Sinclair scores goal No. 181 as Canada heads to World Cup on winning note

Christine Sinclair named Canadian Women's player of the year for the 14th time.

TORONTO — Christine Sinclair scored goal No. 181 of her career and set up another as Canada defeated Mexico 3-0 Saturday in its farewell match on home soil before next month’s Women’s World Cup.

The 35-year-old from Burnaby, B.C., a 14-time Canadian player of the year, is now just three goals back of retired American Abby Wambach’s world record of 184.

The Sinclair goal came in the 53rd minute after a Mexican defender failed to clear the ball. It went instead to Janine Beckie, who looped the ball into the penalty box to Sinclair. The Canadian captain took one touch and then coolly slotted the ball in off the goalpost for a 2-0 lead.

Sinclair exited to a standing ovation in the 74th minute, giving way to 18-year-old Jordyn Huitema.

Goal No. 181 came in her 281st appearance for Canada. It marked her 16th career goal against Mexico.

Jessie Fleming and substitute Adriana Leon also scored for fifth-ranked Canada, which led 1-0 at the break against a game but outmatched No. 26 Mexican side before 19,610 on a cool afternoon at BMO Field.

Sinclair played provider in the 20th minute, taking a fine pass from Beckie and then sending the ball across the penalty box to Fleming who beat Mexican goalkeeper Cecilia Santiago with a right-footed shot.

Leon then made it 3-0 in the 83rd minute, beating Santiago with a downward header from a perfect Ashley Lawrence cross.

Canada jets to Spain on Sunday to finalize preparations for the World Cup, which starts June 7 in France.

Saturday’s game was never in doubt with Canadian ‘keeper Stephanie Labbe a virtual spectator. The Canadians dominated play but lacked the finishing touch at times against the Mexicans.

The Canadian women improved their all-time record against Mexico to 21-1-2. The one loss was costly, however, denying Canada a berth in the 2004 Olympics.

Canada won 3-2 the last time they met in February 2017 in Vancouver.

Canada coach Kenneth Heiner-Moller fielded his ‘A’ team, with only defender Kadeisha Buchanan missing from the starting 11. She was in Budapest on Lyon’s bench as the French powerhouse beat Barcelona 4-1 in the Women’s Champions League final.

The starting 11 totalled 1,069 caps, led by Sinclair’s 281. Nine of the players were at 50-plus appearances with the other two at 49 and 47.

Heiner-Moller rang in the changes in the second half, using six substitutes.

It was a scrappy opening for both teams with more than a few turnovers before Canada began to tighten the screws.

A sliding Sinclair came close in the 14th minute but her deflection went high after a fine cross from Nichelle Prince. Beckie then shot just wide in the 15th.

Prince fired just wide in the 27th minute as Canada continued to press. A minute later Beckie forced a diving save from Santiago with Sophie Schmidt hammering the rebound wide.

Prince was off-target again in the 40th after a beautiful heel flick by Fleming. Beckie shot high in first-half stoppage time off a nice Sinclair feed.

Sinclair came close in the 49th minute but just couldn’t get her head to a fine Beckie cross. Santiago stopped her free kick in the 70th minute.

The Canadians are unbeaten in seven matches this year (5-0-2). The team is 13-4-2 since Heiner-Moller took over from John Herdman in January 2018 with the losses coming against elite opposition in the top-ranked Americans, No. 2 Germany, No. 4 France and No. 9 Sweden.

Canada will face No. 13 Spain in a warmup game in Pamplona on May 24. An intra-squad game is also planned before the tournament.

Heiner-Moller plans to wait until Friday’s FIFA deadline to file his 23-woman roster.

The Canadian women open June 10 against No. 46 Cameroon in Montpellier before facing No. 19 New Zealand in Grenoble on June 15 and the eighth-ranked Netherlands in Reims on June 20.

Mexico failed to qualify after going 1-2-0 in the group stage of the 2018 CONCACAF Championship.

Four years ago on home soil, Canada exited in the quarterfinals after a 2-1 loss to England.


Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter.

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press


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