ORLANDO, Fla. — Canada left it late but got the job done Sunday at the SheBelieves Cup.
Substitute Sarah Stratigakis scored in stoppage time to lift Canada to a 1-0 win over a stubborn Argentina side at the women's soccer tournament.
The breakthrough goal came off a goalmouth scramble in the 92nd minute with a sliding Stratigakis poking the ball home off goalkeeper Laurina Oliveros' arm. Janine Beckie's free kick caused mayhem in front of the Argentina goal and, when the defence failed to clear, Jessie Fleming's mishit went to Stratigakis.
Argentina had 10 players in its penalty box but could not put out the fire.
"I felt that it would come. It just happened to come later than what I wanted," Bev Priestman said after her first win as Canada coach.
"They're a tough team to break down," she said of Argentina. "It wasn't the perfect match and it definitely wasn't the best match I've been involved with. But overall I think the group found a way to win That's what good teams do.
"And it's a clean sheet, which we have to celebrate as well."
It was the first goal in three senior appearances for Stratigakis, a 21-year-old midfielder from the University of Michigan.
The late strike helped snap a five-game winless streak (0-3-2). Canada's last victory was a 1-0 decision over Costa Rica on Feb. 7, 2020, at the CONCACAF Olympic Women's Qualifying Tournament.
Sophie Schmidt, who captained the side in her 201st international appearance, said she "100 percent" thought the goal was coming.
"We were attacking. We should have put some away in the first half but we didn't. That's the story of our lives right now,," she said.
"But moving forward we've got to find a way earlier," she added. "We have to finish our chances."
Canada (1-1-0), tied with Brazil for eighth in the FIFA world rankings, had more of the play than No. 31 Argentina (0-2-0) but lacked clinical finishing in a first half short on chances and entertainment value.
It was more of the same in a choppy second half against the hard-working South Americans, who offered little on offence. The Canadians, playing only their second match since last March, pressed as the game wore on with Argentina dropping players behind the ball.
Canada squandered set pieces on offence and had little to do on defence. Argentina did its bit to slow the tempo, with players often hitting the turf.
Earlier Sunday, the top-ranked Americans blanked Brazil 2-0 at Exploria Stadium to extend their unbeaten run to 36 matches.
The Canadian women lost 1-0 to the U.S. in their tournament opener Thursday, holding out until the 79th minute when Rose Lavelle scored. Brazil beat Argentina 4-1.
Canada wraps up play Wednesday against Brazil while Argentina, who replaced Japan in the tournament when the 10th-ranked Japanese pulled out citing the pandemic, faces the U.S.
While Canada is missing injured captain Christine Sinclair and her 186 goals at the tournament, its offence has been in short supply in recent outings. Sunday's goal was just Canada's third in its last six matches and two of them came in a 2-2 tie with Brazil last March.
"Listen it's going to come and it does take time," Priestman said of the Canadian attack. "The group, we've been doing extra work at the end of training for forwards to get more reps in and things like that,
"We're doing everything we can. I think the group is aware of it."
Priestman, who thought her team was rushing things early Sunday, had warned her players beforehand that he goal might not come until late.
"I had said to them before it might be the 89th minute. We just have to keep trusting the process and doing what we do. I think that will come."
Priestman said Canada's long layoff during the pandemic and new faces in camp have made things more complicated.
Priestman made six changes to her starting lineup with goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe, Gabrielle Carle, Adriana Leon, Jade Rose, Jordyn Listro and Schmidt coming in.
Schmidt also captained the team in her 100th match in 2013.
Rose, 18, and Listro, 25, earned their first senior caps. The Canadian starting 11 totalled 713 caps, up from 647 for the starters against the U.S.
Samantha Chang, 20, also earned her first cap, coming off the bench in the 61st minute. Deanne Rose had come on three minutes earlier to win her 50th cap.
Quinn, who goes by one name, was unavailable Sunday due to a minor injury in training. Canada Soccer said the hope was the midfielder will be available for the Brazil game.
Canada looked a little shaky to start, with several turnovers. But gradually the Canadians began to find put things together, firing crosses into the Argentine penalty box.
Argentina, meanwhile, looked for holes in the Canadian defence with long balls over the top.
Canada had 49 per cent possession in the first half, outshooting Argentina 7-2 (2-1 in shots on target).
Argentina survived a pair of goalmouth scrambles early in the second half. Leon shot high in the 55th minute as the Canadians continued to have difficulties finding their range.
Argentina's Lorena Benitez was stretchered off in the 56th minute with an injury.
Canada has won all five meetings with Argentina, outscoring the South Americans 13-1.
Canada's roster, already depleted before the tournament kickoff, lost two more players leading up to Sunday's match. Goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan, injured in Thursday's match, returned to her club Sky Blue FC for further medical assessment. Defender Vanessa Gilles, one of Canada's top performers in the U.S. match, returned to her French cub as part of a pre-tournament agreement.
Canada went into camp without the injured Sinclair and veteran midfielder Diana Matheson while key defenders Kadeisha Buchanan and Ashley Lawrence and forward Jordyn Huitema remained with their French clubs. Goalkeeper Erin McLeod and defender Bianca St-Georges were injured in camp.
Sinclair, Matheson, McLeod, Buchanan, Lawrence and Huitema have 845 caps and 229 international goals between them (St-Georges is uncapped). The 37-year-old Sinclair leads the soccer world with 186 international goals.
Sinclair, Matheson, Buchanan, Lawrence, McLeod and Huitema have 845 caps and 229 goals between them.
Two of the four Argentina players ruled out of the team’s opening match due to COVID-19 protocols were cleared to play against Canada.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 21, 2021