It’s not the roster Bev Priestman would have wanted for her first tournament in charge of the Canadian women’s team. But the newly-installed coach is making the most of a bad situation ahead of the 2021 SheBelieves Cup, set to kick off this week. On Tuesday, Priestman named her 23-player squad for the four-nation, invitational tournament that runs from Feb. 18-24 in Orlando. Her roster list, which was released as Canada holds a training camp in Florida, includes several familiar faces, including midfielders Sophie Schmidt (199 caps) and Desiree Scott (157), defender Allysha Chapman (75), goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé (72), and forward Janine Beckie (70). There’s also five uncapped players who made the roster: forward Evelyne Viens, goalkeeper Rylee Foster, midfielders Jordyn Listro and Samantha Chang, and teenaged defender Jade Rose. But the main story is who isn’t on this Canadian team, as there are several big names missing for a variety of reasons -- most notably iconic captain Christine Sinclair. Canada Soccer announced over the weekend that Sinclair won’t be able to compete due to an injury. Also ruled out because of injury are midfielder Diana Matheson and goalkeeper Erin McLeod (two of the team’s leading veterans), and uncapped defender Bianca St-Georges. In addition, defender Kadeisha Buchanan, forward Jordyn Huitema and midfielder Ashley Lawrence won’t be released by their pro clubs to play at the SheBelieves Cup. The tournament takes place during a FIFA international window, and under normal circumstances pro teams would have to release their players for international duty. But Buchanan (Olympique Lyon), and Huitema and Lawrence (Paris Saint-Germain) play in the French first division, and France recently imposed a seven-day quarantine for travellers due to the COVID-19 pandemic. FIFA is allowing clubs to retain players if they face quarantine periods that could potentially last longer than five days. While St-Georges and McLeod picked up their injuries at Canada’s current pre-tournament training camp in Florida, the injuries to Sinclair and Matheson prevented them from attending the camp. Also, 16-year-old forward Olivia Smith (two caps) and midfielder Victoria Pickett (uncapped) didn't make the final roster cut from training camp. With Canada set to play England in a high-profile friendly next month and the 2021 Olympics looming, it’s hardly a surprise that Priestman isn’t taking a chance by playing Sinclair and the other injured players at the sixth annual SheBelieves Cup. "The SheBelieves Cup will provide a great opportunity for players to rise up and show that they can compete at this Olympic level," Priestman said in a media release. "The tournament will be used to assess the player pool and players’ readiness to achieve our goals at the Olympic Games. Ultimately this sort of competition is exactly where we all want to be, pushing ourselves as we move forward in this journey." The loss of Sinclair is a huge blow for Canada. The veteran forward leads the team in career appearances (296) and is the all-time leading scorer in international soccer (for both men and women) with 186 goals. Sinclair has been a mainstay with the national team since making her debut as a teenager in 2000, and hasn’t missed a Canadian camp since 2011. For a team that has struggled in front of goal in recent years, Canada desperately needs someone else to pick up the scoring slack in Orlando. The absences of Matheson (206 caps) and Buchanan (the reigning Canadian player of the year) are also big losses for Canada, especially Buchanan who is widely considered one of the best central defenders in the women’s game. Canada's roster still features 12 players who won a bronze medal at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, so there's plenty of experience in this side even with all of the absences. Still, with so many key players missing, this tournament will be a stern test of Priestman’s tactical acumen and her player management skills. It’ll be interesting to see how she handles the delicate balance of fielding a competitive team while also giving valuable playing time to youngsters and fringe players on this Canadian squad. This will be Canada’s first appearance in the SheBelieves Cup and the games will be the first for the team under Priestman, a 34-year-old native of England who was hired last October. The Canadian side will kick off the competition against the United States, currently first in the FIFA world rankings, on Feb. 18. Then they’ll take on 31st-ranked Argentina on Feb. 21, followed by eighth-ranked Brazil on Feb. 24. Canada is tied with Brazil in the world rankings. The SheBelieves Cup (to be broadcast live on OneSoccer, and on delay on CBC) marks Canada’s return to action for the first time in close to a year, as the team has been idle since competing at the Tournoi de France last March. The SheBelieves Cup also gives a valuable opportunity for Canada to prepare for this summer’s Tokyo Olympics. CANADA'S ROSTER Goalkeepers: Stephanie Labbé (FC Rosengård), Rylee Foster (Liverpool FC), Kailen Sheridan (Sky Blue FC). Defenders: Allysha Chapman (Houston Dash), Jade Rose (Super REX Ontario), Shelina Zadorsky (Tottenham Hotspur), Quinn (OL Reign FC), Gabrielle Carle (Florida State University), Jayde Riviere (University of Michigan), Lindsay Agnew (NC Courage), Vanessa Gilles (FC Girondins de Bordeaux). Midfielders: Julia Grosso (University of Texas at Austin), Samantha Chang (University of South Carolina), Sarah Stratigakis (University of Michigan), Desiree Scott (Kansas City NWSL), Sophie Schmidt (Houston Dash), Jessie Fleming (Chelsea FC), Jordyn Listro (Orlando Pride). Forwards: Deanne Rose (University of Florida), Evelyne Viens (Sky Blue FC), Nichelle Prince (Houston Dash), Janine Beckie (Manchester City FC), Adriana Leon (West Ham United FC). TIG-book-onsale-editorialad-1024x284

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