Tag Archives: Canada Soccer

Tough reality lies ahead with Diana Matheson’s injury

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It’s been awhile since I wrote any sort of editorial piece. That changed this week when I received a tweet, which has since been deleted, stating the loss of Diana Matheson to an ACL injury wouldn’t be “that big of a deal”. Someone must’ve had second thoughts, because before I had a chance to respond, the message was gone.

You know that old saying “you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone”? This situation is a perfect example. When someone is reliable for so many years, aka over a decade, you never really think about the day they’ll no longer be in that starting 11. You just assume they always will.

To more recent fans of the team, she’s known as a Canadian Olympic hero. Diana potted the game-winning goal in the 92nd minute against France to secure a bronze medal finish at London 2012. Her goal was historic. The image of her celebrating and kissing the maple leaf on her jersey will never be forgotten. However, the diminutive midfielder is so much more than just that goal.

The evidence:

  • During Canada Soccer’s centennial year, she was named to the All-Time XI women’s team.
  • She’s second overall in all-time appearances, starts and minutes played for Canada. She only trails Christine Sinclair in each of those categories.
  • She celebrated her 150th cap on April 7th, 2013, only the second person in Canadian history to do so.
  • She’s a two-time Olympian and 2012 bronze medal winner.
  • She’s a gold medal winner at Pan American Games and a CONCACAF champion.
  • She was named 2013 Washington Spirit MVP.

And it’s not just stats and accolades. The 30-year-old is a vocal leader and role model, you always get 100 per cent from her regardless of the score, she’s dependable, reliable and always has time to share her thoughts with the media.

Here’s to wishing Diana a speedy recovery. After everything she’s given Canadian soccer throughout her career, she deserves a chance to represent her country at a World Cup on home soil.

Not a big deal? No, it’s a very big deal.

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Rhian Wilkinson looks back on a decade of soccer

Rhian Wilkinson / Photo courtesy of Canada Soccer

Rhian Wilkinson / Photo by Canada Soccer

When Rhian Wilkinson headed south of the border this fall, it wasn’t to put on her cleats. Instead, she picked up some hardware and was named to the 2013 Hall of Fame Class at the University of Tennessee.

The accolade is a perfect way to remember her college career, which almost didn’t come to fruition, because joining an NCAA program wasn’t necessarily at the top of her list as a teenager.

“I never thought I would go play in the United States,” she admits. “Both of my parents were teachers in Quebec and I was expecting to stay there. I ended up getting a few scholarship offers at 17, which is quite late.”

She says she changed her mind once she met the Tennessee coaching staff and athletic director. They expressed a desire to move the Lady Vols soccer program up the NCAA rankings and said she would play a key role in the team’s future.

Rhi with the Lady Vols

Photo by utsports.com

They were right; it was a perfect fit. The Vols went on to make three NCAA Tournament appearances and capture a pair of SEC Eastern Division and Tournament titles. Even a decade after her graduation, Wilkinson continues to lead in a handful of statistical categories. She remains first in single-season assists (15), first in career assists (32), second in career points (88) and third in career goals (28), making her one of the best offensive players to ever suit up for Tennessee.

“It’s definitely an honour to see your name,” she says. “I’m very proud of my assists stat because I’ve always prided myself on being able to create goals.”

Although the 31-year-old is best known as a fullback, she actually grew up playing forward. She adapted to a backline role at the request of then-national team head coach, Even Pellerud.

“I wouldn’t say I immediately fell in love with the defensive position,” Wilkinson admits. “But, teams appreciate learning a new position and I really enjoy fullback now. In Tennessee, I was very lucky to have a very good first year and to be an important member of the team. It was nice to be relied upon for scoring.”

One of the reasons for her success on the scoresheet was because of her speed, as Wilkinson jokingly says “it certainly wasn’t because of my technique”.

When asked about the toughest competition she ever faced in college, her answer is no surprise: Abby Wambach. “I remember her dragging me down the entire field,” she recalls with a laugh. “She was a strong girl even then.”

Although much of the current Canadian roster is made up of former NCAA players, Wilkinson believes times are changing. She identifies midfielders Desiree Scott and Kaylyn Kyle as two Canadian Interuniversity Sport success stories. She advises players looking to join a NCAA or CIS program to be aggressive.

“Do your due diligence,” she says. “It doesn’t matter where you go. Just make sure you’re going to a program that’s right for you. Be confident and be assertive. If there are schools you want to go to, approach them. Go after something if you really want it.”

