EDMONTON - The core of Canada's national women's soccer team is back where it all began, hoping rekindle some chemistry as it begin its campaign for the 2015 World Cup.
Seven of the Canadian players for Wednesday's match against South Korea in Edmonton were on the Canadian team that ignited the women's soccer program in 2002 when it finished second to the U.S. in the U19 world championship at Commonwealth Stadium.
Those seven — captain Christine Sinclair, keeper Erin McLeod, centrebacks Carmelina Moscato and Rhian Wilkinson, midfielders Diana Matheson and Brittany Timko and forward Kara Lang — are reconnecting after spending the season playing for various teams around North America.
"This game is really kick-starting our campaign to 2015," Moscato said Monday at a news conference to promote the ticket sales for the 2014 FIFA U20 women's world cup that will be played in four Canadian cities.
"Although we're not looking necessarily two years in advance, right now we do have specific goals. It's centred around connection again. We've been off for about a month after the NSSL season and we have all worked hard to be back in shape and fit for this game. But it really is about playing soccer together again and reconnecting with our national team goals and identity and where's we're going."
The team, which won the bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympics, has been in Edmonton for five days preparing for South Korea. While that's not a long time, both Moscato and McLeod said it's been a great team-building experience.
"There's elements that are easy because we're like a family now," said Moscato, who was off the national team for a few years before rejoining it in 2009. "Meals are always enjoyable, having chats…but on the field, that winning behaviour, that gold-medal standard behaviour, it takes time to reconnect again."
McLeod, a native of St. Albert, a bedroom community of Edmonton, said the team is fortunate in that the players have managed to stay connected over the years and the excitement of being together this week is "really bringing us together."
Both agree the match with South Korea will be a test of just how together the team is and where it has to go from here to get ready for 2015.
"It's going to be challenging," said the 30-year-old McLeod. "In the game there are going to be moments we might be disconnected, but I think that's good to have the test early on to see how much we can fight now, having been apart. And we will only grow from that."
The teams are 1-1 in recent matches and McLeod said one of the keys for Canada is to get off to a good start.
"We have to come out fighting and bringing the game to them," she said. "A lot of times we start games on our heels and we don't want to be like that this time, or anymore."
South Korea is a technically disciplined team that Moscato says is very strong on the counter-attack and dangerous in its ability to regain the ball and sneak behind defences.
"So it's going to take a lot of defensive discipline for us to regain the ball immediately when we lose it," she said. "So that's a big focus for us because they are quite technically savvy and quite intelligent on the ball."
Note: Lang will be with the team as she continues her comeback from two torn knee ligaments, but won't play Wednesday.