Whirlwind week for soccer star Kadeisha Buchanan

In becoming only the second Canadian-born competitor to capture the Missouri Athletic Club’s Hermann Trophy, which recognizes the most outstanding performer in NCAA women’s soccer, it has placed Kadeisha Buchanan on the map as one of the brightest stars on the pitch. Having starred with the West Virginia University Mountaineers, the Brampton, Ontario native joins Christine Sinclair in this accomplished group.

Of note, Buchanan becomes the first player in the history of the Mountaineers program to have the Hermann Trophy honor bestowed upon her. Prior to this win, she was a two-time finalist in 2015 (the year that she captured both the Soccer News Net Women’s College Boot award and the FIFA Women’s World Cup Best Young Player) and in 2016. In addition, she is also the first defender since Cat Reddick of North Carolina (2003) to capture the honor.

Leading up to the Hermann Trophy win, Buchanan also captured several other prestigious prizes, testament to her talent and her defensive prodigy. In December 2016, Buchanan was recognized by both espnW and by TopDrawerSoccer.com as their National Player of the Year winner. The year would culminate with recognition as the Honda Sport Award winner for soccer.

Buchanan’s list of soccer achievements at West Virginia establishes her as one of the greatest student-athletes, male or female, to don their colors. In addition to four straight All-America honors, the only player in program history to do so, she has gained recognition as a four-time All-Big 12 honoree, complemented by three Big 12 Tournament Defensive MVP honors. Equally impressive is the fact that the assiduous Buchanan was also recognized during her sterling career with four Academic All-Big 12 awards, displaying similar proficiency in the classroom.

During her career with the Mountaineers, Buchanan appeared in 90 of 91 games, missing one game due to her participation with the Canadian national team in a bronze medal effort at the 2016 Rio Summer Games. As a defensive stalwart, Buchanan was a key factor in the Mountaineers logging an NCAA-record 18 shutouts this past season, 55 overall since she first joined the program. During the 2016 season, the program did not allow one goal during Big 12 Conference play, the first time in Big 12 women’s soccer that any team ever pitched a season shutout.

Having helped the program reach the finals of the NCAA College Cup, the first in its history, Buchanan’s legacy also included recognition as the NCAA Tournament’s Defensive MVP. The fellow nominees included a pair of players from California-based teams, including Morgan Andrews of the Southern California Trojans, the team that defeated the Mountaineers in the College Cup finals, plus Stanford Cardinal competitor Andi Sullivan.

Among her teammates at West Virginia included fellow Canadian national teammate, midfielder Ashley Lawrence, who was a semifinalist for the Hermann Award. Having also graduated this year, the two, who have been teammates since they were nine years old in Brampton, Ontario, will see their careers to run parallel.

With 109 combined caps for Canada, both continue their careers at the professional level in France, although this new chapter sees the long-time friends become rivals. Lawrence has signed with Paris Saint-Germain while the reigning UEFA Women’s Champion League champions Olympique Lyonnais acquired Buchanan less than one week after the Hermann Trophy win.

Among Buchanan’s new teammates with Lyonnais shall be American superstar, striker Alex Morgan along with German defender Josephine Henning (who signed a six month contract to expire on June 30), who were both introduced to the press on January 7 by team President Jean-Michel Aulas. Of note, Lyonnais is the most successful team in France’s Ligue 1 Feminine with 14 league titles.

Adding to the intensity of this newly minted rivalry is the fact that both Paris Saint-Germain and Lyonnais are among the Ligue 1’s elites in French Cup play. Currently, PSG stands atop the standings with an undefeated mark of 10-0-0. Lyonnais sits at second at 9-1-0, with its only loss coming to Paris Saint-Germain in a 1-0 final on Dec. 17. The first match between Lawrence and Buchanan is scheduled to take place on May 14, 2017.

Lawrence gained the opportunity to don the PSG colors in a January 8 match against Bourges, one of the lower-division clubs in French Cup play. Prevailing in a 19-0 whitewash, Brazil’s Cristiane led PSG with a sensational seven goals.

Wembley Stadium hosts landmark 2015 Women’s FA Cup Final

In the aftermath of England earning their first-ever podium finish at the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, it was only fitting that iconic Wembley Stadium served as the host venue for the Women’s FA Cup Final for the first-time ever. Adding to the magic of such an unprecedented first was the fact that an attendance of 30,710 set a new record for a Women’s Final, establishing 2015 as a watershed year for English women’s football, poised for greater moments ahead.

With participating clubs Chelsea Ladies and Notts County Ladies having never captured an FA Cup before, history was definitely a dominant theme. Chelsea (known affectionately as the Blues) had returned to the final for the first time since 2012, when they were defeated on penalty kicks by Birmingham, while Notts, captained by Laura Bassett, were making their inaugural appearance in the FA Cup Final.

South Korean striker Ji So-Yun provided Chelsea with the first (and only) lead of the contest, scoring from close range past Notts goalkeeper Carl Telford. Of note, it was So-Yun’s 15th career goal for Chelsea. English striker Eniola Aluko earned the assist on So-Yun’s goal. As a side note, Aluko had nearly scored earlier in the first half.

