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'Shift in mindset': Canada's Priestman evaluates team's first action in months

Last Updated Feb 26, 2021 at 7:22 am MDT

SheBelieves Cup 24 February 2021 - Orlando, FL, USA Canada Soccer by Jeremy Reper

ORLANDO (660 NEWS) — Bravery.

That’s what Canadian women’s soccer head coach Bev Priestman said she wanted to see from her group heading into its first action in nearly a year.

And, perhaps, the squad’s bravery hand was forced at the SheBelieves Cup, hitting the pitch without captain Christine Sinclair, out due to injury, and long-time mainstays Ashley Lawrence and Kadeisha Buchanan, who weren’t released from their professional clubs.

“What I’ve learned — what an unbelievable group of players who will do anything they can to make Canada proud,” Priestman stated after her team’s final game of the competition, a loss to Brazil. “The character of the group has really stood out to me. There’s a togetherness. I think if you have that first, it’s a great starting point.

“The second thing is the receptiveness of the group to some of the things we’ve tweaked. They’re on board. And now it’s just that execution of it.

“I’ve learned and I’ve seen that Canada has to score more goals. I do believe we will because, again, the chances and the stats tell us that we’re in them areas. It’s just that final quality.”

Through three games, Canada finished with a 1-2 record, a win versus Argentina, with losses to the USA and Brazil. Heading into the Olympics this summer, Priestman, who recently took over the head coach reins, has been given a solid lay of the land when it comes to what her players can do.

“The future of Canada is bright,” she stated. “Those players are stepping up in moments where you have no choice. You put them in there, and there’s some bravery on display. And there are some mistakes, which you’ll get from young players. But, I think, the progression and the new faces, the system, players coming through, it’s all so bright.

“There’s an Olympics around the corner that we absolutely have to perform [in] and pick the players that can perform for that. But there’s also excitement in moving toward the next Olympic Games, and that’s maybe what I got to learn that I would not have got to learn had I had everybody available.”

RELATED: ‘It’s only going to help’: Canada’s Bev Priestman hopes to inspire other women to consider coaching

And circling back to her original comments about wanting to see bravery: did she during the recent four-nation competition?

“Yeah, I think in moments,” she offered. “What we’ve now got to do is it across 90 minutes consistently. But, absolutely. I’ve seen a shift in mindset in the way they go toward the game, getting up to the ball. You see teams trying to play out against us when we’re really high and aggressive — that’s being brave. Obviously, you expose yourself in another part of the pitch you have to give something up.

“There are a lot of players who have put everything out there. Sometimes it’s easy to play it safe and hold back. That’s what I’ve asked them not to do. Don’t turn one-v-ones down, take players on, move the ball quickly, turn and play forward.

“I’ve seen elements of it. I think now it just needs to be part of who we are.”

Canada continues its Olympic preparation on April 13 with a friendly versus England.