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Set to strike for Canada: Christine Sinclair has pro offers, but is putting national team first

Dan Stinson

Vancouver Sun

816 words

11 January 2006

Vancouver Sun




Copyright © 2006 Vancouver Sun

Her record-setting, four-year soccer career at the University of Portland now over, super striker Christine Sinclair will shift most of her focus this year to helping Canada qualify for the 2007 Women's World Cup tournament in China.

Sinclair arrived in Vancouver Tuesday for the first day of a week-long senior national team training camp that serves as the first phase of preparation for the CONCACAF zone Gold Cup qualifying tournament, scheduled for next November.

A 22-year-old Burnaby native, Sinclair led the Portland Pilots to the NCAA Division I championships in 2002 and 2005 and was twice named the Hermann Trophy winner as the best female player in the U.S. college ranks.

Sinclair scored an NCAA single-season record 39 goals in leading Portland to an undefeated season in 2005, capping her university career as the Pilots' all-time goals (110) and points (252) leader, while also garnering championship tournament MVP honours.

"It was an awesome four years in Portland," she said. "Last season was an amazing run for the team and I ended my university career on a perfect note. I wouldn't have changed anything at Portland. If I had to do it all over again, I'd do it in a minute."

Sinclair has tried to balance university and national team commitments the last four years on a hectic, virtually year-round soccer schedule. One of the downsides is that she hasn't had time to play for the Vancouver Whitecaps during the summer W-League season.

"Playing for the national team is my No. 1-priority right now because it's such an important year for Canada," she said. "The national team is going to take up a lot of my time, but there might be a chance to fit in some club side games over the course of the year. I haven't made any decisions in that regard, but I've been offered a couple of opportunities."

Sinclair said two Swedish First Division women's soccer teams recently offered her contracts, adding that playing professionally in Sweden is a possibility if it doesn't conflict with the national team program.

"I'm not ruling anything out, including the possibility of playing a few games for the Whitecaps," said Sinclair, who declined to name the Swedish League teams. "But national team play comes first for me this year and it's a matter of seeing how the club side of the game fits in. I didn't expect the offers from Sweden, so that's something I'll deal with when I get a clearer picture of the national team program this year."

Sinclair said she has also been offered an assistant coaching position at Portland by Pilots head coach Garrett Smith.

"I'd like to stay in touch with Portland," said Sinclair, who majored in life sciences and plans to return to the university to complete her studies in physical therapy. "The university soccer season runs from August to December, then there's exhibition games in the spring. I'm definitely considering the assistant coaching job, providing it doesn't conflict with the national team program."

While the venue and draw for the Gold Cup hasn't been announced, the top two teams in the tournament will qualify for the Women's World Cup. The third-place Gold Cup team will play the third-place nation in Asia zone qualifying tournament for a wild-card berth.

Sinclair has played 71 career games for the senior national team and scored 53 goals. Only veteran Ottawa forward Charmaine Hooper has scored more goals for Canada -- 64 in a record 124 appearances.

"Christine is one of the best strikers in the world right now," said national team head coach Even Pellerud. "She has a quiet confidence and extreme composure in all areas of the game. We're all looking forward to her next few years as she now moves out of university soccer to the more intensive professional level. She has proved her ability to grow with the challenges."



Canada's senior national women's soccer team roster (club affiliation in parentheses):

Forwards: Amber Allen (Vancouver Whitecaps), Charmaine Hooper (Chicago Cobras), Christine Sinclair (University of Portland), Katie Thorlakson (Whitecaps/Notre Dame University), Rhian Wilkinson (Strommen FK)

Midfielders: Amy Apps (Whitecaps), Martina Franko (Whitecaps), Diana Matheson (Ottawa Fury/Princeton University), Andrea Neil (Whitecaps), Amy Walsh (F.C. Select Rive-Sud, Longueil, Que.)

Defenders: Sasha Andrews (Whitecaps/University of Nebraska), Randee Hermus (Whitecaps), Isabelle Morneau (F.C. Select Rive-Sud), Sharolta Nonen (unattached)

Goalkeepers: Karina LeBlanc (New Jersey Wildcats), Erin McLeod (Whitecaps/Penn State University)

Colour Photo: Steve Bosch, Vancouver Sun / Canadian women's star striker Christine Sinclair works out Tuesday.

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Canada's soccer sensation; Burnaby's goal-scoring striker faces difficult decisions

Jim Morris

The Canadian Press

719 words

13 January 2006

The Hamilton Spectator




Copyright © 2006 The Hamilton Spectator.


Christine Sinclair considers herself lucky.

The smooth, goal-scoring striker from Burnaby, B.C., who led the University of Portland to two NCAA national championships, doesn't just feel fortunate for what she's already accomplished in her soccer career. It's the opportunities that stretch out before her she finds exciting.

Sinclair is a fixture on Canada's women's national team that will try to qualify for the 2007 women's World Cup in China and the 2008 Summer Olympics.

Two Swedish First Division women's teams have talked to her about playing professionally in Europe this year and the University of Portland has offered her a chance to return as a coach.

Decisions, decisions.

Sinclair, 22, knows not every woman has the same options, including some of her university teammates.

"There are three other people who graduated that their soccer career should not be done but they are not on a national team," she said during a break from a Canadian team training camp in Vancouver. "It's a shame for players like that who deserve more of an opportunity that there are none."

The chance to play professional soccer in Sweden is intriguing, Sinclair said.

"Right now (in Europe) they are the best leagues in the world," she said. "You've got all the top European teams. The Germans, Norway, Sweden, all those players play in those leagues."

Even Pellerud, the Norwegian-born head coach of Canada's national team, said women can earn decent money in Europe.

"The situation has changed the last couple of years," he said. "There are definitely teams in some countries that have funding to pay some players in a really good way."

If there was a draft of women college soccer players, Sinclair would definitely be one of the top picks.

"I would say she would be among the five best players I have ever coached," said Pellerud, who guided Norway to the 1995 women's World Cup championship and a bronze medal at the 1996 Olympics.

Sinclair scored an NCAA single-season record 39 goals in leading Portland to an undefeated season in 2005.

She was the most valuable player of the championship tournament and won the Hermann Trophy for the second time as the best female player in U.S. college soccer.

As sweet as last year was, winning the 2002 championship had a more sentimental value.

Soon after winning the title, coach Clive Charles died of cancer.

"We were the underdogs," said Sinclair. "Clive had never won a national championship before. They'd managed to lose in every possible way. We ended up winning it and it turned out to be the last game he'd ever coach."

Even if she decides to play in Sweden the national team will remain Sinclair's top priority.

In November, the team will play in the Gold Cup qualifying tournament. The top teams from that event will advance to the World Cup in China.

After that, it will be qualifying for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. The Canadian women missed going to the 2004 Games in Athens when they were upset by Mexico, a team they had never lost to, in the Olympic qualifying tournament.

Sinclair said the bitter loss was a learning experience.

"As a team we're determined to never let that happen again," she said. "We know we should have beaten them so that's the frustrating part."

Sinclair is one of the best goal scorers Canada has ever produced. But her talent is more than one dimensional.

"She is very determined to score goals but also is willing to let other players score," said Pellerud. She has a lot of different qualities. The way she sees the game, she understands the spacing very well. Physically she is strong so she can turn around other players."

The next few years will help fine-tune Sinclair's talents.

"She is now leaning into a future where the game is more intense and more professional," said Pellerud.


Photo: Hamilton Spectator File Photo / Christine Sinclair from Burnaby B.C. will be leading Canada in an attempt to qualify for the 2007 Women's World Cup in China. Photo

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