After the half, Notts attempted to assemble an offensive attack. Desiree Scott had a long-range effort which was deflected, while Leanne Crichton had a header cleared off the line by Gemma Davison. Of note, Aluko would test Telford again, looking to add to Chelsea’s lead, but she saved her low shot. Drew Spence would
follow with a wide shot for Chelsea, but So-Yun’s goal stood as the game-winning tally.

Although Chelsea enjoyed their first-ever FA Cup Final, it actually marked the ninth time in Katie Chapman’s career that she has hoisted the coveted Cup. Serving as captain for Chelsea, Chapman had previously enjoyed Cup wins with Millwall, Fulham, Charlton and Arsenal.

Soccer stars McLeod and Masar marry in aftermath of Women’s World Cup

Former rivals in international soccer, Canadian Erin McLeod and American Ella Masar are teammates in life. Tying the knot in Vancouver on July 6, one day following the gold medal game of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, the two are currently members of the National Women’s Soccer League’s Houston Dash.

The 32-year-old MacLeod came out during the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, an emotional time throughout the globe for LGBT athletes due to the Russian government’s anti-gay legislation. In March of this year, Masar, who is three years MacLeod’s junior, publicly came out, while mentioning her Christian faith.

In modern sporting history, the two are the first married couple to be teammates on a North American sports team. Masar made quite an impression with the Dash, scoring the club’s first goals at home and on the road, respectively.

Social media served as the initial forum to first mention the marriage as McLeod tweeted the happy news. Of note, she joked that both got to keep the same initials, EM, even though she legally changed her name to McLeod.

Not only did Masar follow-up with her own tweet announcing the news, the two discussed their marriage on Houston’s KHOU-11.
Surprisingly, the Dash did not issue a statement right away concerning the marriage. This augmented discussion as the Chicago Red Stars, their former club team, issued congratulations.

Two days after the wedding, McLeod was at Pride House Toronto in a speaking engagement. Sharing her story through heartfelt blogs, Masar has served as a role model for young adults who may be struggling with their feelings. Their courage in coming out and openly discussing their views have made them role models far beyond the soccer pitch, establishing them as an iconic duo in both sport and the LGBT community.

Alex Morgan and Christine Sinclair cover EA Sports FIFA 16

With EA Sports release of FIFA 16, it resulted in an unprecedented milestone for the popular video game producer. Two different versions of the game featured women’s soccer superstars joining Lionel Messi on the cover. The version used for Xbox features Women’s World Cup champion Alex Morgan on the cover. Building on the momentum of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada, legendary Canadian team captain Christine Sinclair graces the cover of the game for PS4.

Of note, this is not the first time that EA Sports has featured women in its popular video games. Women’s ice hockey legends Angela Ruggiero and Hayley Wickenheiser were featured in an NHL video game themed release.

Although a decision had been made prior to the Women’s World Cup concerning Morgan, there had never been a formal announcement. As a side note, an advertisement in the official program for the WWC actually features Sinclair on the cover of an EA Sports game. Following the emotional victory by the US in the FIFA Women’s World Cup, there was an online petition looking to get the entire team on the cover.

Recognizing the growth of women’s soccer in the United States and Canada, along with the cultural impact that its stars are having on both sides of the border, EA has rightfully chosen to celebrate their impact by doing more than just a cover appearance. Adding to the magic is the fact that gamers have the option to utilize female soccer players in the game. Among the 12 different women’s national team that can be selected are Canada, England, Germany and the US.

An offline tournament plus online friendly matches comprise part of the experience. For fans looking to excel at a higher level of play, the game also offers the FIFA Trainer, a new feature that provides instruction.

EA Sports began experimenting with a prototype in 2012. In looking to ensure authenticity, from details as minor as hair animation, members from the US and Canadian teams visited EA’s studios in Vancouver, participating in motion capture. The highly anticipated release date for FIFA 16 is September 22.

Members of US Women’s World Cup championship team featured on 25 collectible SI covers

Sports Illustrated continues its landmark support of US Women’s soccer with another sensational series of covers. In the aftermath of an emotional victory over Japan in the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, the popular periodical has released an unprecedented 25 variant covers. Of note, one cover features several teammates together, while there are 24 covers for each of the players on the team, plus head coach Jill Ellis.

In addition to snapping their 16-year long championship drought, they also became the first country to capture three FIFA Women’s World Cup championships. After suffering an emotional loss to Japan in the final back in 2011, Carli Lloyd proved to be the difference maker as her hat trick contributed to a 5-2 victory in Vancouver.

Although Sports Illustrated has issued variant covers, there has never been anything of this magnitude. Prior to the FIFA Women’s World Cup, Sports Illustrated had four unique covers featuring US soccer stars. In addition, there was a fifth cover exclusive for subscribers.

