The IX: Soccer Monday with Annie M. Peterson for February 2, 2020
A Christine Sinclair backstory, plus links galore and then, you guessed it, even more Sinclair
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First off, a heartfelt thanks for all of the messages I received from you about last week’s IX. So many women told me they had the same conflicting emotions in the wake of the tragic accident.
I think the greater message here, at least for me, is that in a world where there is almost daily reason to be both discouraged and disheartened, there’s a lot more love out there than there is anger and resentment. So thank you.
And with that, we dive into the Christine Sinclair appreciation edition.
If you follow women’s soccer even a little bit (and I know some of you come to The IX for the other sports we talk about) you know that Sinclair broke the all-time record for international goals last week, passing Abby Wambach. That’s among the record among men and women.
And if you pay attention to my posts here, you’d think I was a Christine Sinclair fan. You’d be right. But not in the “hanging outside the stadium waiting for an autograph” sense. I admire her because she’s the consummate professional, smart and thoughtful, and she’s been just a joy to interview and cover for nearly two decades.
A little WoSo history lesson here:
I first arrived in Portland in fall 2002, just in time for college football season. Frankly I hadn’t covered a whole heck of a lot of soccer before. A few matches and features just here and there.
Having come from San Francisco, where the sports scene is obviously very crowded, I was frankly surprised at the attention that soccer as a whole received in Portland. And it became more apparent when the Portland Pilots won the women’s College Cup that year. Christine Sinclair was a sophomore on that team.
The Pilots, both the men and women, were coached by a man named Clive Charles.
Charles was a friendly bear of a man who had played for the Portland Timbers back in the NASL days. I was lucky enough to have interviewed Charles a few times before his death in 2003.
Which brings us back to Christine Sinclair.
Sinclair hails from Burnaby, British Columbia. She’s from a soccer family, and her uncles played with Charles. He was a close family friend.
Sinclair had known him her whole life when she committed to play for him at Portland. The joke always went that Sinclair had four choices for college, and she wrote them down in order of preference when she was making up her mind. The paper said: “Portland, Portland, Portland, Portland.”
Charles battled prostate cancer for the final two years of his life, and died in August, 2003. I wrote his obituary with a heavy heart.
Charles influenced the college careers of such players as Tiffeny Milbrett, Shannon McMillan and Kasey Keller. But his legacy in Portland is so much more than the players he coached. Along with Harry Merlo, whose name is on the Pilots’ soccer stadium, Charles founded FC Portland soccer academy and built fields across the city.
Sinclair would win another title with the Pilots, in 2005. (She redshirted in 2003). Afterward Portland threw a rally for the team, and I asked her how she felt about the moment.
“Somewhere up there Clive Charles is smiling,” she said.
So it’s no surprise that Charles is part of the commemorative boots that Nike created for Sinclair.
That quote: “You better earn your right to play.” That’s Charles.
I have the distinct feeling that he’s smiling up there, still, as Sinclair makes history.
On to the links. And also, I’m off to Carson in a few hours for Olympic qualifying. If you hear that my son is having a party at our house this week, let me know. 🙂
This Week in Women’s Soccer
Reminder: First, the underlined words are the links. Second. CLICK these, even if you’ve already read them. Clicks = Attention from editors, producers and webmasters. Third, if you want to push out stuff you’ve written or read, email me! firstname.lastname@example.org.
First off, lamenting the demise of The Offside Rule’s WSL podcast, which ended its run after 23 episodes because it couldn’t find a sponsor. Sad.
Not a lot of people went to Edinburg, Texas, to watch Sinclair chase history. But Neil Davidson from CanPress, who has covered Sinclair probably more than anybody, was there and wrote this story. Also there was Stephanie Yang for The Athletic, and her wonderful piece is here.
Speaking of the Athletic, Meg Linehan caught up with Laura Harvey.
In The Equalizer: Jeff Kassouf’s wonderful analysis of this moment for Sinclair. Although I’ll say, I think Canada recognized the achievement, even if it felt here like it was only noticed in the woso bubble.
Hal Kaiser of The Equalizer looks at all the drama a surrounding Asian qualifying.
Harjeet Johal with a good story on Sincy for ProSoccerUSA.