Photo courtesy of Canada Soccer

Photo by Canada Soccer

2013 marks Wilkinson’s 10-year anniversary as a member of the Canadian squad. She was 20 when she made her debut for the red and white and has been a key contributor ever since. She’s played in 143 games, scored seven goals and won an Olympic medal, but it’s important to note her tremendous leadership, experience and focus on teamwork continue to make her a very important player as Canada works toward the 2015 Women’s World Cup.

She’s a true role model for soccer players at any level and has a decade of hard work to prove it.

You can follow Rhian on Twitter or visit her website to read her incredibly insightful journal entries.

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Another step in the right direction for Canadian women’s soccer

Canada continue to prepare for the 2015 Women’s World Cup both off and on the pitch. Most recently, the Canadian Soccer Association announced the hiring of Daniel Worthington. His role is two-fold: Women’s Excel U-23 Program Director and assistant coach with the Women’s National Team.

Canada Soccer logoHead coach John Herdman often speaks of a massive gap that continues to trouble the women’s program in Canada. There are promising teenagers (centre-back phenom Kadeisha Buchanan, Summer Clarke, Nichelle Prince) along with talented, reliable veterans (Christine Sinclair, Erin McLeod, Diana Matheson), but what about the players who don’t fall in those age groups? What happens when Sinclair retires? No one is denying there are many unanswered questions, but the hiring of Worthington is a step in the right direction.

Worthington will be Herdman’s eyes and ears in the U-23 group. He’ll be able to see who can make the progression to being a key contributor and mesh with the already solidified group on the senior squad. A player like Sophie Schmidt was able to make a seamless transition from youth soccer to the senior ranks, but every player is different. Worthington, along with Beverly Priestman the Women’s U-14/U-17 Excel Program Director, will be able to pinpoint the girls who can take the next step in their soccer careers.

The addition of Worthington to the coaching staff is a great fit for Herdman. “From previous collaborations and encounters, we found that Daniel had the right skills set to serve as the link between our group of U-20 players and our Women’s National Team athletes and will be a great asset in leading the U-23 program,” he said.

The hiring also allows Herdman to focus the majority of his attention on the group he’s preparing for 2015 and the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.

Worthington’s resume is impressive: Director of High Performance and National Training Centre Atlantic Director for Soccer Nova Scotia, Canadian Soccer Association National “B” Coaching Licence, UEFA “B” Licence and he’s in the process of completing his Canadian Soccer Association National Licence “A” certification.

It’s also important to recognize that Worthington is Canadian. He knows the intricacies of soccer in our country and where the biggest struggles lie.

This fall is a busy one for all of our women’s programs:
– U-14/U-16 camp
– CanWNT residency camp in Vancouver
– CONCACAF Women’s U-17 Championship (Jamaica)
– CanWNT friendlies versus Korean Republic (Edmonton – October 30) and Mexico (Vancouver – November 24)

Tickets are available for both friendly matches through Ticketmaster.

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Bright days ahead for Canadian goalkeepers

In a few days, we’ll mark the one year anniversary of the Canadian women’s soccer team winning bronze at the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Over the last year, they’ve grown as a unit and while many of the faces from that team remain with the squad, there have been some changes.

Goalkeepers Erin McLeod and Karina LeBlanc are still very much in the fold, with McLeod as the team’s starter and LeBlanc a close second. Both are poised veterans who have been key contributors to the national program, both on and off the field, for the last decade. Currently, they’re playing well south of the border in the inaugural NWSL season with their respective clubs.

Because they’re both in their 30s, some fans are wondering who will follow in their footsteps when they decide to move on from soccer.

With all that said, there are impressive names as you look down the list of keepers coming through the ranks. Canada currently boasts great depth in this position. The timing’s perfect with the U20 Women’s World Cup next summer and the Women’s World Cup in 2015.

Stephanie Labbe / Photo by Canada Soccer

Stephanie Labbe / Photo by Canada Soccer

Stephanie Labbe
After taking a hiatus from the national team in 2012, the Alberta native is now back in the fold. She backed up McLeod in Germany for a friendly this past June and saw her first playing time in over a year when she faced Finland at the Cyprus Cup on March 3rd. At 26, Labbe still has plenty of time to be an important member of the national squad. She’s honing her skills in Sweden right now as the starter for KIF Örebro. Her height is one of her biggest weapons because she does a tremendous job of nabbing high balls on corner kicks and crosses. Right now, Labbe’s in the best position to challenge for the backup spot on the national team. She has the experience and maturity to be a key contributor going forward.

