Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Soccer squad selected with winning in mind

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CANADIAN women's soccer coach John Herdman couldn't afford to think about experimenting or development.

So captain Christine Sinclair and goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc headline an experienced team of largely familiar names announced Tuesday for the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament.

Chelsea Buckland, a 21-year-old striker from Surrey, B.C., is the lone player on the roster making her international competition debut.

"It's such a big event, we have to qualify," Herdman said on a conference call Tuesday. "It's not one of those events where you can start testing and developing players, although the experience they'll have will certainly put them on a great footing for the Olympics.

"It's certainly an event we have to go and win, and with that we had to pick a squad that would deliver us that outcome."

The roster includes 14 members of the team that won gold at the Pan American Games in October. And five of the six who missed the Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, played in the FIFA women's World Cup.

Desiree Scott of Winnipeg was named to the team at the midfield position.

Canada needs to finish in the top two of the eight-team qualifying tournament, Jan. 19-29 in Vancouver, to earn a berth in the 2012 London Olympics.

Sinclair, Canada's captain from Burnaby, B.C., scored to move Canada into overtime versus Brazil at the Pan Am Games. LeBlanc, a goalkeeper from Maple Ridge, B.C., then stopped two penalty shots to secure the gold medal.

The one notable player missing from Herdman's roster is veteran defender Emily Zurrer, whom he opted to leave off the lineup in what he called "a tough call."

But the coach noted this team isn't exactly the one he'll take to the Olympics and Zurrer -- or a rising young player such as Amelia Pietrangelo -- could play her way on to that London-bound squad.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 21, 2011 C6

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