Tag Archives: Diana Matheson

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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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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Let the girls play: North America needs a pro league

Rumors are swirling about a new professional women’s soccer league in North America. The league would likely have teams in a number of U.S. cities with some squads based out of Canada. The potential is exciting, especially for Canadian players and fans with the Great White North hosting the 2015 Women’s World Cup. A new league would be the perfect preview and buildup for such a world-class event.

Most North American players have been on the sidelines since the WPS folded earlier this year. Although Canada’s Rhian Wilkinson and Diana Matheson are currently playing in Norway, the majority of the senior team is waiting. Of course the squad deserved a break after the Olympics considering the physical and emotional highs and lows they experienced, but it’s now late October. You can imagine they’re all ready to hit the pitch again.

A number of the girls have gone the coaching route. Carmelina Moscato is currently an assistant at the University of Wisconsin. Her squad features four Canadian youngsters, including forward Monica Lam-Feist who is having an exceptional year for the Badgers. The team is gearing up for the BIG Ten Tournament and are winners of five straight, including an impressive come from behind victory on Sunday versus Indiana. Desiree Scott is also coaching in her home, Winnipeg, at the University of Manitoba.

Jonelle Filigno and Chelsea Stewart have been busy this fall with their respective college clubs. Thanks to a full schedule of games, they’ll be ready for national squad fitness testing scheduled for December.

So, where does that leave the rest of the players?

These girls shouldn’t be waiting on the sidelines to play. The WPS provided an excellent outlet for players to hone their skills after finishing college or while on break from their national teams. When the Western New York Flash won the WPS title in 2011, they boasted a lineup of some of the world’s best: Christine Sinclair, Marta, Caroline Seger and Alex Morgan. Who wouldn’t want to watch those players on a weekly basis, especially with the chatter about women’s soccer so high right now?

U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati spoke this week and mentioned they were in talks with the Canadian Soccer Association about a potential pro league. He, too, reiterated the importance of having teams where players will see steady time on the field. The interest is strong on both sides of the border. Women’s soccer in Canada is as popular as ever, while their American counterparts are equally embracing the sport.

The key will be focusing in on markets where teams can thrive, while having games on ideal days that will bring in decent attendance numbers.

My fingers are crossed and I know the same can be said for thousands of people on this continent. Hopefully this will come to fruition in the next few weeks. Simply put, North America needs professional women’s soccer.

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My “a-ha” moment, thanks to the Canadian Women’s National Team

Maybe it’s because I’m Canadian. Maybe it’s because I love soccer. Because I’m a broadcaster? I guess when I think about it now, it’s all of the above.

I’ve seen a lot of highs and lows in the world of sports, but I have never been so emotionally invested or impacted by a game or series of games as I was by the Canadian Women’s National Soccer Team at London 2012. You might think I’m exaggerating, but I’m not. They turned me into a blubbery mess on more than one occasion.

Rewind to last summer. The team went winless in Germany at the 2011 Women’s World Cup. The results shocked many who thought the squad was ready to take the next step on the world stage.

Now fast forward to January 2012: A new coach and Olympic qualifications on their home turf. The team oozed with a sort of understated confidence. The long ball game they previously employed was gone. Instead, the midfield and forwards were working together with crisp passes and a sense of creativity I had never seen before with this squad.

It was also at this time the chemistry really started to show between forwards Christine Sinclair and Melissa Tancredi. If you listen to the broadcasts of those qualification games, all you hear is “Sinclair finds Tancredi. What a goal!” or “Tancredi with an amazing pass to Sinclair and it’s in the back of the net!” They trusted one another and had little trouble getting the ball to each other. Obviously, the connection was always there, but something was different in Vancouver. They had matured and the whole team had a sense of “we can do this.”

The win against Mexico that sealed their ticket to the Olympics proved they were going places, literally and figuratively. The loud, boisterous, Canadian fans knew it and soon the world would too. London was calling.

The Olympics were the culmination of years of hard work and for some, it marked more than a decade of international play. The 2002 U-19 Women’s World Cup featured a number of players we are seeing in their primes today. Not just Sinclair, but Erin McLeod, Brittany Timko, Candace Chapman, Melanie Booth and Carmelina Moscato. During that tournament, Sinclair potted 10 goals to win the Golden Boot. She also claimed the Golden Ball Award. McLeod was named to the tournament’s all-star team along with Chapman, Sinclair and Moscato. It was obvious the country had a strong generation of female footballers coming through the ranks.