To honor that achievement, Sports Illustrated has come up with a one-of-a-kind cover shoot. Instead of one cover to honor the 23 players and coach Jill Ellis, one for each of them. From Golden Ball winner Carli Lloyd to veteran stalwarts Abby Wambach and Megan Rapinoe to backup goalkeepers Alyssa Naeher and Ashlyn Harris, each member of the World Cup-winning squad, posing with the World Cup trophy, has her own cover as part of a unique set.

In addition, Sports Illustrated featured a special edition championship cover (with a gold border) that was only available online. With the US team featuring so many recognizable names, the cover innovation was an ideal way to not only recognize every member of the team, but showcase the growing influence of women in sport.

Originally, the plan was to photograph all the players in Los Angeles on July 7. Simon Bruty, the photographer who had worked on the World Cup final was scheduled to do it. As he was heading home to Washington, the plan could not be executed on that day. With the entire team in New York City for a victory parade later in the week, it was a serendipitous moment. As every member of the roster agreed to participate in a photo shoot before and after the parade, the result was a historic series of covers that fans will likely cherish for years to come.

Carli Lloyd captures Golden Ball Award in record performances at FIFA Women’s World Cup

Adding to her legend, American midfielder Carli Lloyd proved to be the factor in the United States winning their first FIFA Women’s World Cup title since 1999. Considering that she also scored the gold medal winning goal at the 2012 London Summer Games, she has elevated herself to a superstar status that has made her the face of US Soccer, akin to the likes of Brandi Chastain and Mia Hamm.

Awarded the Golden Ball Award as the top player at the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, she entertained the capacity crowd in Vancouver with the performance of a lifetime. In the first five minutes of the game, Lloyd scored twice to provide the United States with a 2-0 lead, the fastest two goals scored in a championship game. Of note, it would prove to be a lead that they would not relinquish.

Taking into account that the title game was a rematch of the 2011 game, a loss suffered against Japan, it had been a very long four years of contemplation. Although the gold medal at the 2012 London Summer Games provided consolation, the 2015 victory resulted in redemption.

Lloyd continued her heroics by scoring at the 16th minute, resulting in the fastest hat trick in Women’s World Cup history. In addition, she became the only American woman to record a hat trick in a championship game. Two of her goals reflected her dominance on the pitch. One goal resulted in a superb pass from the corner by Megan Rapinoe, who had to sit out the quarterfinal match against China due to a pair of yellow cards.

As the Japanese defenders were focused on the ball, Lloyd, who had been at the perimeter, quickly ran up the field and tapped in Rapinoe’s pass with her left foot, past the Japanese defense. Another goal saw Lloyd score at a long distance, as the ball bounced off the Japanese goalkeeper’s hand and into the net, to a roar of approval from the proud American fans in attendance.

In the aftermath of a 5-2 final, Lloyd would finish the FIFA Women’s World Cup with six goals in seven games, tying Germany’s Celia Sasic for the tournament lead in the race to the Golden Boot. Perhaps more impressive was the fact that Lloyd showed remarkable endurance by playing in every minute of every U.S game in the tournament.

World Cup heartbreak on home soil for Canada cannot overshadow positives

With the momentum of serving as host country for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, the Canadian national team had high hopes to defeat England and qualify for the semi-finals. Expectations were high among players, fans and media alike, as Canada appeared destined for greatness.

Instead, Canada suffered a 2-1 upset loss against England as Lucy Bronze added to her growing legend among English soccer fans with a goal in a second consecutive game. After defeating a highly favored Norwegian team in the Round of 16, England remained poised against the host country, with a capacity crowd in Vancouver hoping for more Canadian magic.

As a nation collectively felt misery after a visceral 2-1 loss, compounded by a tearful Christine Sinclair on her knees, devastated by the outcome, the reality was that the World Cup was a tournament filled with several upsets. In addition to Brazil and Norway experiencing losses, the reality is that Canada may have endured a loss to defending World Cup champion Japan in the semifinals. Of course, the consolation would have been the chance to compete in the third place game, maintaining Canadian interest in the event.

Despite the outcome, there were still so many positives to consider. Of note, the greater victory was the national relevance of the event. For the first-time ever, women’s soccer was the lead story in Canadian sporting circles, unifying a nation and their championship dreams.

There is no question that the 2012 London Summer Games was the coming-out party for the Canadian national team, helping a nation of fans discover the sport. As such, the exceptional support and national pride that emanated during the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup helped transform women’s soccer from novelty sport into an obsession, which should result in unprecedented growth.

In many ways, the heartbreak of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup mirrors the disaster that the Canadian national women’s hockey team experienced in a silver medal outcome at the 1998 Nagano Winter Games. Despite not meeting golden expectations, hockey had made an impression on Canadian sports fans, subsequently giving a generation of young sporting girls role models to look up to.

The Nagano Games would serve as the moment where women’s hockey became a relevant aspect of sport in Canada, resulting in more than just increased awareness, but a rapid number of players registering in following years. In effect, the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup is destined to have the same impact, as the next few years should see even more young girls interested in playing soccer, due to the efforts of exceptional women such as Christine Sinclair.