Erceg Shines as three Chicago players see action
By Gunnar Berndt
Group A: Canada vs. New Zealand 0-0
Red Stars: Karina LeBlanc (GK), Adriana Leon (FWD), Melissa Tancredi (FWD) – all Canada; Abby Erceg (DEF) – New Zealand
Red Stars defender Abby Erceg put in a standout performance on Thursday night, captaining New Zealand to an impressive 0-0 draw with host nation Canada. The Canucks, who featured Melissa Tancredi as a starter and fellow Chicago forward Adriana Leon as a 73rd-minute substitute, controlled the majority of the possession but were faced with defensively disciplined Football Ferns, who nearly took the lead when Amber Hearn blasted an opening-half penalty kick off the bar. Moments from intermission, Tancredi thought she had scored at the other end, but she was ruled to have been offside.
Following an early half-hour delay due to lightening in the area, the first look went to New Zealand, Hearn forcing goalkeeper Erin McLeod to tip her precise looping header over the frame. The Canadians had their best chance of the opening 45 minutes when scoring machine Christine Sinclair exploded in on goal, only to find herself denied by impressive New Zealand shot-stopper Erin Nayler. The remainder of the half saw Hearn miss her attempt from the spot after a hard foul by Allysha Chapman on Hannah Wilkinson, followed by Tancredi’s disallowed strike.
The home side came within inches of finding the net on two separate occasions after the break, Sinclair threatening the goal with an opportunistic volley from inside the area that was tipped against the crossbar by Nayler and Sophie Schmidt then surprising everyone with a long, dipping free-kick from the right that also bounced off the bar. The Canadians put even more pressure on their opponents in the closing stages of the match, but it wasn’t meant to be as Nayler blocked Tandredi’s wide-open attempt from inside the box and Sinclair sent a shot just wide of the frame.
Chicago’s legendary Canucks goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc once again served as backup for the hosts, who look to seal advancement to the knockout rounds with a point in their final group match against the Netherlands. Meanwhile, New Zealand will need a win over China if it hopes to go through.