Canada's women's soccer team plays Scotland on Wednesday to open the Cyprus Cup, the final tournament before this summer's World Cup in Canada, and one last opportunity, says coach John Herdman, to test out tournament strategies.
"It's a pretty serious time and this tournament is an important step for us," Herdman said on a conference call Tuesday.
"It's just the fact that you're going from game to game (in a tournament format), and with that you have all your recovery strategies, mental, physical, you have to be slick with your scouting processes, and bringing together the information that has to be passed on from game to game and how that transfers from the staff to the players."
Herdman is fielding a mix of veterans, such as Christine Sinclair, Karina LeBlanc, Erin McLeod and Melissa Tancredi, and rising stars such as Kadeisha Buchanan and Janine Beckie for the tournament. With each passing game, he said, he gets that much closer to cementing his roster for the World Cup, which kicks off in three months.
"We haven't written anyone off. There's still opportunities and the door is always open," Herdman said. "But every time I pick a squad now, getting closer to the tournament, we get a clearer picture. . ."
The notable absences are Diana Matheson and Lauren Sesselmann. Matheson, who scored the lone goal in Canada's 1-0 bronze-medal victory over France at the 2012 London Olympics, tore her anterior cruciate ligament in late October, while Sesselmann tore her ACL a year ago.
"Lauren's recovery is getting there, and we're hoping that she's going to be back for the World Cup, we expect to see her back (training) in April," Herdman said. "I think that's an exciting part for me as a coach because I get to see if she's back in a way, in a form that can actually impact a tournament before I make my final selections."
Matheson poses a bigger question, since she suffered her injury only six months ago.
"But as a player, she's one of the most resilient and disciplined women that I've ever met, and if anyone can get back in time, it (will be) Diane," Herdman said. "Her recovery is ahead of schedule at this stage, and we all have our fingers crossed because. . . none of these women want to see Diana miss the World Cup, she's such a critical part of this team, and we're desperate to see her back."
The Canadian women are on a roll. They're undefeated in their past six games, which included three victories en route to winning the Bao'an Cup earlier this year in China.
"We're hoping we can keep that roll going because it's great for confidence for our players," Herdman said.
Canada has won the Cyprus Cup three times, and will be gunning for its first title since 2011.
Canada finished second in Group A in last year's Cyprus Cup and were relegated to the fifth-place match where the beat Ireland 2-1.
Following their match against Scotland, the Canadians will travel to Larnaca, where they'll face South Korea on Friday. They'll wrap up Group A play on Monday versus Italy in Nicosia.
Herdman said Canada will play in about five friendlies after the Cyprus Cup and prior to the opening of the World Cup on June 6.