U.S. and Canada ready for round two in San Jose
Match set for 9 p.m. ET on Sunday at Avaya Stadium
There's more NWSL on NWSL on tap, with the U.S. set to close out their 2017 campaign against Canada on Sunday. (Photo: Brad Smith/ISI Photos)
There's more NWSL on NWSL on tap, with the U.S. set to close out their 2017 campaign against Canada on Sunday. (Photo: Brad Smith/ISI Photos)

SAN JOSE, Calif. — “Canada gave us some great challenges, some that we haven’t seen in this year,” U.S. national team and Chicago Red Stars midfielder Julie Ertz told media on Saturday, ahead of the second of two friendlies between the USA and Canada on Sunday. But while some might see the 1-1 draw as a lacking performance from the U.S. national team, Ertz was only taking away positives. 

That’s what we want to learn from and take away from. They came out really intense, they came out with a plan that worked really well. It was kind of fun to take a step back and watch some film, and hopefully come out on Sunday learning from those.”

As for the person responsible for those challenges, Canada head coach John Herdman, he’s under no illusion that Sunday’s rematch at Avaya Stadium will feature some adjustments from the Americans. But ultimately, there’s only one thing he wants to see from his players: progress.

“There was some good progress, I thought the other night,” he said after Canada’s training session on Saturday. “Statistically, that’s the best performance in our history against the U.S. Outshooting them by almost double, that’s nothing Canada has ever seen before. We’ve just got to just keep that momentum going through. I think we know that the U.S. will be fired up in their home stands, and for us, just step forward.”

Herdman isn’t the only coach taking the bigger picture view out of these two friendlies. Jill Ellis spoke with media on Saturday mostly about the bigger picture, as the national team’s year comes to a close. She spoke less about the specifics of Sunday’s match, and more about this one game’s place in the team’s bigger journey to repeating as FIFA Women’s World Cup champions.

“What’s the narrative?” she asked, echoing one reporter’s question. “The narrative is you cannot live, in this period in 2017, it was about making sure we’re ready for 2019. That’s the narrative. So at times, that is not having it look perfect. It’s trying players that are maybe in a little over their head at that particular moment. It’s putting players in uncomfortable situations. So the narrative in 2017 is preparing us for 2019. And like I’ve said – yes, does that mean we’ve lost some games? Yes. And would I put that on me, at times? Yes, because I’m committed to playing these players because I believe in the process that we’re doing.”

So if things look painful from the outside – ending the year with three losses and a draw, even with the 11 wins in 2017 – that’s an acceptable part of Ellis’s process. Playing teams such as Canada is a key piece to being ready for not just the World Cup, but qualifiers in 2018 as well.

Well painful is relative, right? I mean, for me, if it’s growing pains, it should be a struggle,” Ellis said. “And without a struggle, you’re not going to learn anything about you. If we play the 28th team in the world every single match, there’s no challenge in terms of us finding out where we have to get better. So I think if you look at our players, they’re elite. And the thing about elite people, they constantly want to improve and get better. So I think if you asked our players, would they rather go out and play Canada, or would they rather go out and play the 35th team in the world, every single time they’re going to pick a top-five opponent – which Canada is – because that’s the way we hone ourselves and get better. The decisions have to be faster, they have to be on point, everything we do has to be better.

“So we’re 18 months out from our World Cup. I can assure you, we will have all those things nailed down.”

How to watch

Where: Avaya Stadium in San Jose

When: Sunday, November 12, at 9 p.m. ET

Where to Watch: FS1

Follow along on social media

Follow the NWSL on TwitterFacebook and Instagram for coverage of the two friendlies – including live, on-site coverage from Avaya Stadium for the second match of the series.

Sunday’s match is the final one for the U.S. women’s national team in 2017. As for Canada, they’ll close out their year with a friendly against Norway on November 27.

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