VANCOUVER - All week long, Canada's women's soccer team raved about the opportunity to finally play in front of a home crowd.
Thursday at BC Place, Canada gave the boisterous crowd of 7,627 something to cheer about.
Led by a four-goal outburst from their captain Christine Sinclair, Canada opened their CONCACAF women's Olympic qualifiers in Vancouver with a resounding 6-0 victory over Haiti.
Star striker Sinclair, the nation's all-time leading goal scorer, guided the dominant Canadian squad past an overwhelmed Haitian side to grab three points in Group A play.
"It wasn't very good was it?" Canada's coach John Herdman said, tongue in cheek, when asked about Sinclair's play. "Certain players just rise to the occasion. All the girls have been excited to play in Canada and some of them haven't played a tournament here before. She can do it under any pressure in any circumstances. Well done. She took the match ball home tonight and I think she'll cherish this one."
"Tonight was something a little special," Sinclair said. "It's nice to play these important games in front of a home crowd that's cheering for you, not against you. It's a nice change."
For Canada, a favourite to finish in the top two of the eight-team tournament, it didn't take them long to strike first.
On a play set up by Kelly Parker in the seventh minute, an unselfish Sinclair broke into the box and fed a pass to Christina Julien, who scored from about six yards out.
Sinclair then scored her first of the night in the 25th minute after a Rhian Wilkinson feed sprung her in all alone. The forward made no mistake to give the hosts a 2-0 lead.
About 20 minutes later, Sinclair tallied again, capitalizing on poor defending by the Haitians. Parker's pass into the box found an opened Julien, who returned the earlier favour to Sinclair as Canada ended the first half with a three-goal lead.
"The first five to 10 minutes of the game was a little iffy because of the nerves and being the first game back at home in such a big tournament," Sinclair said. "But we settled down very nicely and put the game away."
Sinclair added her third goal of the night after a sweet over-the-head setup by Melissa Tancredi in the 55th minute. Sinclair closed out her offensive outburst on a penalty kick in the 85th minute. In 169 caps for Canada, the 28-year-old now has 124 career goals, one behind American Abby Wambach. Parker rounded out the scoring for Canada in added time.
Goalkeeper Ednie Limage, who also plays for the University of Moncton, was clearly the best Haitian on the pitch, making several big saves. However, the 26-year-old left the game on a stretcher in the second half after a collision with teammate Samantha Marie-Ann Brand.
Canadian defender Lauren Sesselmann left the game late in the first half after suffering a knee-on-knee collision, also with Haiti's Brand. Chelsea Stewart replaced her to start the second half.
Coach Herdman said the team will assess Sesselmann Friday, while the player herself mustered "I'm OK" as she walked out of the club's dressing room after the game.
"We never want to see a player go down, especially a contributor like Lauren, but she's going to be fine and that's the most important thing," Parker said.
As for Limage, Haitian coach Ronald Luxieux said they don't have many details yet on her injury.
"We know she was suffering and was taken to the hospital but we donít have any update," he said. "We think it may be a spinal injury."
NOTE: Earlier in the night, Costa Rica beat Cuba 2-0 to also pick up three points in Group A. Canada faces Cuba Saturday at 7:30 p.m. PT/10:30 p.m. ET Ö Canada improved their all-time women's Olympic qualifying record to 8-1-1 Ö Prior to the match, the two teams held a moment of silence for Canadian skier Sarah Burke, who died Thursday.