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Canada ready to name World Cup roster, looks to build on Olympic soccer success

04/26/2015 03:10 EDT | Updated 07/28/2015 12:59 EDT
VANCOUVER - The Canadian women's soccer team, which went from last at the 2011 World Cup to the medal podium at the 2012 London Olympics, unveils its roster Monday for this summer's World Cup campaign.

There should be few surprises, although coach John Herdman appears poised to include veteran Diana Matheson in his 23-woman squad. The 31-year-old Matheson, a key cog in the team's midfield engine, injured her anterior cruciate ligament last October in a friendly and was seen last week with crutches after tweaking a foot in her comeback.

Still Herdman said the 166-cap Matheson would be "given every chance."

Defender Lauren Sesselmann, who tore up her knee in February 2014, has already returned to action.

Herdman has 25 women in residence including Matheson, so the cut is minimal. He will also name a taxi squad of some six players in case of injury.

"It's been a tough process but I think we've got the right people on the bus," said Herdman, who led Canada to Olympic bronze after taking the reins in the wake of the disastrous 2011 World Cup. "And those people that aren't on the bus, they're still the right people. And they'll be called on if and when required."

It's classic Herdman, a master motivator who rarely says a wrong word.

The coach cites defender Marie-Eve Nault, an alternate in London who saw plenty of playing time after she and Melanie Booth were summoned to replace the injured Robyn Gayle and Emily Zurrer.

"It's been a really tight-knit group," said Herdman. "I think the progression across the three years has been outstanding in all the players. Even the senior players have stepped up in little ways.

"Players that might have transitioned out of the game have stayed in. And young players that you've given opportunity to have taken it. So it's been a really tough process over the last four months to try and make sure you've got the people with the right character, the right competence, that fit the Canadian DNA that can make our country proud."

Melissa Tancredi and Jessie Fleming are two examples of what Herdman is talking about.

Tancredi, a 33-year-old forward who made her national team debut in 2004, essentially took two years off after the Olympics to complete her chiropractic studies before returning to the squad.

Fleming, a 17-year-old wunderkind, won her first cap at 15 in December 2013 to become the second-youngest player to ever play for Canada (behind Kara Lang). A midfielder with an exquisite touch, Fleming is the future but can play a big role in the present.

Captain Christine Sinclair (222 caps), Matheson (166), Rhian Wilkinson (163), Sophie Schmidt (131), Karina LeBlanc (110), Erin McLeod (104), Tancredi (99), Kaylyn Kyle (95), Desiree Scott (89) and Carmelina Moscato (91) give Canada plenty of experience and moxy.

There is talent and character aplenty on the roster, although goals have been hard to come by at times.

As host team, eighth-ranked Canada did not have to qualify. Herdman, who with his support staff leaves nothing to chance, planned a comprehensive, meticulous program to prepare his players.

England's Herdman, who will turn 40 two weeks after the tournament, may be Canada's biggest weapon off the pitch. A native of Consett, just outside Newcastle, Herdman is an inspirational coach respected and appreciated by his players.

The women will get 10 days off after the announcement, their last break until their World Cup campaign ends.

They will reconvene May 7 for a week in California, where they will have a training match with the U.S., before heading to Mexico for a week.

They return to the Toronto area May 21 to prepare for their final friendly, May 29 against No. 6 England in Hamilton.

At the World Cup, Canada plays June 6 against No. 16 China and June 11 against No. 17 New Zealand in Edmonton before wrapping up first-round play June 15 in Montreal against the No. 12 Netherlands.

The 24-team tournament, which wraps up July 5 in Vancouver, will also see games in Winnipeg, Ottawa and Moncton.

Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter

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