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Canada retooling for 2015 World Cup

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CANADA'S women's soccer team might have won bronze at the London Olympics, but coach John Herdman said there will likely be some unfavourable results ahead.

With an eye on the 2015 World Cup and the 2016 Rio Olympics, Herdman is pleading patience with fans as he brings some new, young talent into the team.

"The team will have to take a step back to move forward again," Herdman said on a conference call. "We're going to have to dampen down the expectations of the public knowing there's a bigger picture."

Herdman announced his 27-player roster for an upcoming camp that features a mix of returning players and youth players who are getting their first call-up to a senior women's camp.

Star striker Christine Sinclair headlines the 12 players from the London Olympic squad who will attend the Dec. 12-20 camp in the Vancouver area.

Herdman said 60 per cent of his team from London will be over the age of 30 by 2015 when Canada hosts the World Cup, and it's crucial to start investing in the young players coming up, even if it costs the team temporarily on the score sheet.

"We're going to have to expose a lot of young players, very young players, to the international game, and give them caps and playing minutes, which means we may not be able to get the results that you'd want," Herdman said.

"But in the long term it will help us be in a much stronger position in 2015 and 2016."

The coach who was hired after Canada's disastrous last-place finish at the 2011 World Cup said there's a big gap in the women's soccer system in this country. Few players on Canada's youth teams are moving onto the senior women's side.

"If I go with a team that's 30-plus into that women's World Cup and Olympic Games, all I'm going to do is compound the problem," he said. "I'm going to have to take a real helicopter view and make sure that we pave a pathway, so the next coach in 2019 and 2020 isn't in the same situation as I'm in now."

Of the nine young players attending the camp, five were part of this year's under-20 program -- Sabrina D'Angelo of Welland, Ont., Adriana Leon of Maple, Ont., Christabel Oduro of Brampton, Ont., Jenna Richardson of Vancouver, and Shelina Zadorsky of London, Ont.

Four played for Canada at the U-17 World Cup this year in Azerbaijan -- Kadeisha Buchanan of Mississauga, Ont., Summer Clarke of Richmond, B.C., Ashley Lawrence of Caledon, Ont., and Nichelle Prince of Ajax, Ont.

Herdman said veterans such as Sinclair and Rhian Wilkinson will play key roles in developing Canada's young talent.

"Those players are absolutely crucial, I think they do realize that they're important now to help leave a legacy," Herdman said.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 5, 2012 D3

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