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Concacaf: What should USWNT learn from Olympic loss to Canada?

Jessie Fleming of Team Canada celebrates after scoring against the USWNT at the Tokyo Olympics. (Naomi Baker/Getty Images)

The U.S. women’s national team would like to forget its heartbreaking semifinal loss to Canada during the Tokyo Olympics. That, however, won’t be an option for the USWNT, as the squad gets set to face the Canadian national team for the first time since last August’s defeat.

The North American rivals will clash Monday in the Concacaf W Championship final with an Olympic berth on the line.

What should the USWNT learn from its Olympic loss to Canada?

The starting 11 that lined up for the USWNT’s Olympic semifinal in Tokyo featured very different faces compared to the United States’ regulars at the Concacaf W Championship.

In Tokyo, Alyssa Naeher started in goal, while Kelley O’Hara, Becky Sauerbrunn, Tierna Davidson and Crystal Dunn rounded out the backline. Julie Ertz, Rose Lavelle and Lindsey Horan made up the midfield, and Alex Morgan, Lynn Williams and Tobin Heath started up top.

Davidson, Dunn, Ertz, Williams and Health are not even in Mexico for this go-round with the USWNT due to a combination of pregnancies and injuries.

With so many new roster additions, s including Naomi Girma, Sofia Huerta, Ashley Sanchez and Sophia Smith, it’s hard to draw a throughline from the USWNT of the Tokyo Olympics to the USWNT of the Concacaf W Championship.

That doesn’t mean, though, that the squad can’t learn from the bronze-medal run at the Summer Games.

Like at this year’s Concacaf tournament, the USWNT relied on heavy rotation for the 2021 Olympics but failed to establish robust chemistry, producing a sputtering, disjointed offense.

“It’s hard to have a great performance when you have so much change,” commentator and former USWNT goalkeeper Briana Scurry said on CBS after the USWNT’s Thursday win. “That’s part of the continuity that is not there right now because there are so many players coming in and out based on minutes and what not.”

To overcome the lack of cohesion, the USWNT will need to deploy more creative and unexpected runs behind Canada’s backline to break down its opponent’s defensive structure.

The USWNT’s offense has grown into the tournament, but the team’s timing still looks slightly off, with balls not making it into the attacking third on time.

On the other side of the ball, USWNT players will also have their work cut out for them.

Canadian forward Janine Beckie has created the most chances of the Concacaf tournament, with the 27-year-old lethal on the flanks. The USWNT likes to get its outside backs up the pitch and involved in the attack, but Beckie could complicate things. Neutralizing Beckie will be key if the USWNT wants to continue its dominance on the flanks.

In the center of the pitch sits another danger in Jessie Flemming, with the Chelsea star able to dribble out of trouble in the midfield. Her distribution at center midfield is essential to spurring Canada’s attack, with Flemming expert at finding passes in compact space.

The USWNT will need a defensive counter to Flemming as the United States continues to find its depth in the No. 6 position.

Mentality also was a major talking point following the USWNT’s Olympic loss to Canada, and the USWNT will be eager to show that any locker room woes were left in Tokyo.

“I think at the end of the day, at some point, you got to, there’s all the preparation that you can do and there’s all the analyzing and there’s all the tactics and everything, and then there’s everything else,” Megan Rapinoe said of the team’s Olympic performance.  “And I think that’s what we’re missing, and you can’t put a name on ‘everything else.’ But it’s just the getting it done from players, from all of us.”

Coach Vlatko Andonovski has spoken extensively about the importance of testing his younger player during the Concacaf W Championship. Canada will be the USWNT’s most telling test yet.

The Concacaf W Championship final between the United States and Canada will kick off at 10 p.m. ET Monday on Paramount+.