Leon grabs equalizer as Canada draws U.S. 1-1 in women's soccer friendly

Canada's Christine Sinclair (12) and Shelina Zadorsky (4) celebrate a goal by Adriana Leon during second half women's friendly soccer action against the United States, in Vancouver on Thursday, November 9, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

VANCOUVER - Adriana Leon needed another look at the signature moment of her return the Canadian women's national team.

The striker from Mississauga, Ont., scored in the second half Thursday as Canada tied the United States 1-1 in a soccer friendly.

The Canadians equalized in the 57th minute on a wild sequence following a corner where Rebecca Quinn's shot off the crossbar rebounded to captain Christine Sinclair, who hooked the ball towards goal for Leon to help over the line and send the crowd of 28,017 at B.C. Place Stadium into a frenzy.

"It felt amazing," said the 25-year-old. "I had to watch the replay on my phone because I blacked out a bit."

The game was the opener of a two-game series between the top-ranked Americans and No. 5 Canada, with the rematch set for Sunday in San Jose, Calif.

The Canadians are now 3-47-7 all-time against the U.S., with their last victory coming all the way back on March 11, 2001.

Leon, who hadn't played for the national team since the 2015 World Cup, was left off the bronze-medal winning Canadian side at the Rio Olympics, but has resurrected her career by first going to Europe and then spending this past season with the NWSL's Boston Breakers.

"From the World Cup and then not making the Olympic team, I think that could have destroyed a lot of players," said Sinclair, who won her 260th cap. "She's mentally so strong and she never gave up."

Leon, who scored her eighth goal for Canada in her 43rd appearance, subbed on for Deanne Rose in the first half moments after the U.S. went ahead on Alex Morgan's opener in the 31st minute.

The Canadian striker injected pace and energy into a team that looked a little timid in the stretch before the Americans went in front.

"That was exactly my job — come on the field and change the game," said Leon. "I just worked my butt off and did what I could."

Canadian head coach John Herdman said he's been impressed with Leon's drive to return to the national team setup.

"She's been very resilient," said the Englishman, who improved to 0-7-3 against the U.S. since taking over in 2011. "She's let her career tell her story. She's fought and scrapped to make sure she hits the standards required for this level."

Morgan put the Americans in front when the forward jumped on a ball played into the Canadian penalty area before slotting home between three defenders for the 79th goal of her international career.

Both Herdman and U.S. counterpart Jill Ellis were forced to call up a number of young players to their squads with the two-game series falling outside the international window.

The Americans came in 41-5-4 over their last 50 matches, and were riding a six-game winning streak where they had outscored the opposition 24-5.

Canada is 0-27-6 against the Americans since that victory back in 2001.

"A great battle," Ellis said of Thursday. "This is probably the biggest game many of our players have had. We play a lot of home games, and until you come into an environment like this ... it tests you."

The U.S. came close to retaking the lead after Leon levelled when Megan Rapinoe saw her deflected shot saved by Canadian goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe in the 65th minute.

Leon then fired from distance in 71st, but her effort just fizzled over the top of U.S. 'keeper Alyssa Naeher's goal, and Morgan had a shot blocked from in tight by a defender five minutes later.

Canadian substitute Maegan Kelly, who won her first cap, nearly put the hosts ahead in the 84th, but Naeher got a piece of a chipped effort that hit the base of the same post that Rapinoe struck in the first half.

"None of us will be happy with a tie," said Herdman. "That was as good as a performance as I've seen from a Canadian team."

The Americans came in with fond memories of B.C. Place, the venue where they won their third World Cup with a with a 5-2 victory over Japan on July 5, 2015.

The U.S. has also won four Olympic gold medals, but were upset in the quarter-finals of the 2016 Rio Games by Sweden.

The Canadians, meanwhile, have won bronze at the last two Olympics, and will get another crack at snapping the Americans' unbeaten streak against them this weekend.

"Just play games like we did tonight — a consistent performance for 90 minutes — and sooner or later it's going to go your way," said Sinclair. "We said we were going to get a shutout.

"We failed on that, but we get another chance in three days."

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Follow @JClipperton_CP on Twitter


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