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  1. But does the roster announcement tell us anything about Canada's chances that we didn't already know? Short answer: Nope. Fifteen of the 23 players on the 2015 World Cup roster were also on Canada's 2012 Olympic roster. That Olympic roster had 20 players, and of the five who aren't on the 2015 WWC squad, three have retired since those Olympics. (In other words, their exclusions aren't surprising.) As for the eight players on the WWC2015 squad who weren't on the Olympic team? Well, their inclusions come with varying levels of surprise (between 0 and 10): Kadeisha Buchanan Surprise level: 0 We could call the 19-year-old central defender's rise meteoric, but that wouldn't quite be accurate, since there are probably meteors that don't move as quickly as she has up the ranks of Canadian soccer. She already has 34 senior caps, is already an established starter on the squad and might already be one of the team's best players. A strong candidate to take the captain's armband once Christine Sinclair retires. Yeah, she's that good. Stephanie Labbe Surprise level: 0 Absent from the 2012 roster only because Olympic rosters call for two goalkeepers rather than three (and Canada has its 1A and 1B keepers in Erin McLeod and Karina LeBlanc), Labbe was always going to be on the roster for this tournament. The 28-year-old had an outstanding season for Orebro in Sweden last year, and has been part of the Canadian senior team since 2008. The only question now is, with McLeod ensconced as Canada's go-to starter, could Labbe challenge LeBlanc for playing time at the World Cup? Jessie Fleming Surprise level: 0.5 She's quick, she's aggressive, she's got great on-field intelligence, she's got a nose for goal... and oh yeah, she just turned 17 last month. There's no doubt that Fleming, if she continues on her current trajectory, will be a great one for Canada. The only question was whether, at her age, she'd be ready to step into the spotlight of a World Cup on home turf. But she's answered every challenge presented so far and hasn't looked out of place with the senior team yet... perhaps this tournament will be her chance to announce herself to the world. Adriana Leon Surprise level: 1 Back in the summer of 2012, Leon was preparing for a transfer from the University of Notre Dame (for whom she'd scored the national championship winning-goal in 2010) to the University of Florida. That December, a few months after the bronze medal win, Leon made her first appearance for the senior national team. Since then, the 22-year-old striker has scored five times for Big Red, and was basically a lock to be part of a squad that is in dire need of goal-scoring diversification in the years ahead. Ashley Lawrence Surprise level: 3 Herdman has attempted to integrate a quartet of teenagers into the senior national team lineup over the past 24 months; two seemed like sure things to make the World Cup cut (Buchanan, Fleming) and two seemed like outsiders for this year (Sura Yekka, Rebecca Quinn), leaving Lawrence as a bit of a question mark. She's shown promise in her years rising up the youth team ranks but plays in the midfield where Canada's starting lineup is relatively set. Whether or not the 19-year-old gets significant minutes in this tournament, it'll undoubtedly give her plenty of valuable experience. Josee Belanger Surprise level: 3.5 Speaking of a need for goal-scoring diversification... that's essentially the reason Herdman coaxed the 28-year-old out of national-team retirement. Belanger, however, hasn't been able to recapture the goal-scoring form she had in 2010, when she was the star of Canada's World Cup qualification campaign. In fact, she hasn't scored a goal since returning to the team last year. Ultimately, Herdman likely had to choose between whether to include Belanger or 20-year-old Janine Beckie, who's come on strong in the last 12 months... and as it happened, experience won out over youth on this occasion. Allysha Chapman Surprise level: 5 Like Belanger, Chapman returns to the senior national team after an extended absence. Chapman's ascension to a World Cup roster spot (and possibly even a role in the starting XI) has been nothing short of remarkable, given that prior to October 2014, her only experience with the senior team was one training camp back in 2009. But Chapman filled a position of need in Herdman's team (as Lauren Sesselmann was recovering from a knee injury) and her determined play in the last six months has earned her a role. She also gives Herdman some flexibility in how he uses Sesselmann (who has played as LB and CB, but who may not yet be at 100% herself). Selenia Iacchelli Surprise level: 6 Much like Chapman, Iacchelli had only a brief fling with the senior national team (one camp back in 2010) before Herdman came along. But the 28-year-old has hardly been a regular since returning to the fold in 2013; she's made just four appearances for Canada since November 2013. Her inclusion hits a 6 on the surprise meter due to the exclusion of Rachel Quon (a 23-year-old whom Herdman lured away from the U.S. system) and Brittany Baxter (a 29-year-old with 132 career appearances for Canada). But in a short tournament like the World Cup, team chemistry and positivity are vital; perhaps Herdman felt Iacchelli (who co-owns a business with Canada teammate Emily Zurrer) brought some "glue" to the locker room that could be important in the heat of the competition. While none of the decisions were overly surprising (Herdman's player pool is relatively set, after all), at least now we can move beyond speculation and focus on what's just weeks in front of us -- Canada's quest to make history at home in the Women's World Cup. Canada's 23-player Women's World Cup roster GK- Stephanie Labbé | unattached / sans club GK- Karina LeBlanc | USA / Chicago Red Stars GK- Erin McLeod | USA / Houston Dash D- Kadeisha Buchanan | USA / West Virginia University D- Allysha Chapman | USA / Houston Dash D- Robyn Gayle | unattached / sans club D- Carmelina Moscato | unattached / sans club D- Marie-Eve Nault | unattached / sans club D- Lauren Sesselmann | USA / Houston Dash D- Rhian Wilkinson | USA / Portland Thorns FC D- Emily Zurrer | unattached / sans club M- Jessie Fleming | CAN / London NorWest SC M- Selenia Iacchelli | unattached / sans club M- Kaylyn Kyle | USA / Portland Thorns FC M- Ashley Lawrence | USA / West Virginia University M- Diana Matheson | USA / Washington Spirit M- Desiree Scott | ENG / Notts County Ladies M- Sophie Schmidt | unattached / sans club F- Josée Bélanger | unattached / sans club F- Jonelle Filigno | USA / Sky Blue FC F- Adriana Leon | USA / Chicago Red Stars F- Christine Sinclair | USA / Portland Thorns FC F- Melissa Tancredi | USA / Chicago Red Stars