As years went by, they evened out their squad with a number of key players. Tancredi, for example, reminds me of a typical power-forward in hockey. She has no fear. She’s willing to put her body on the line to benefit the team, while having the skill and finesse to leave the opposition confused as to what just hit them. The midfield? Solid. Sophie Schmidt, Desiree Scott, Diana Matheson, Kaylyn Kyle and Kelly Parker. Don’t forget about a one-two punch in net with veterans McLeod and Karina LeBlanc and a steady, dependable back line with the likes of Moscato, Emily Zurrer, Rhian Wilkinson, Lauren Sesselmann, Chelsea Stewart, Marie-Eve Nault and Robyn Gayle.

There’s no point rehashing what happened in the semi-final between Canada and USA. It’ll be debated for years to come. However, you cannot deny the kind of impact it had on Canadians. It made them care because they saw how much the girls care. Call it Canadian nature or whatever, but people who weren’t even soccer fans were talking about that match. Canadians from B.C. to Nova Scotia were finally understanding how special this team is and how the world’s best player is a soft-spoken, shy girl from Burnaby, who has been carrying the national team on her back for most of her life.

I’ll still never forget how I felt after that semi-final: gutted. It was like someone had ripped out my heart, threw it on the floor and then proceeded to do the Macarena all over it. The ride home on the media bus was one of complete silence. I sat on the top level of that double-decker in the front seat like a zombie. I closed my eyes, leaned my head back and thought about the last 10 years of women’s soccer in Canada and how far it had come. I thought about the dressing room at that very moment and how the veteran players must have been feeling. Years of blood, sweat and tears. The sacrifices made by their parents and other loved ones. You can’t deny the squad left absolutely everything they had on the pitch.

My phone was filling up with text messages and I was getting tweets like crazy that night. Everyone back home wanted to know the same thing: “Why?”. I had no answer for any of them. And that’s when it happened – the “a-ha moment” – a phrase now in the dictionary thanks to Oprah Winfrey. I said to myself, “this is what it is all about.” Sports bring people together. Broadcasters get out the message and that night, they united a country. This story brought together Canada.

As the girls prepared for the bronze medal match against France, I’m sure everyone wondered if they had anything left in the tank. As the half drew to a close, it was obvious the girls were physically and emotional drained. Truly though, can you blame them? The last 48 hours had probably been very surreal to each and every person on that team, from the players to the coaching staff. The reality is that many of these players are in the prime of their careers: Sinclair, Tancredi, McLeod, Moscato. All of them are 28-31 years old and they may want other things in life in the next few years. It must have dawned on them that the same team might not be together when Canada hosts the 2015 Women’s World Cup and that added to the raw emotional magnitude of everything.

Coventry Stadium itself was quiet that day. You could almost hear a pin drop expect for John Herdman: “Come on girls. Let’s move it up!” and most poignantly “Christine, I need to you to take it to another level.” At the 90 minute mark, the stats told the story: 25 shots for France. 3 for Canada. McLeod kept them in the game, despite a scary moment when she went down after punching out a ball. And how about Scott’s goal line save? I won’t forget the slow-motion replay of her keeping the ball out with her right leg and her exhale of relief afterward.

Herdman used up all of his subs and the girls just needed one break. They got it during injury time. When Matheson put that ball in, celebrated and kissed the Canadian crest on her jersey, all of Canada cried. I cried. They had done it. And how about the image of Sinclair on her knees, arms raised, looking to the sky with tears streaming down her face? That’s all you needed to see. Bronze around their necks. Gold in their hearts and in the hearts of all Canadians (The Vancouver Southsiders said it nicely….)

I looked at the people around me when Matheson scored. I was surrounded by international broadcasters with whom I had really connected with over four weeks in London during my freelance stint. They clapped and said “Congratulations Sandra. Congrats Canada.” I’ll never forget that moment for the rest of my life. It’s like every single Canadian was on the pitch with the girls at that very moment.

What an emotional rollercoaster. Forget the broadcasting though. I’ve been playing soccer for more than half of my life and yet it took what happened in London for me to truly appreciate my teammates. Yes, I now play for a division four women’s team and perhaps it’s not the nicest soccer to watch, but dammit, we are a family. You form a bond with these girls you probably don’t realize is there until it’s gone. That’s what this wonderful Canadian team taught me.

Thank you, girls. Thank you.

Sandra

COC Photo: Mike Ridewood – Olympic.ca

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August 20, 2012 · 3:00 am