Kim McCauley at SB Nation takes a look at how the national teams are training together.
Again, like nearly everyone else, I wrote about Carli Lloyd in advance of the Super Bowl. Here’s how it worked. Secret made Lloyd available to any reporter who wanted to speak to her, giving them each a 15-minute time slot. I took one in shameless pursuit of Super Bowl-adjacent clicks.
I also wrote about Infantino’s letter to Sinclair.
Kieran Theivam took a look at Nick Cushing’s influence for The Athletic.
And, in the wake of Yenith Bailey’s injury during qualifying, this is a very important piece from Charles Olney. Please read it.
BTW, AP has been covering all of the qualifying matches, although some more briefly than others. please check out apnews.com/Soccer for all of our soccer international coverage. It’s the first thing I check every morning, but I’m biased.
Tweet of the Week!
Hey Nike! This is nice and all, but it would be awesome if Portland fans could buy her national team jersey at the city’s flagship store. And, in all of Canada.
Five at The IX: Christine Sinclair
The good folks at the Canadian Soccer federation were able to set up a conference call with Sinclair for the reporters who could not be in Edinburg. Here’s some of what she said.
Question about the reaction from around the world and if that has lent perspective to the accomplishment:.
Sinclair: You know, I think it’s something like, how it was approaching. I tried not to think about, because it made it more overwhelming. But then to finally score the goal and to see everyone reach out, it’s been absolutely crazy and insane. To hear from the FIFA President, to hear from the Prime Minister, Billie Jean King. I mean, you start to realize how big the sport is, also that the growth of the women’s game, that people now care and are paying attention. I mean, my phone, I still have people to get back to, I hope they understand. I’ll get back to them over the next couple of days. A big thank you to everyone that reached out, I’ll get back to you I promise.
Question about whether any message stood out and whether she took any time to enjoy the moment.
Sinclair: Tons of people have reached out, and obviously the video that Abby put together was very special. I mean, I have so much respect for Mia and Abby and the legacy they have left in the women’s game and I’m sure they helped inspire me and push me to new levels. And as a youngster Mia was my idol. And then as a competitior with Abby, she made me reach different levels. Her refusual to lose is something that I’ll never forget. So that was pretty special. And to hear from Billie Jean King, talk about an icon, and not just in the sporting world. I feel like there’s so many more that I have to watch and read, and just give myself some time.
I haven’t had a lot of downtime. We got back to the hotel and then the team did something really special for me with a video and all this stuff. And that moment was pretty cool, to hear from teammates, but present to past, and college. That was pretty special. And then I was able to call my family and to be honest, that was about it. Then, tired to get some sleep, just because of the quick turnaround being in a tournament, your focus has to shift. I think once the tournament ends that’s when I’ll be able to take it all in.
Question on the overall team performance (Canada scored 11 total goals in the match).
Sinclair: Obviously in a tournament like this you want to start strong. And we knew that if we were performing the way we knew we were capable of, we were going to score some goals against Saint Kitts. I think the thing I’m most proud about the team, is that we didn’t drop our standards at all, even when it was 7 or 8 to nothing. We kept to our processes and we kept to our Canadian DNA.
Obviously, last night to see some individuals flourish. Ashley Lawrence, so proud of her, it’s been a while since she’s played midfield for us, absolutely dominated in there and then to be asked to switch positions midway thought the second half, that just showed her ability to play multiple positions. And then Jayde, for her to score her first goal, that was pretty special.
Question about when she knew she could reach the record.
Sinclair: I’m not sure I ever thought, realistically, that I’d ever get there. It’s been just been a slow process just reach this. It was probably about two years ago when I thought, I’m healthy, the team’s doing really well, that I started to realize, wow this actually might happen — unless I go into a massive slump, which happens for a striker. But yeah, I’d probably say about two years ago that it started to hit me that this was something that was possible and might happen.
Question about he growth of the women’s game.
Sinclair: For me, the biggest thing has been the opportunities that are now available for female soccer players. I think for the longest time, especially in North America, you went to college and that was it. And professional leagues have come and gone. But now there’s opportunities, all over Europe, the NWSL, Asia. It’s obviously no where near being on par with the men’s game, but it’s growing and evolving in the right direction. And just to have been a small part of that is very special.