Let’s start with the bad news of the week.

Julia Grosso and Evelyne Viens sustained ankle injuries that will keep them out of Canada’s two games in British Columbia in the December window; a huge loss for club and country.

However, absences have created space for new senior call-ups, a younger group of baby Reds were in action against Portugal and took plenty of positives, and goalkeeper Rylee Foster stole the show in Auckland.

Moment of the Week: Rylee Foster save vs. Perth Glory

Foster has overcome more adversity than most, with the story of her awful car accident well-known by now. 2023 started off on the wrong foot after she was not offered a contract extension with Liverpool and then failed a medical at Celtic in the summer after spending a week on trial with the Scottish giants.

However, it has been onwards and upwards for Foster since signing with A-League club Wellington Phoenix and making a competitive return just two years after her horrific accident.

Wellington Phoenix finished bottom of the table two years in a row but currently find themselves in third position, six games into the A-League season. In fact, the start has been so good, they have already won more games than in each of the previous two seasons. Phoenix got a huge win on the weekend thanks in no small part to a strong performance and a heroic save from Foster in the latter stages of the game.

Starting five games and conceding only four so far this term, Foster has put her team in a very good position; tied with the lowest number of goals against in the league (five).

It’s not just the return and hard route the Canadian ‘keeper had to take to get to this point, but rather how strong she has looked making huge saves every single game. CanWNT head coach Bev Priestman might very well be watching Foster with interest.

Low of the Week: Julia Grosso and Evelyne Viens injuries

Two players who have made almost every single edition of our WoSo Canadians Abroad weekly roundup for their excellent showing on the pitch for club and country have had nightmare weeks.

Juventus’ Grosso sustained an ankle ligament injury which will force her out of CanWNT’s doubleheader in her home province.

This is a huge bummer for the midfielder, whose opportunity to play alongside Canada’s greatest soccer player one final time has been stripped. It’s also far from ideal for Priestman as she gears up preparations for next summer’s Olympics.

The loss of Grosso is massive for her club, too. She hasn’t missed a single game for Juventus this season and has the highest pass accuracy in the squad. The Italians will not have an easy time working around her loss.

Courtsey
Courtesy: Juventus FC

Viens also picked up an ankle injury, although AS Roma is yet to confirm the extent of the injury.

The Canadian is the joint-top scorer in Serie A. Viens is the last person the Italian club want to see sidelined. Not only crucial in Roma’s undefeated streak in the league, but also in the UWCL where Roma find themselves in one of the toughest groups (with Ajax, Paris St. German, and Bayern Munich).

Viens has had a superb start to the 2023-24 season. Yet to play regular minutes for Canada, fans and Viens herself would have expected to see her get on the pitch in this window given her fine form.

Courtesy: AS Roma

Feel-Good Story of the Week: Two young stars get first senior CanWNT call-ups

On the flip side for Priestman and Co., the games against Australia will provide two young Canadian stars with their first taste of a senior camp. Jeneva Hernandez-Gray is one of Canada’s most exciting upcoming prospects, and that senior call-up was only a matter of time. Currently committed to Auburn University, Hernandez-Gray is also with the Whitecaps FC Girls Elite Academy.

Boasting shades of Grosso’s ball control and Jessie Fleming’s passing accuracy, the December international window will be a valuable experience for the teenager. As Canada says goodbye to one Vancouver legend at the age of 40, a 17-year-old Vancouver star is welcomed in another passing of the torch moment.

Related read: Who is first-time Canada call-up Jeneva Hernandez-Gray? The new CanWNT talent compared to Julia Grosso

Courtesy: Scottie/Canada Soccer

Also called up is Latifah Abdu out of Montreal, another youngster earning her first senior call-up. The 22-year-old forward currently plays for Dijon FCO in France and has been a part of Canada’s youth system from the early ranks. Abdu is a familiar face to Priestman. She gave the young Canadian her youth debut at 15 in 2017.

However, it’s been almost five years since the Quebec-born player pulled on a Canada shirt, back with the U-17 squad when Priestman was in charge.

This is a great opportunity for a physical and dangerous No. 9 (much like the absent Viens) to get some time with the senior squad. What better occasion than the GOAT’s send-off?

Courtesy: Dijon FCO

Baby Reds in action: Two-game camp in Portugal provides valuable experience

In preparation for the upcoming 2024 CONCACAF U17 championship, the Canadian baby Reds concluded a two-match series with Portugal.

Opening things with a 2-0 loss, there were plenty of lessons to take away as both goals came from poor defensive play. But the mistakes are easily correctable with a little bit more communication, exactly what the team was looking to achieve with this camp as the players became more familiar with one another.

There were also a flurry of really good opportunities by the Canadians, but they just could not find the net. Seventeen different Canadians featured in the match with Isabelle Chukwu selected as Canada’s Player of the Match.

Courtesy: Mexsport/Canada Soccer

“It’s important that they spend time together, get to know each other, form partnerships, figure out how we operate, and just build that Canadian identity,” said head coach Emma Humphries.

The second game was a flip of results, with Canada winning 2-0. Annabelle Chukwu (Isabelle’s sister), who just recently got a senior call-up of her own, got on the scoresheet with a stunning goal. Oakville’s own Adriana Bianchin also found the net, while the mistakes at the back were cleared up as Canada responded very well to Portugal’s press.

All in all, it was great progress and preparation for next year’s CONCACAF U17 Women’s Championship, where the Reds will be aiming for gold. They have been grouped with the USA, Panama, and Puerto Rico. The tournament will take place in Mexico from February 1-11.