Erin McNulty / Photo by Canada Soccer

Erin McNulty with CanW20 / Photo by Canada Soccer

Erin McNulty
She’s an accomplished youth and college player. After graduating from Florida State, she headed over to Penn State as a graduate student where she was an absolute powerhouse. She backstopped the Nittany Lions to the 2012 Big Ten Championship and was runner-up in the 2012 NCAA National Championship. McNulty spent the last few months as a member of the W-League’s Seattle Sounders. Although they didn’t make the postseason, McNulty played in 11 games, was tied for second in GK wins, had three clean sheets and made the top ten for GAA. She most recently attended an EXCELeration camp in February.

Sabrina D'Angelo / Photo by Canada Soccer

Sabrina D’Angelo / Photo by Canada Soccer

Sabrina D’Angelo 
Her list of accolades over the past few years is exceptional: 2012 Canadian U20 Female Player of the Year, 2012 U20 CONCACAF Championship Team, 2011 Soccer America All-Freshman First Team,  2011 SEC Freshman of the Year, 2011 NSCAA First Team All-South Region and 2010 U17 CONCACAF Championship Team. She had a solid year for South Carolina in 2012, starting 16 of 17 matches. As a junior this fall, she’ll again be the number one goalie for the Gamecocks. On the national team front, she’s at a point in her career where she’ll soon be taking the step to the senior squad after being the starting keeper at the 2012 U20 Women’s World Cup.

Kailen Sheridan / Photo by Canada Soccer

Kailen Sheridan / Photo by Canada Soccer

Kailen Sheridan
It’s going to be a big year for the Whitby, Ontario native. She’s headed to Clemson University, where she’ll be a member of the Tigers. This will give her some valuable college experience. That said, Sheridan is no stranger to high pressure situations in goal. She was the starter for Canada at the recent U17 Women’s World Cup, where the red and white reached the quarterfinals. She’s been a member of the youth programs since she was 15. Sheridan’s positioning is one of her strong suits and never shies away from playing the ball. One of her best skills is dealing with the back pass and helping the develop the play from her team’s third. In July, Sheridan traveled to Norway with other U20s for a 12 day camp. She’ll likely be Canada’s starter when the country hosts the U20 Women’s World Cup next summer.

Genevieve Richard / Photo by Canada Soccer

Genevieve Richard / Photo by Canada Soccer

Genevieve Richard
Richard made her mark this year, thanks to exceptional play for the Laval Comets of the W-League. Richard led the league with six shutouts, was second in both GAA at 0.545 and wins with seven and was crowned Goalkeeper of the Year. She also led the Comets to the championship final where they unfortunately fell short, 1-0. Richard was a member of the 2012 U20 Women’s World Cup. She spent last year as a backup at the University of Wisconsin and played in six matches. This fall, she’ll have the opportunity to challenge for the Badgers’ starting job.

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Kadeisha Buchanan: Canada’s next sports hero

Kadeisha Buchanan / Photo by Canada Soccer

Kadeisha Buchanan / Photo by Canada Soccer

Remember this name: Kadeisha Buchanan. At just 17, she’s turning heads and has already made her mark against some of the world’s best players.

A little over a week ago, she was the talk of the press box, as the Canadian Women’s Soccer Team hosted the US in front of a capacity crowd at BMO Field in Toronto. Her task that game was a big one: mark Abby Wambach. The gifted American forward searched for a goal on her 33rd birthday, but Buchanan had other ideas. The young center back marked Wambach diligently and kept her off the scoresheet.

Media members, both Canadian and American, were absolutely buzzing about Buchanan and her fantastic performance. She looked like a seasoned veteran on that backline. In the second half, she single-handedly stopped two goals from finding the back of the net. One was a fantastic block on a shot by Alex Morgan and the second was a goal line clearance on a powerful Wambach shot. All you could hear in the press box was “Wow!” and “Can you believe she just did that?” with a bit of “She’s incredible!”.

Buchanan was named Canadian player of the game. Head coach John Herdman raved about her in his post-match media conference:

“She’s unbelievable. She owned Abby Wambach….A 17-year-old kid out there and did an unbelievable job.  I’m proud of her. She’s shined a light for any kid in this country to say, ‘Look, no matter what background or where you’re from, you can play in front of 23,000 people’.”

