FRISCO, Texas - The U.S. Women’s National Team plays its first match of 2014 tonight in front of a capacity crowd at Toyota Stadium, and speaking to the players you get the feeling the game will be a friendly in name only.
“[We’re looking for] a really good game,” said forward Sydney Leroux. “It’s going to be a hard fought one and it’s going to be physical. I definitely think we’re ready. We had a really good year last year and we want to start off as strong as we ended.”
Tonight’s game between the United States and Canada represents the next installment of what has become arguably the hottest rivalry in women’s international soccer. Things hit a new level in the 2012 Olympics as the United States scored a controversial 4-3 win over their northern neighbors while the last installment of the rivalry in June 2013 saw Canadian-born forward Leroux score a late stoppage time goal in a 3-0 USA win at BMO Field in Toronto.
“We’re so excited. I’m really excited I get to play Canada, in the U.S., which is awesome,” said Leroux. “We’re so thankful for our fans and we love Dallas. It’s been great for us.”
Apart from the rivalry aspect, the game represents the start of an important process for head coach Tom Sermanni as the U.S. begins to mold their squad for 2015 Women’s World Cup qualifying later this year.
“[Coach Sermanni] needs to figure out who his players are going to be moving forward and these are the perfect environments, perfect games, because it’s a sold out stadium against a Canadian team that’s playing really well,” said forward Abby Wambach. “We have a great rivalry with them and it’s important that we have these kinds of environments, because these are the kind of things that give you confidence to head into a World Cup environment.”
With a capacity crowd expected and the frigid temperatures of Monday and Tuesday a thing of the past, Friday’s game (8:00 PM, Fox Sports 1) represents another chapter in what is becoming a great relationship between the national team and North Texas.
“For us to be selling out here for me as an older player is a dream come true,” said Wambach. “I’m just fist pumping. That to me means we’re doing something right and hopefully we can keep it going.”