Discover more from The 24th Minute
Breaking Hooper's Hex -- CanadaWNT v USA preview
Looking to scratch a 20-year itch
I’m back – Was on deadline for my 9 to 5 paid work all week so I had to prioritize that, but expect this to be daily again now until the next time that happens. In the weeks ahead, I will reveal a way for you to support this newsletter directly. It won’t be a Patreon – there are too many of them out there and I’m already attached to one for SoccerToday. Rather, it will be tied to a value-add buy (likely a detailed MLS season preview to start) that I will produce quarterly. The nuts and bolts of the Newsletter will remain free.
And now we return to our regularly scheduled programming…
They say that the ball is round and that anything can happen on any given day. There’s a magic to the game that draws us all to it, even as there are more and more ways for us to more accurately predict performance.
It doesn’t matter what the numbers say, we tell ourselves, tonight is the night we beat the odds and get the job done.
The exception to that rule is the CanWNT vs the USWNT.
There, Canada will always find a way to lose.
Look, I don’t want to be Debbie Downer here, but I’ve been at this a long time. I covered my first Canada game in 2003. Then, it was a blink of the eye since Canada had beat the USA 3-0 on March 11, 2001.
That was 7,284 bloody days ago. I no longer believe I’ll see it happen again in my lifetime. I could see Canada beating literally every other tea in the world. But, the US? Yeah, no. Show me, don’t tell me, anyway.
It’s like we’re cursed – in fact I’m now coining that curse the Hooper Hex after Charmaine Hooper, who scored a brace that faithful day. Not that long after she had a falling out with the CSA that has never fully been resolved. Although Hooper has never publicly cursed the national team, I’m choosing to believe that secretly she did and that Canada will never beat the United States again until Hooper and the CSA fully make up.
So get on that, CSA. I mean, even if there isn’t a Hooper Hex you should still get on that, but we should probably cover all of our bases here.
That out of the way, I suppose we could actually preview this one:
Where to watch: 7pm ET on OneSoccer in Canada, repeated this weekend on CBC)
What is it: Game 1 of the SheBelieves Cup, and the first game of Canada’s four game (so far) Tokyo 2020 (in 2021) preparation.
In addition to being the worst named tournament in the history of sport, with a pretentious demand to not add a space between “She” and “Believes,” the SBC has evolved into the most prestigious of the four Winter international WoSo tournaments that take place each February.
For those new to the women’s soccer space, the other tournaments are the Algarve (Portugal) event, which was the No 1 event until the US decided to create its own invitational. Algarve is still the No 2 event. Next in prestigious-ness is the Cyprus Cup, (which Canada was a multiple champion of when it was No 2 in the peaking order) and the Turkish Women’s Cup is there as the final event for the rest.
The women’s February internationals are a unique tradition of the women’s game that may not be with us much longer as the WoSo club game grows in importance. As with all advancements, that is both sad and good in that is shows that the game is maturing.
Does it matter (I mean, outside of the whole philosophical conversation we could have about how nothing really matters)?: It’s the first game that Canada has played in nearly a year and it’s the first game that new head coach Bev Priestman will have to stamp her authority on the program that she previously was an assistant with. Additionally there are only four games (so far) scheduled for players to impress before an Olympic roster needs to be named.
So, yeah. It matters. Probably more than most games Canada plays in February.
Now, does winning the SBC matter?
Not really. The US lost the thing in 2019. Six months later they were World Champions.
At the risk of being cliched, the process is a lot more important than the result right now. That said, there isn’t much time until the result will be all that matters and, you know, there’s that whole 20-year itch thing.
The opponents: If you’re reading this, you likely understand it, but…the USWNT is arguably, pound-for-pound the best international soccer team to ever play in either gender. They have depth everywhere and superstars at nearly every position.
There have been times in the last 20 years where Canada has been close-ish to the US, but this is not one of those times. They are the far and away Gold Medal favourite in Tokyo, where they will attempt to be the first women’s team to hold both major titles at the same time.
Can they be beat? Of course. The ball is round, etc. But, it will take a near perfect game by Canada to make tonight the night they end the Hooper Hex.
Canada’s big story: Beyond it being Priestman’s first game in charge, they are also missing several key players due to either injury or COVID-19 restrictions.
Including Christine Sinclair.
Yep, the GOAT isn’t there and as much as we can make brave proclamations about how we need to prepare for the post-Sinc era, it’s still scary.
It’s also correct. It seems unlikely that she will be part of the next World Cup cycle (although I wouldn’t put it past her) and Canada has long relied far too much on her pulling something out of her elbow to rescue the team from an otherwise poor performance.
As stated above, the SBC doesn’t really matter as an event on its own. This is Tokyo prep and figuring out how to play without her is absolutely vital.
Like a parent pushing you into a lake so you learn how to swim, Canada has to deal with this now or risk drowning.
If you want to spin this really positive, if Canada can excel without Sinclair here then maybe you can move her to more of a super sub role at the Olympics, which might even make her more effective.
And, who knows, if she likes that sub role who’s to say she can’t stick around another two years…
Prediction: Don’t ask questions that you don’t want to know the answer to.
(fine – USA 3, Canada 0)