West Virginia women's soccer defender Kadeisha Buchanan and midfielder Ashley Lawrence were in the starting lineup and played the full 90 minutes once again, as Canada played New Zealand to a 0-0 draw in the second match of the group stage to put the Canadians atop of Group A with four points with one match to go before learning whether or not they will advance into the knockout stage of play.
Canada finds itself in control of its own destiny when it takes on Netherlands next Monday in the final game of the group stage. A tie will advance them into the knockout stage by guaranteeing them a second-place finish at worst, while a win will lock down the top spot.
"The magic number was six points, that's always the magic number is to get your two wins off the bat, but four points is good," said Canada manager John Herdman. "We're still in the driver's seat to finish at the top of the group and that's our goal. This just means that against Netherlands we'll still be in fifth gear. It would have been nice if we could drop down to fourth in that game, but Canada seems to do it the hard way - that's how we roll ... It would have been a little nicer to be sitting here with six points and thinking about your recovery strategies for some of those players that have done back-to-back 90s now."
Both of the WVU players are in that group that have played every minute for Canada in this World Cup, with Buchanan serving as the constant force in the Canada back line who once again didn't surprise anyone by playing a solid game in central defense. It was Lawrence, though, who impressed more Thursday, bouncing back from an up-and-down World Cup debut against China PR with a solid performance.
"She stood up for us tonight. That's a young player for you. This is what we've seen from Ash," Herdman said. "In the China game, she was very nervous. When you look at our running patterns, she sort of ran herself out of gas, she was just too excited. But tonight she really stepped up, she physically managed things and I thought she controlled the tempo well."
Lawrence was vital to the Canada attack that dominated possession for 60 percent of the game and was able to generate a few opportunities at the goal despite not being able to finish.
"I'm not going to protect this team, but the stats don't lie," Herdman said. "That was a decent performance from Canada, but you can't underestimate the opposition in our group. The women's game has moved. The gaps aren't the same as they used to be. I thought we defended resolutely tonight. We've only conceded three shots on goal in two games and have two clean sheets, if our front five can start finding the back of the net this Canada team could be decent.
"What wins you World Cups? Good defense as well as a poignant attack. We just have to keep working on that part. I'm happy by the chances we had, I'm just disappointed we couldn't find the net."
Kadeisha Buchanan: 7/10
Once again, Buchanan continues to be the standout on a Canada back four that has allowed just three shots on goal throughout its first two games in the World Cup this summer. While it might not have been quite as great a showing as her debut a few days ago, the rising junior still played the game with tremendous instincts defensively, as well as in attack, and brings a sense of calm to the back line when Canada are under pressure. If she continues to play this well and the host country keeps moving on in the competition, it would not be a surprise to see Buchanan crack the all-tournament team at this Cup. On the biggest stage in world soccer, she is showing that despite her young age she should definitely be recognized as one of the world's best.
Ashley Lawrence: 6.5/10
After showing glimpses of how good she could be in the second half of Canada's opener against China PR, Lawrence looked much more comfortable Thursday. Early on, she was making runs and looking like Canada's best attacking players at times, and finished the game with a couple of shots on goal. She'll continue to be an important part of Canada's attack if they want to keep playing past group stage, but they're going to have to find ways to create goals and that could start with Lawrence controlling the central midfield more like she did Thursday.