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Canadian women hope to avenge loss to World Cup champion Japan

10/27/2014 07:25 EDT | Updated 12/27/2014 05:59 EST
VANCOUVER - The Canadian women's national soccer team will have revenge and the future in mind when it hosts Japan in an international friendly at B.C. Place Stadium on Tuesday.

Canada hopes for redemption after a 3-0 loss to the Japanese in Edmonton on the weekend, but also wants to use the game as preparation for the 2015 Women's World Cup that it will host next summer.

"We're improving as a nation," said midfielder Desire Scott of Winnipeg. "Unfortunately, the (last) result didn't show as we wanted it to, but we're making some strides in some areas that we're wanting to. So we've got that to build on that coming up in this next game (Tuesday)."

Scott, who re-joined the team recently from England's Knotts County, will start after subbing into Saturday's contest in the 85th minute. She will be among lineup changes that coach John Herdman makes as he continues a youth movement designed to mesh 2012 Olympic and previous World Cup veterans with newcomers and achieve a faster pace of play against the globe's top teams.

The most pressing needs in wake of Saturday's loss are more goal production and defensive discipline. The Canadians played well for much of the game against Japan, the reigning World Cup champion, at Commonwealth Stadium, but struggled from lapses at inopportune times.

"Defensively, I think we're pretty strong — minus the goals, obviously," said Scott. "But I think, now, it's about finding that quality in the final (offensive) third (of the pitch.)"

She said the quick turnaround from the last match with the Japanese will provide "fresh legs, hopefully, a fresh new mindset" and a chance to grow.

"The fatigue factor will be there," said Scott. "We're trying to play it out as if we were in the World Cup, getting used to that quickened game-time turnaround. So it'll be good for us. It'll be a lesson to learn."

Some young players, including defender Kadeisha Buchanan of Toronto, will play before heading back to their university teams. They will then re-join the national squad's Vancouver-based residency program in January.

"Getting some minutes in is very key, just getting that experience in, just trying to grow throughout," said Buchanan, who has 24 senior international caps and will return to West Virginia after the game. "These two games, (the goal) is getting better positioning on the ball. It's like, no shots, no crosses and just trying to get that shutout that we want and, basically, just getting the win."

In another notable change from Saturday's contest, goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe of Edmonton will get the start after Erin McLeod, who backstopped Canada to a 2011 bronze medal, played in the first game against Japan.

"(Labbe) has just qualified for the Champions League (with her Swedish KIF Orebro team)," said Herdman. "She's had a terrific season, set records there. So she deserves a chance to play and keep pushing Erin McLeod for that No. 1 spot."

He stressed that McLeod is the No. 1 'keeper but said it's important for Labbe, 24, and veteran Karina LeBlanc of Maple Ridge, B.C., who is still with the national team but not on the roster for these two games against Japan, to keep pushing her.

"We have to give these 'keepers a chance to, one, keep showing what they can do but, two, get them ready for that (World Cup) tournament," said Herdman.

Herdman is also anxious to give other young players a chance against Japan. He used all six of his substitutes in the first game and could use that many again in the second. This game serves as another opportunity for veterans who led Canada to a 2012 Olympic bronze to mentor newcomers as the senior national program continues its effort to repair a "very big disconnect" in the development of teenaged and players aged 20-25 in the past.

"We've got a wonderful group of women who understand people," said Herdman. "They work hard to make sure that young players get it, but also can enjoy it. And, I think that's what we've seen in the last year, where the younger players aren't coming in petrified. They actually just feel part of a culture now, and I think they actually get what we're trying to achieve, which is to make our country proud."

Captain Christine Sinclair said the youth movement has given Canada more depth, which she hopes will translate into more scoring opportunities and tighter play at the back Tuesday.

"We want to get the ball in the back of the net against them," said Sinclair. "We had a couple of chances, but not really golden opportunities."

Note: Herdman said midfielder Diana Matheson, who scored the goal in Canada's 1-0 Olympic bronze-medal victory against France in 2012, suffered a knee injury Saturday, but hopes she won't be out long.

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