A throng of media waited for the players in the mix zone to get their thoughts after the homecoming match.  The largest crowd huddled around captain Christine Sinclair. It was Buchanan though who generated the second largest crowd. As she made her way down the line, I was standing by myself and I asked her if she had a moment. We chatted briefly. I asked her about the pressure of playing in front of Canadian fans and what it was like marking world-class players like Wambach:

Team Canada - June 2, 2013 / Photo by Canada Soccer

Team Canada – June 2, 2013 / Photo by Canada Soccer

“I felt honored to cover her. She’s a very good, talented player and I’m just lucky enough to get a chance to mark her. My next step is to inspire more fans.”

She also told me in her soft-spoken voice her next goal is to get her degree and set a standard at West Virginia University.  At this point, the other journalists joined me and the crowd around her began to grow. I’m sure it’s a scene she’ll get used to very soon.

June 2nd was Buchanan’s first game as a member of the senior squad on home soil. On that day in Toronto, she wore number 9, which is fitting. For the larger part of a decade, it has been worn by one of the best center backs in Canadian history, Candace Chapman. Buchanan is definitely following in Chapman’s footsteps.

Canadians will be seeing a lot of Buchanan in the future. She’ll still be eligible to represent Canada at the U20 Women’s World Cup next year and she’s well on her way to solidifying a spot on the 2015 Women’s World Cup roster.

Right now, Sinclair continues to be the face of the national team and Canadian women’s sports in general. There’s been plenty of discussion among fans and the media about an eventual passing of the torch. So, who will be Canada’s next soccer star? Say hello to Kadeisha Buchanan.

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Allocation fascination: how the early NWSL rosters came to be

National Women's Soccer League

National Women’s Soccer League

It’s been a fantastic day for women’s soccer in North America. The NWSL released its allocation of 55 national team players to eight clubs and the excitement on the afternoon media call with U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati and league executive director Cheryl Bailey could be felt through the phone. Although the schedule has yet to be released and a number of details still need to be worked out, things are definitely coming together.

The league and all of the news with it comes at a perfect time: Canada is gearing up to host the Women’s World Cup in 2015. Players from Canada, the US and Mexico can now develop on North American soil. They will also remain close to home and close to their national teammates. Those are two huge bonuses for all three countries.

Putting the early rosters together was no easy task. “We had many, many people who were helping,” Bailey said.

Those involved with the logistics of allocating players were involved on the technical side of things as well. Bailey described the group as a “panel of experts”. The 55 players did have the opportunity to submit a list of cities they would prefer playing in and that was taken into consideration during the selection process.

Obviously, the squads are not complete and all eight rosters will be filled in the near future. “Going forward, we will have the college draft, as well as free agency to make up the subtotal of the teams,” Bailey added. “We believe there will be eight strong teams playing in the National Women’s Soccer League.”

The Western New York Flash were allocated one less player and executives aren’t certain at this point if they will be receive any sort of compensation or extra draft picks. Those details still need to be ironed out.

Thirteen of the selected Canadian players were part of the 2012 Olympic bronze medal-winning team.

Here’s the break down of the 55 player allocation:

Boston Breakers
Sydney Leroux (USA)
Heather Mitts (USA)
Heather O’Reilly (USA)
Adriana Leon (CAN)
Rhian Wilkinson (CAN)

Anisa Guajardo (MEX)
Cecilia Santiago (MEX)

Chicago Red Stars
Shannon Boxx (USA)
Amy LePeilbet (USA)
Keelin Winters (USA)
Erin McLeod (CAN)
Carmelina Moscato (CAN)

Maribel Dominguez (MEX)
Dinora Garza (MEX)

FC Kansas City
Nicole Barnhart (USA)
Lauren Cheney (USA)
Becky Sauerbrunn (USA)
Desiree Scott (CAN)
Lauren Sesselmann (CAN)

Renae Cuellar (MEX)
Marylin Diaz (MEX)

Portland Thorns FC
Rachel Buehler (USA)
Tobin Heath (USA)
Alex Morgan (USA)
Luz Saucedo (MEX)
Marlene Sandoval (MEX)
Karina LeBlanc (CAN)
Christine Sinclair (CAN)

Seattle Reign FC
Megan Rapinoe (USA)
Amy Rodriguez (USA)
Hope Solo (USA)
Kaylyn Kyle (CAN)
Emily Zurrer (CAN)

Jenny Ruiz (MEX)
Teresa Noyola (MEX)

