ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Mallory Swanson scored a pair of first-half goals and the United States beat Canada 2-0 Thursday night in a SheBelieves Cup match clouded by a labor dispute between the Canadian players and their federation.
The Canadian women wore purple shirts during the pregame national anthems that read “Enough Is Enough.” Before kickoff, U.S. players linked arms with their Canadian counterparts in the center circle in a show of solidarity.
Canada’s women are negotiating for a new collective bargaining agreement that would give them equal pay with their male counterparts. They say they haven’t yet been paid for 2022.
“Purple has historically been associated with efforts to achieve gender equality,” the Canadian Players Association said in a statement Thursday. “Considering the current circumstances, our players will continue to wear purple until our association has standards in place that ensure equal treatment and opportunity.”
The players initially said they planned to boycott team activities surrounding the tournament and sat out a practice on Saturday, but were told by Canada Soccer that their job action amounted to an illegal strike.
“I couldn’t fault their effort. You just could see a flatness to them,” Canada coach Bev Priestman said. “But this isn’t fixed overnight, so we’ve got to push through. We’ve got to use this tournament for what’s in front of us. We can’t roll over, nor will this group roll over.”
In the earlier SheBelieves Cup match on Thursday at Exploria Stadium, Brazil beat Japan 1-0 on Debinha’s late goal off a cross from Marta, who was playing her first match since tearing her left ACL last March.
The four-team round-robin SheBelieves Cup moves to Nashville, Tennessee, on Sunday, where the U.S. will play Japan and Canada plays Brazil. All four teams have qualified for the World Cup. The United States has won the last two World Cups and has four titles overall.
“That’s in front of our minds,” forward Alex Morgan said. “That’s why we’re playing these games. Everything we’re doing right now is just to put us in contention for the World Cup.”
Swanson scored her fourth goal of the new year in the seventh minute. She added a second in the 34th.
Formerly Mallory Pugh, Swanson married Chicago Cubs shortstop Dansby Swanson in December. She’s scored 30 goals for the United States and has scored in each of the last four matches.
“It’s not just the two goals, her flair in the game makes the game look so easy sometimes,” U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski said.
Goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher stopped Janine Beckie’s attempt for Canada in first-half stoppage time.
“You saw those first 10-15 minutes we came out flat. We looked like a team that was tired, a team that was mentally exhausted,” Canadian captain Christine Sinclair said.
The U.S. players used the occasion to draw attention to LGBTQ rights in Florida, some wearing wristbands that said “Defend Trans Joy” along with purple wristbands in support of Canada’s players.
Morgan was honored with a pregame ceremony for her 200th appearance for the national team, which occurred late last year against Germany.
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