  2. GK- Erin McLeod | USA / Houston Dash GK- Stephanie Labbe | SWE / KIF Örebro GK- Karina LeBlanc | USA / Chicago Red Stars D- Kadeisha Buchanan | USA / West Virginia University D- Allysha Chapman | SWE / Eskilstuna United DFF D- Carmelina Moscato | USA / Seattle Reign FC D- Marie-Eve Nault | SWE / KIF Örebro D- Rebecca Quinn | USA / Duke University D- Rhian Wilkinson | CAN / Comètes de Laval D- Sura Yekka | CAN / Brams United D- Emily Zurrer | SWE / Jitex BK M- Jessie Fleming | CAN / London NorWest United M- Kaylyn Kyle | USA / Houston Dash M- Ashley Lawrence | USA / West Virginia University M- Sophie Schmidt | USA / Sky Blue FC M- Desiree Scott | ENG / Notts County F- Janine Beckie | USA / Texas Tech University F- Josee Bélanger | CAN / Comètes de Laval F- Nkem Ezurike | USA / Boston Breakers F- Jonelle Filigno | USA / Sky Blue FC F- Adriana Leon | USA / Chicago Red Stars F- Christine Sinclair | USA / Portland Thorns F- Melissa Tancredi | USA / Chicago Red Stars Not listed are, of course, Diana Matheson and Lauren Sesselmann, both of whom will be fervently hoping that their respective knee injuries will heal in time for them to take part in the tournament. The absence of either one of them would be a big blow to Canada's chances; not having either of them would be extra troublesome for a squad that has not been traditionally awash with depth. Herdman has worked hard -- and been largely effective, at times -- in bridging that gap and widening the player pool, so the loss of two crucial players like Matheson and Sesselmann can be, to some extent, mitigated. But even so, yeah, like I said, keep those fingers and toes crossed for the ladies over in China. The two most interesting inclusions on this roster are likely strikers Janine Beckie and Nkem Ezurike. Beckie, a 20-year-old playing at Texas Tech University, scored a couple of goals and impressed many with her play at last summer's Under-20 World Cup. Her goals per 90 minutes rate in her three seasons at Texas Tech have been 0.765, 0.681 and 0.891. That earned her a look from Herdman and her first cap with the senior national team in a closed-door friendly with Sweden in November. Ezurike, 22, is the all-time leading scorer for the University of Michigan, with 49 goals over her four-year college career. She broke onto the scene for the national-team program back in 2008, scoring two goals for Canada at the inaugural FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup. She featured sparingly for Canada at the 2012 U-20 World Cup, but didn't get a look from Herdman until last spring's Cyprus Cup. It's unlikely either will be featuring for Canada at this year's Women's World Cup, but it's a shrewd move from Herdman to build up his pool of strikers as much as possible. As has been said over and over and over in this space (and will be said again, right now), Christine Sinclair won't be around forever. How much longer does she have? Well, look south of the border, where many USA fans are howling for Abby Wambach, the most prolific scorer in the history of international soccer, to no longer be a regular starter. Wambach, for what it's worth, is almost exactly three years older than Sinclair. Of course, if Sinclair (and Melissa Tancredi) can catch lightning in a bottle this summer, in the same way they did at London 2012, then they'll have cemented their legacies and ensured the goodwill will keep flowing for the Canadian team for years to come. But Herdman's job -- especially in light of a contract extension that'll supposedly see him behind Canada's bench until 2020 -- is not just to focus on the 2015 World Cup, but the 2019 World Cup as well. So even players who won't find themselves making the cut this summer know that the work they put in now could pay dividends down the road. That continuity can only mean good things for the program. It's why I praised Herdman's contract extension at the time, and why I continue to say that whatever happens at this year's World Cup, he should be sticking around. As for the immediate future, the Four Nations Cup poses some interesting challenges for Canada -- South Korea on Sunday, Mexico on Jan. 13 and China on Jan. 15. Canada's last encounter with South Korea was a 3-0 win in Edmonton on Oct. 30, 2013, though they can't be taken lightly, having become a consistent top-20-ranked nation that finished atop its group in World Cup qualifying. As for Mexico, Canada's had plenty of tussles with its regional rival in years past, and while the good gals have traditionally come out as winners, the Mexicans are also a team in the ascension. The host nation will provide the most intriguing match, given that they'll be in Group A with Canada at the World Cup. Will both teams play a cagey match, not wanting to give away too much? Or will they go all out in the hopes of terrifying the opposition? (It's the former, by the way.) Canada's last appearance at the Four Nations tourney in China was in 2013, in which they defeated China (yay!), lost to South Korea (boo!) and drew with Norway (meh), good enough for second place.
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