Sky Blue FC
Jill Loyden (USA)
Kelley O’Hara (USA)
Christie Rampone (USA)
Sophie Schmidt (CAN)
Melanie Booth (CAN)

Monica Ocampo (MEX)
Lydia Rangel (MEX)

Washington Spirit
Ashlyn Harris (USA)
Ali Krieger (USA)
Lori Lindsey (USA)
Robin Gayle (CAN)
Diana Matheson (CAN)

Alina Garciamendez (MEX)
Teresa Worbis (MEX)

Western New York Flash
Carli Lloyd (USA)
Abby Wambach (USA)
Bryana McCarthy (CAN)
Jodi-Ann Robinson (CAN)

Veronica Perez (MEX)
Pamela Tajonar (MEX)

At first glance, a lot of storylines already stand out. It’s hard not to look at Portland and peg them an early favorite with world class scorers Christine Sinclair and Alex Morgan together on the roster with GK Karina LeBlanc. For WYN, Carli Lloyd and Abby Wambach will be a huge draw and that’s perfect for Canadian youngsters Bryana McCarthy and Jodi-Ann Robinson. They’ll learn a lot from the duo.

It’s a Penn State reunion in Chicago for GK Erin McLeod and CB Carmelina Moscato. Seattle’s going to be popular with not only Hope Solo between the pipes, but Canada’s Emily Zurrer and Kaylyn Kyle playing as well.

Rhian Wilkinson will be a veteran presence on the Boston backline. Sky Blue features Melanie Booth and Sophie Schmidt, while Diana Matheson and Robyn Gayle will suit up for Washington. In Kansas City, Desiree Scott will be a fan favorite as she patrols the midfield. She’ll be joined on the squad with dependable defender Lauren Sesselmann.

For more information on the NWSL, you can visit their Facebook page.

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What 2012 in Canadian sports means to me

Canadian Olympic Committee logo

Canadian Olympic Committee logo

What a year. It’s almost hard to put into words how 2012 has impacted my view on sports and my feelings as a Canadian. I’ve never been more proud of my nationality. The performances, results and actions of our athletes personified everything it means to come from this country.

One of the first people I look at is Milos Raonic. He immigrated from Montenegro to Canada when he was a little boy. His parents came here so he could have a great childhood. They gave him every opportunity to thrive in tennis and when you look at all he accomplished this year, you can say his family and coaching staff did a wonderful job. Although he captured two ATP titles in 2012, I think he was most impressive at the US Open when he advanced to the fourth round. He was turning heads in New York and a lot of the mainstream media was noticing “the tall kid from Canada” with a blistering serve. Roger Federer was even quoted saying he sees Milos as a top ten player. He finishes the year ranked 13th in the world and coming up in February, he’ll once again be Canada’s main weapon when they host Spain in Davis Cup action.

When I think back this on year, another athlete that sticks out in my mind is sprinter Jared Connaughton. His humility and heartache at the Olympics was felt by all. After his 4X100 team was denied the bronze due to a lane violation, he apologized to us. He didn’t point fingers and he didn’t make excuses. Jared, you showed us class and grace. Thank you! We are all proud to have you representing Canada.

Switching over to the world of hockey, Steven Stamkos had a 2011-2012 campaign for the ages. His spectacular 60 goal season will be remembered for a very long time. He’s the 20th player in NHL history to hit that mark and it comes during an era where goals are hard to come by. Hopefully this work stoppage gets ironed out sooner than later, so we can see Steven on the ice again.

And saving the best for last, our very special Canadian women’s soccer team. As someone who has covered and followed this core of players for over a decade, I felt like a proud sister, beaming with pride when they stood on the podium with their bronze medals in London.

How fantastic is it to finally see Christine Sinclair getting the recognition she deserves? And how equally amazing is it to hear Christine always crediting her teammates for helping her along the way. What a leader. The beaming smile on her face as she carried the flag at the closing ceremony will be etched in our minds forever.

All of these girls and their families have given up a lot to play for our country. They are humble, kind and fantastic role models. The time is now to embrace them. My words don’t do this team any justice and if you ask me in person, I’ll talk your ear off about their journey over the last 10 years. One of my greatest wishes is that Canada continues to support women’s soccer with such fervor as the last six months. These ladies deserve it.

Thanks to everyone for an unforgettable 2012! I’m tremendously proud to be a broadcaster in this country, but more than anything, I’m so proud to be Canadian.

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