BOOOOOO. (Johan Ordonez/AFP/Getty Images)
We knew the day would come that one of the Canadian clubs signed a traitor from his or her country. I was just hoping the Vancouver Whitecaps wouldn't be the ones to do it.
Yesterday, it was announced the lady 'Caps had signed Surrey-born forward Sydney Leroux for the 2011 W-League season. Leroux is a 20-year-old forward fresh out of UCLA (Kara Lang's alma mater) and an undeniable talent. This is actually her second go-round with the Whitecaps: she signed with them in 2005 as well. She's a two-time Canadian U-20 international; the youngest player in the history of our women's youth program, as well as a former Canadian U-15 captain in international tournaments. She's even played internationally for Canada's women's softball team.
She's also a fully paid-up member of the Asmir Begovic Club for Scumbags. Born and raised in the Vancouver region, getting her start in Coquitlam youth soccer, and appearing for the Canadian U-20 team, the dual citizen of Canada and the United States decided to stab her home country in the back and appear for the United States because she thought they were more likely to win. She moved to Phoenix, Arizona at age fifteen thanks to her father, an American citizen, and from that point on devoted herself to a United States team to which she had no attachments beyond the mercenary. She's now the leading scorer in the history of the American U-20 program and made her senior debut January 21, 2011 against Sweden as a substitute for Heather O'Reilly.
There's no ambiguity in the Leroux case. Born, raised, and trained in Canada, part of our youth national setups, given the armband for her country and every opportunity we could possibly have offered, she ran for the border because she thought she was more likely to win something. You'd be hard-pressed to find a more clear-cut case of turning your back on your country than that. And now she's a Vancouver Whitecap, wearing the shirt made famous by great Canadian women like Kara Lang, Jodi-Ann Robinson, Emily Zurrer, and Melissa Tancredi.
You will be unsurprised to learn that I don't like it.
The Vancouver Whitecaps women have, of course, more than discharged their debt to the Canadian women's national team. Our most recent international fixture, a 1-0 loss in Sweden before fifty determined fans, had seven Vancouver Whitecaps on the 23-woman roster. The Whitecaps have always been a major source for Canadian women's talent and their W-League team has always been weighted heavily towards Canadians. Nobody can criticize the lady Whitecaps for their commitment to the national team program and I do not mean to try.
At the same time, Sydney Leroux? Dishonouring the sacrifices and hard work made by our Canadian women by bringing in, and covering with glory and publicity, a woman who took the easy way out and made a mockery of their efforts by going for the best team that would have her regardless of her previously-given word to her home country? Somebody who does that, who tramples on the flag that almost the entire team plays under, should be a persona non grata until she makes amends or until the end of her days; whichever comes sooner. Certainly not while she's still an active member of the American program. And certainly not accompanied by a storm of publicity material on the Whitecaps own website trumpeting this Surrey-born American international as some sort of paragon of women's soccer that we should all aspire to emulate.
If you're typing a comment about "a club has to sign the best possible players", please spare me. I have no doubt that Leroux is a quality player; she's proven it in the clearest possible way. She'll do something to improve the Whitecaps on the field, and when her skills improve in the W-League she'll leave us behind again (as she should). And perhaps the hard-working Canadian women in the dressing room will welcome Leroux with open arms. Perhaps their recent struggles with the Canadian Soccer Association have convinced them that Leroux was right the whole time and causes the likes of Tancredi to sigh and wish they could have played for the United States. Or perhaps these women, who made every sacrifice one could possibly ask in the name of their country, will look upon somebody who simply used us as a stepping stone to the Americans as a leper. The chemistry of the team will be thrown off, the results will slide, and we'll have ourselves another disappointing W-League season.
I don't know, I'm not in the dressing room. And unless you are, you don't know either (if you are, shoot me an e-mail). Here's what I do know. Young women and girls around the Lower Mainland look up to the Vancouver Whitecaps women, who are quite literally living the dream. They've always worked well with the community and are a source of inspiration to thousands of youth soccer players. By signing Sydney Leroux, by promoting her as a face of the team, they're telling those players "work hard, stay in shape, and never give up, and you too might be able to run away from this crappy country which is hosting a World Cup and ranked sixth in the world, and play for the glorious Americans."
That message definitely isn't worth eight goals a season.