Reggae Girlz taste second defeat, as Canada confirm Olympic Games, Gold Cup spots

By September 26, 2023
Canada's players celebrate a goal against Jamaica at BMO Field in Toronto, on Tuesday. Canada's players celebrate a goal against Jamaica at BMO Field in Toronto, on Tuesday. Concacaf

Jamaica’s senior Reggae Girlz battled bravely, but were unable to deny Canada, who registered a 2-1 scoreline in second-leg action of the Concacaf Olympic Qualifying playoff, on their return home at a sold-out BMO Field in Toronto, on Tuesday.

Unlike the first leg at Jamaica’s National Stadium where they were easy 2-0 winners, Canada, the reigning Olympic champions, came from behind on this occasion, to wrap up a 4-1 aggregate win and join United States as the confederation’s representatives in next year’s Paris Games.

Cloe Lacasse (39th) and substitute Jordyn Huitema (50th), did the damage for Bev Priestman’s side, after Drew Spence’s 33rd-minute strike offered Lorne Donaldson and his Reggae Girlz a glimmer of hope.

While Canada, by virtue of the win, also confirmed the second automatic spot in the Concacaf Women’s Gold Cup, the Jamaicans will have to quickly regain their confidence for meetings with Panama and Guatemala next month, which represents their opportunity to secure Gold Cup qualification.

Tuesday’s task for was always expected to be a difficult one for the Reggae Girlz, as Canada, playing at home for the first time in over a year, were brimming with confidence on the back of a two-goal advantage from the first leg.

Though Donaldson ringed in the changes, five to be exact, with talismanic striker Khadija "Bunny" Shaw and Jody Brown, out with injuries, it meant little to the Canadians, who went about business in a no-nonsense manner.

They required only two minutes to fire the first warning shot, as Adriana Leon unleashed from just outside the 18-yard box, but the effort was swallowed up by Rebecca Spencer, who produced another workmanlike performance in goal for Jamaica.

As Canada continued to show enterprise and mounted early pressure, the Reggae Girlz held their own defensively, as they ensured the opponent’s hunt for goals turned out fruitless at that point.

In fact, the Jamaicans were not without hope on the attacking front, and it was one of their occasional push forward that resulted in the opening goal.

Atlanta Primus’s initial effort from a distance was handled at the top of the arc by a defender and it was left for Spence to step up and convert a delightful free kick beating Kailen Sheridan diving full stretch to her right.

Canada launched a series of attacks in their probe for the equalizer and almost pulled level in the 35th, as a corner kick taken by Leon was headed on by Deneisha Blackwood. Fortunately for the Jamaican left-back, the crossbar was in the way.

The host again went close when Ashley Lawrence drove a stinging right-footer from a distance that Spencer tipped unto the crossbar and Primus, who dropped back to assist with defending, forced the ball out for a corner.

Leon served up a perfectly weighted delivery from the resulting corner and Lacasse rose above her markers to head home from close range to make it 1-1 heading into the break.

Though the Reggae Girlz were chasing the game, the manner in which they came out on the resumption said otherwise.

As such, their hopes of mounting a comeback were dented five minutes in, when Blackwood’s unforced error, allowed Lawrence to float a cross in for unmarked substitute Huitema to nod home.

Canada should have added another in the 62nd as another defensive error by captain Allyson Swaby, allowed another substitute, Christine Sinclair through on goal, but the legendary striker failed to add to her 190-goal tally, as her effort went straight at Spencer.

In the 72nd, Sinclair again found space in the 18-yard box for a right-footer that went just wide of the left upright.

The Girlz tried to play their game but were unable to cause any real problems in the attacking third. Instead, it was Canada, who asserted authority in the latter stages, and it took another big save from Spencer, who left her line well, to deny 19-year-old substitute Olivia Smith in time added.

Sherdon Cowan

Sherdon Cowan is a five-time award-winning journalist with 10 years' experience covering sports.

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