1st team in the USA to win North American hockey's biggest prize.

So, why the history lesson?

All things considered Seattle & Toronto share a joint sporting culture mentality. Fervent fans who come out game after game to support teams that punch well below their potential. Look at the 12th Man over the last 10 years, at the Mariners, at the SuperSonics. Strong fan bases that create some of the most dynamic crowds in sports. Cross that over to Toronto where the Maple Leafs sell out the Air Canada Centre and are the richest team in the NHL. The Raptors continue to be a 50/50 club 20 years into their existence, and the Jays... Well... They were picked as an 8:1 chance to win the World Series in 2013. That's all I'm going to say about that. 

The similarities are there. Die hard support for teams that continue to disappoint year after year. We're fans though. We love our teams no matter what. Through the lean years (and each city has definately had those) to the strong years (which are on the rise for both cities). Many of us have been there all along, it's only now that the rest of the populace are starting to take notice. 

And they will notice.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Cyprus Cup : Big Red Rallies Past The Emerald Isle

"The Big Red Machine" that is the Canadian Women's National Team have defeated the Republic of Ireland, via score of 2-1, to take 5th at the 2014 Cyprus Cup.

Yes, you read that right. 5th.

Let the finger pointing begin.

Adriana Leon moving the ball passed an Ireland defender.
 In a scene that has become a little too familiar of late, Canada found themselves down a goal early as Ireland's Ruesha Littlejohn gave the Emerald Isle the lead 13 minutes in. They were able to drop numbers behind the ball and attempt to defend for their lives in what would have been a landmark win for them in their first meeting against Canada at the senior level.

Second half resiliency by Canada was what sealed the deal as Big Red came out hard & fast. A 56th minute goal by Diana Matheson (her second of the tournament) put Canada right back in the match. She would be the difference maker again as she placed the ball at Sophie Schmidt's golden boots who netted the winner at the 90th & final minute of the match (Schmidt's 3rd of the tournament). 

Diana Matheson & Christine Sinclair at the Irish for CanWNT first goal

“The second half was phenomenal from Canada,” said CanWNT Coach Herdman. “That’s how we can play. We know we can play like that. I thought the girls showed that kind of passion and spirit and an ability to play the game the way we want them to play.”

A slight fall from grace for the Canadians, a team that is widely regarded as a Top 3 finisher at next year's Women's World Cup, as this was the first year they were not in tournament final, a streak that dates back to the 2008 tournament (Canada has won 3 & lost 3 in that time).  An even more shocking finish after boastful remarks from Coach John Herdman before the tournament equating several teams as "3rd tier" and easily beatable. The Republic of Ireland, a nation ranked 33rd in the latest FIFA standings, gave Canada all they could handle & more. Much like the England match, the Irish figured out the offensive strategies of the Canucks and defended against it solidly until the very end when Canada took the W. The superior training & skill level of the Canadian side showed as the Irish slowed towards the end of the match, bowed by the continued Canadian onslaught.

Was it the dominating win Canada had hoped to have (like the wins over Finland & Italy)? No. However, a win is a win is a win, as they say.

Desiree Scott showed once again why she is a Big Red cornerstone
 Results have not been forthcoming for Big Red. In seven games against top 10 opposition this year Canada has no wins on five losses. They haven't scored a goal against top opponents since April 4, 2013 and have been outscored 9-1 in those seven games. In fact, the five of the six wins they have this last year are against teams ranked 17th or lower. Italy (No 12) is the highest ranked victory Canada has claimed this past year. Canada scored eight goals in four games at the Cyprus Cup, and only two of them came from strikers (one from Christine Sinclair, one from Adriana Leon). Does that sound like a team that is prepared for a World Cup?

Now, understandably, most of those matches have been friendlies, a chance for Herdman to try new things plus give meaningful minutes to the younger call-ups like Nova Scotia's Nkem Ezurike (CanWNT first cap). Kadeisha Buchanan and Sura Yekka have shown promise, while Rebecca Quinn earned her first CanWNT caps in during the tournament, as did the recent addition of Rachel Quon (another CanWNT debut player). It's that kind of depth that aided Canada in a big way when they lost Laura Sesselman early in the tournament to a knee injury. Ultimately, they won three of four games (beating the three teams they'd be expected to beat) and lost to a team (England) that's similar in many ways and is always 50/50 opportunity for the win.

Rhian Wilkinson made her 150th start for Big Red this tournament

The National team players will now start their preparations for their respective Club seasons, many of which will return to the NWSL which started their team practices on Monday, with their eyes set on the friendlies later this year on home soil. Those friendlies (one of which is against border rival USA) will play a large part in setting the tone ahead of the 2015 Women's World Cup, also on home soil. The WC Team is starting to take shape, with a few newer players making some serious bids at earning a spot on that roster with their performances in Cyprus.

All in all, Cyprus has been a learning environment for Big Red, seeing where changes need to be made offensively if Canada wants to assert themselves as the team to beat. 5th place may be a hard pill to swallow for some, for others it's a reminder of the work that still needs to be done.

Still, it's better than 7th.